Are you still wondering if inflatable paddle boards are worth the price? Thanks to the rising popularity of watersports, more people are looking to get their hands on their first paddleboards. That is why we have been receiving lots of questions about which is better—getting a hardshell SUP or an inflatable one.
Forget your worries, in this article, we will be providing you detailed answers to your lingering question of whether inflatable paddle boards are any good.
Let’s get into it!
Inflatable SUP vs. Hard SUP: Which is More Worth It?
When you’re planning to buy a paddleboard, the hardest part is actually deciding whether you would go for a hardshell SUP or an inflatable SUP. Let us help you make a better decision by comparing them apple-to-apple.
Build and Construction
Hard SUPs are made from an EPS foam core with more rigid materials like wood and fiberglass to make the outer shell. Since its exterior shell materials are tough, hard SUPs are excellent for surfing and exploring rough waters.
Inflatable SUPs are made from drop-stitch vinyl with air-tight seams which require air pressure to maintain their shape. While iSUPs are not as stable for surfing and rough waters, they offer similar performance with better portability and lower price.
Weight and Portability
Hardshell boards are generally heavier compared to inflatable ones, but there’s a wide range of weights that you can choose from, depending on your personal needs and budget. A typical 10ft 6′ hardboard can weigh around 12kgs (26.5 lbs). Carbon-based hard SUP can weigh less, but they’re more expensive. Since hardshell SUPs have a fixed shape, the only option to transport them is by getting them on a roof rack.
Inflatable SUPs, on the other hand, are much lighter than hardshell SUPs with a typical 10ft 6′ board weighing around 9kgs (20 lbs). As higher-end materials are easier to obtain, more iSUP manufacturers offer lighter and better paddleboards at an affordable rate. Inflatable SUPs also have better portability since you can deflate and roll them into a carrying bag.
Hardshell paddle boards are generally more expensive since they are designed for more severe and experienced paddlers. A high-end epoxy paddleboard can cost anywhere from $1,300 – $2,000 depending on the brand and make you picked. There are also different purpose-specific designs like racing and surfing, requiring lighter, stronger, and more expensive materials like carbon fiber.
Inflatable paddleboards are much more affordable, with high-end products ranging from $800 – $1,700. But if you’re thin on the budget, you can get an inflatable paddle board for less than $200. While there are purpose-oriented iSUPs, the materials used in making an inflatable paddleboard are cheaper than materials for a hardshell SUP.
Safety and Comfort
Hardshell paddle boards are generally safer because they have a sturdier and more rigid material to reasonably handle rough waters. There are also very few cases of hardshell paddleboards snapping in half or other breakages, which is a testament to their durability.
However, they are less comfortable since the hard surfaces are much less forgiving when you slip and fall or bump your body parts on your board.
On the flipside, inflatable paddle boards come with several safety compromises in exchange for their portability and affordability. The obvious one is the risk of tear and air leaks, leading to the paddleboard sinking.
But most of today’s inflatable paddle board models have multiple air chambers that can compensate for that risk. The softer surface of an inflatable paddleboard is also more forgiving when you slip and fall on your board.
Due to the solid outer shell, hard paddle boards are more prone to scratches in and out of the water. A collision with sharp rocks or scrapes on a concrete surface could quickly leave lasting damage to a hardshell paddleboard. Cheap composite boards also often come with a coating that chips over time, which is not environmentally friendly.
Inflatable paddle boards have much higher resistance to external damages due to their soft and flexible outer body. Whenever you bump an iSUP to a hard surface, it will absorb the impact and reduce the risks of damaging the exterior. You can also be less careful when moving your board around since they have much more flexibility.
Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Worth It?
The short answer is: yes, inflatable paddle boards are worth buying if you’re looking to get into the watersport hobby.
Inflatable paddle boards have excellent value-for-performance out of the box, even compared to hardshell paddleboards with comparable prices. Also, you can get a wide range of choices from various price points. So whether you want to spend $500 or $1,500, there is always an option that will suit your needs which makes inflatable paddle boats worth it.