Inflatable vs Hard Paddle Board – What’s the Difference?

When it comes to paddle boards, choosing between an inflatable vs hard paddle board can be tricky. Both types of paddle boards have their pros and cons which you have to consider in determining  the best board for you. 

This article differentiates between inflatable paddle boards and hard paddle boards to provide you with the information you need to make the right decision.

inflatable vs hard paddle board

Inflatable vs Hard Paddle Board: Know Your Materials 

Inflatable paddle boards are made from high-quality materials and state-of-the-art construction methods. The top-grade quality of inflatable paddle board PVC film ensures premium functionality and durability. Inflatable SUPs are more suitable for beginners because they’re easier to control. 

On the other hand, hard paddle boards, which are also called Epoxy boards, are made from EPS foam covered in multiple layers of resin and fiberglass. Hard paddle boards obviously don’t need to be inflated so they do weigh way more than your inflatable board. 

Difference Between Inflatable vs Hard Paddle Board

Differentiating between inflatable and hard paddle boards provides the insight needed in choosing between both boards.  These are the major takeaways in inflatable vs hard paddle boards.  


The ease of moving your paddle board around is quite important especially if you’re the adventurous type that wants to experience different locations. 

Inflatable paddle boards are very portable as you can deflate them and pack them in an inflatable paddle board backpack. The backpack can also take the paddles, pump, fins, and leash. 

On the contrary, hard boards are not portable and you can’t easily pack them away. To transport a hard board, you will need roof racks, travel bags, protective board socks, or travel bags.  

If it’s a question of portability, inflatable boards are the best choice as they are easy to carry around and less prone to damage during transit. 

Storing Your Paddle Board

There’s a notable difference in the ease of storing inflatable paddle boards and hard paddle boards. 

To learn how to store an inflatable SUP, you only need to deflate the board and pack it inside its backpack along with its other components. Storing an inflatable paddle board while it is still wet can lead to molds and eventual damage. Therefore, the inflatable paddle board needs to be completely dried first, then, you can easily pack it up and keep it away from direct sunlight.

Hard boards are easier to store. All you need to have is a large storage room that can contain the board. You can buy a paddle board wall rack which is an efficient and fancy way of storing hard boards. 

SUP Performance is Key

The performance of a paddle board is determined by its materials, design, and manufacturing process. The stability, speed, and maneuverability of the board are vital indicators of its performance. 

Inflatable paddle boards are made from high-grade materials which makes the board solid and stable. An inflatable paddle board is suitable for fishing, yoga, and taking on passengers. 

If you’re just starting out in paddling, there are inflatable paddle boards for beginners which are easier to use than hard paddle boards. The light weight, stability, and comfortability makes it more suitable for beginners. 

Hard paddle boards provide more functionality in terms of speed and maneuverability. They are also suitable for surfing and racing. 

When it comes to performance, one can make a good case for both inflatable SUPs and hard paddle boards. So it will all go down to preference. You can consider the two boards and choose which you prefer. 


Inflatable paddle boards are long-lasting because they are made from high-quality materials. The high-quality PVC makes it resistant to easy damage. 

Hard paddle boards are more delicate than inflatable paddle boards. A heavy fall can break a hard paddle board or cause scratches and marks. 

In terms of durability, inflatable SUPs are far more durable than hard paddle boards. 

inflatable paddle board for beginners

How Much are Inflatable Paddle Boards vs Hard Shell Boards? 

Like any product you can find budget inflatable and hard shell paddle boards all the way to the premium boards for more experienced riders. The average price of a paddle board can vary from $300 up to $1000, depending on what you are exactly looking for. 


Inflatable paddle boards require a bit more maintenance due as you need to inflate and deflate the board before and after use. If an inflatable paddle board suffers a tear or puncture, you will have to use your repair kit to patch the tear. 

Oppositely, hard paddle boards aren’t fragile so they don’t require high maintenance. Simply get your board and you are ready to hit the water. 

Both inflatable SUPs and hard paddle boards can degrade in quality or be exposed to too much direct sun. So ensure you keep your boards out of direct sunlight as well as rinsing them with fresh water when you are finished using your board.

In terms of which paddle board is easier to maintain, hard paddle boards win this round. 

Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Better Than Hard Ones?

It’s not far-fetched for you to say inflatable paddle boards are better than hard ones. A comparison of both boards suggests that inflatable paddle boards are better. 

However, in deciding between inflatable vs hard paddle boards, the question of which is the better paddle will always go down to preference. The choice of which is better is also largely influenced by the water you’re riding in. 

If you’re riding in rivers, inflatable SUPs are the better choice because of their performance strength and ease of use. If you’re riding in the ocean or you’re involved in competitive paddling, hard paddle boards are faster, making it a better choice. 

Are Hard Paddle Boards Easier? 

Regarding its ease of use, hard paddle boards aren’t superior to inflatable paddle boards. Inflatable SUPs are lighter and much easier to get into the water. 

Additionally, inflatable paddle boards have a soft deck which makes them more comfortable to stand on. Likewise, inflatable paddle boards for beginners are much easier to use than hard paddle boards which are better suited for professional use.  

Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Less Stable?

A 5-inch thick inflatable paddle board is more stable than hard paddle boards since it has a rounded rail that provides extra stability. 

However, increasing the thickness of an inflatable paddle board to 6 inches could reduce its stability.

What is the Right PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch) Inflation Point for Inflatable Paddle Board?

While there are adverts that recommend up to 22 PSI for inflatable paddle boards, it’s safer to keep it between 15 PSI to 17 PSI. At 17 PSI, the inflatable SUP is at the required optimal rigidity level and there’s no need to go higher. You should also check with the individual instructions of your board to check the recommended pressure. 

inflatable SUP

Verdict: Inflatable vs Hard Paddle Board?

Personal preference always plays a big part when choosing a paddle board. The same way, when deciding between inflatable vs hard paddle boards, consider the merits of each board to come up with a sound decision. Doing so will help you find the right paddle board that meets your needs and budget. Personally, we love inflatable paddle boards for their portability, ease of use, and affordability.