If you’re like me, you look at surfers in awe, amazed at what they can do, but not sure where to even start when it comes to learning. If you don’t want to invest a lifetime in order to learn, what are your options?
Stand-Up Paddleboards are an excellent solution. You can get active on a stable board in the water, and gradually learn new tricks as you get more comfortable. As you get more experienced, you can even move toward surfing on the board, if you want.
There are two major types of Stand-Up Paddle Boards: Inflatable and Solid. In this article, we’ll look at Inflatable Paddle Board Vs Solid. We’ll consider the advantages and disadvantages of each, and give you a few ideas for your needs.
Let’s get started!
What is a Paddle Board and Who Can Use One?
Let’s start by going over what a paddle board is and what it’s used for. A paddle board is a type of board that is meant to be used while stand-up paddling. It resembles a surfboard to the uninitiated, but there are a few key differences.
Most SUP (stand-up paddle) boards range from between 10 and 12 feet in length, though you’ll find boards that are both larger and smaller. The largest boards are typically used in competitive environments, like SUP racing.
On the other hand, smaller boards are made for smaller riders and children.
The width of the board is another thing to consider. Wider SUP boards are easier to ride. They’re typically used by people who just want to cruise, or beginners who haven’t perfected their balance yet.
On the other hand, narrow SUP boards are designed for improved performance and agility. Narrow boards are also used by SUP surfers, which is a discipline that combines stand-up paddling with surfing.
Much like surfboards, SUP boards feature one or more fins that allow them to remain stable in the water. The fins also reduce the level of lateral drift you experience while using them.
Inflatable Paddle Board Vs Solid
The two major categories of paddle board are inflatable and solid. They don’t vary from each other that much in price. Frequently inflatable craft are cheaper than solid-body (e.g. inflatable fishing kayaks, inflatable pontoon boats, etc.) but that’s not really the case with inflatable paddleboards.
Inflatable paddle boards are often in the same price range as hard-body paddle boards. See our article on cheap inflatable paddle boards for recommendations.
Let’s go over the pros and cons of each.
Inflatable Paddle Board Pros
In this part of the guide, we’re going to cover some of the main advantages of inflatable paddle boards. Typically, these advantages include things you’d expect, like improved portability and ease of storage.
However, some of the benefits may be unexpected, like superior durability when compared to solid boards.
The most obvious advantage to an inflatable paddleboard is that it is much more portable than a solid model. You can just deflate your inflatable Stand-Up paddleboard to transport it. You won’t have any issues bringing it along with you, even on a plane.
Solid paddle boards are relatively large, and you can’t conveniently carry them to your nearest body of water unless you have a vehicle or you live very close to your nearest beach or lake.
This advantage in portability means that you don’t have to tie your inflatable paddleboard to your vehicle’s roof just so you can bring it to the water.
Ease of Storage
Along with being easier to bring along with you, an inflatable paddle board’s ability to deflate will also make it much easier to store when you’re not using it.
You may not have any trouble storing a full-sized paddle board if you live in a larger house with a full garage. But many people don’t have that much space!
Paddleboarders who live in a smaller apartment or space rejoice! It is much easier to store an inflatable model. In most cases, you won’t have any trouble fitting a deflated inflatable paddle board in a closet or even in the corner of your room.
Surprisingly, inflatable paddle boards are usually more durable than rigid models. Even though inflatable paddle boards can potentially be punctured, they’re more resistant to impact damage than their solid counterparts. They’re certainly dog-safe!
Where a solid paddle board may crack or shatter due to a heavy impact against a rock, an inflatable paddle board will deform around the impact and then bounce back into place.
This makes them much less likely to sustain permanent, critical damage due to hitting rocks or other obstacles.
Softer and Safer for Beginners
Since inflatable paddle boards have a much softer surface that will deform when hit hard, they’re also safer for beginners. When you first start paddle boarding, you’re taught to fall into the water instead of on top of your board.
This may be against some people’s first instincts when they find themselves falling.
Many beginner SUP boarders make the mistake of landing on their rigid board, which is the main source of injuries when people first try out the activity.
On the other hand, an inflatable paddle board will be much more forgiving if you land on it, as it will absorb some of the impact.
Inflatable Paddle Board Cons
Inflatable paddleboards aren’t all benefits. If they were, there wouldn’t be a reason to use rigid boards in the first place! Some of the main disadvantages to using inflatable paddle boards include their increased setup time, their relative lack of stability, and their lessened longevity.
One of the main downsides to inflatable paddle boards is that you can’t simply take them off of your car’s roof rack and hit the waves. They’ll need to be inflated when you get to the water. You’ll need to spend some time preparing them for use when you first arrive.
This can cut down on the amount of time you have available to paddle around, especially if you don’t have a powerful enough air pump that you’ll have to work manually.
To make up for this downside, you can always invest in a more powerful automatic air pump that will get your paddle board set up in less time.
Inflatable paddle boards are less rigid than solid paddleboards (duh!). This is why they tend to be less stable than their hardshell counterparts.
If you’re looking for the most stable possible board so that you can practice your balance, it likely won’t be an inflatable model.
This is one of the main issues that many beginners have when starting with inflatable paddle boards. Since they tend to be more affordable than solid boards, they’re also more popular with people who are just getting started paddleboarding. But beginners often get discouraged due to this very lack of stability.
Master of None
Another issue with inflatable paddle boards is that, while they’re good at a lot of things, they’re not great at anything. Since rigid paddle boards can be assembled to more exacting specifics and can have more precise lines, they can be made for racing, surfing, and much more.
On the other hand, inflatable paddle boards tend to be designed for generalists.
They are frequently marketed as to be perfect for everything. But really, they’re usually for simply cruising through the water comfortably instead of being used for any intended purpose.
One of the main downsides to inflatable paddle boards is that they typically won’t last as long as solid boards. If you stay clear of obstacles, then you’ll likely be better served by a solid paddle board, which may last you for years.
This is because inflatable boards tend to have seams that wear away over time and eventually split. When that happens, you’ll have no choice but to get your hands on an entirely new board.
This isn’t something that happens with solid boards, since they don’t have seams that get stretched by repeated inflation and deflation.
Solid Paddle Board Pros
Solid boards tend to be more popular for advanced paddle boarders. Some of the main benefits of them include the fact that they can’t be punctured and that offer improved performance over inflatable models.
Not Vulnerable to Punctures
Most inflatable paddle boards are designed to resist punctures, but it’s still possible to poke ’em through. You can patch them pretty easily, but it’s no fun, and each patch weakens the inegrity of the board.
On the other hand, solid paddle boards can’t be punctured. You can stick a needle in a solid paddleboard (though we don’t recommend it). It won’t lose any buoyancy or performance.
Better for Advanced Users
Inflatable paddle boards are typically preferred by more advanced boarders. They’re higher quality than inflatable boards, and can be built to specific design constraints.
The specialized design of a rigid paddle board means that they can be made to the specifications that more advanced boarders prefer. For example, you’ll rarely ever find racers using inflatable paddle boards.
They tend to have far more hydrodynamic drag than solid ones.
As we said above, solid stand-up paddle boards have better performance compared to inflatable ones. They’re more hydrodynamic, so you can just do more with them.
Due to how solid paddle boards cut through the water more effectively, you can expect to accelerate quicker and get up to higher top speeds while paddling with one.
Solid Paddle Board Cons
There are also a few disadvantages to using solid paddle boards. Some of these cons include the higher price of solid paddle boards, as well as their worse portability and durability.
One of the main downsides to solid paddle boards is that they tend to be a bit more expensive than inflatable models of comparable quality.
This is due to the more difficult assembly process involved in creating a solid paddle board, as well as the materials used in their construction.
This contributes to solid paddle boards having a reputation for being used by more serious paddlers who don’t care so much about the storage and portability issues.
Storage and Portability
Another notable disadvantage to solid paddle boards is that they’ll be a lot harder for you to bring to the beach or lake in the first place. First, you’ll need a vehicle that’s large enough to carry one of them, and if it isn’t, you’ll have to invest in a separate roof rack for it.
This has the disadvantage of further increasing the cost of a solid paddle board, making it even more expensive than the inflatable variety.
Easier to Break
Since solid paddle boards are rigid, they can’t flex and deform when they run into rocks or other obstacles.
Most of the time, this shouldn’t result in any significant damage to the board. But this can sometimes result in cracks that can make your board unsafe for further use.
In more violent collisions, it’s not unheard of for a solid paddle board to break then and there.
To sum things up, inflatable paddle boards are typically a better choice for beginners because of their more affordable price, improved safety, and more comfortable cruising performance.
On the other hand, solid paddle boards are a better choice for advanced users looking for performance rather than convenience.
Whichever kind of paddle board you decide is best for you, we hope you have fun and stay safe out on the water.