So you are interested in paddle boarding and wondering about purchasing an inflatable board. What are the benefits of going inflatable vs a hard board?
Durability. Inflatable boards are much more durable then fiberglass epoxy or wood paddle boards – they can bounce off rocks, be dropped, and survive collisions much better then hard boards. Usually they just bounce off obstacles which is great for safety and peace of mind. Inflatable boards tend to last much longer then hard boards – just ask anyone who has a rental fleet of SUP’s. A good paddle board is an investment that you want to be with you for many years. And if you want to sometimes paddle on rocky rivers or whitewater then the only really viable option is an inflatable board.
Storage and Transport. One of the biggest challenges of owning a hard board is trying to find a place to store it. Inflatable boards deflate and fold down into their included backpacks – hardly taking up any space at all. And if you have a 3 piece paddle that will fit in the bag too. So even if you live in a small apartment you can store a longer inflatable board without trouble. And taking a fleet of inflatable boards to the beach is as easy as putting the backpacks into the back of your car. This also makes them easier to secure and much easier to protect from theft. If you want to fly somewhere you can take your inflatable with you, inflatable boards can be checked like any other baggage - something prohibitively expensive with a longer and fragile hard board.
Portability. The ability to put a board on your back allows for certain options that a hard board could never do. You can take your board with you when you travel by air, take it with you on bike ride, keep in in the back of your car for unexpected opportunities, or even hike with it into a remote lake or river. Inflatable board owners have many more options for places to paddle and often paddle more spontaneously - simply because they can.
Resale Value. Though it might be hard to imagine, you might someday have the desire to sell or upgrade your board. Because hard boards are less portable and get scratched, nicked, and damaged so easily they are generally more challenging to sell and retain less of their value then a good inflatable board.
Extra Fitness Potential. Although you can get an electric pump for your inflatable board, most people use their included hand pumps instead. Why? Spending a few minutes pumping up a board is a great warm up for a few hours of paddling. You can also customize the pressure for conditions and the person paddling – a nice feature not available on hard boards.
For all these reasons and more Red River Paddle believes inflatable boards are the best overall choice for most paddlers. Check out our board selection here.