Are Hard or Inflatable Paddleboards Better?

Do you live to explore, fueled by a desire to discover sights unseen? Paddleboarding is a great way to catch a glimpse of some of the world’s hidden treasures. Drift downstream along a clear blue river up the road from your home, or surf abroad on the waves of Sunset Beach, Hawaii. No matter where you choose to adventure, paddleboarding is an excellent form of recreation, exercise, and even meditation. Catch waves riding solo, with a surf buddy, or with the whole family! The experiences you have while paddleboarding have the potential to add great value to your life, so it’s important to choose a high-quality, safe board that is most fitting for you and your outings. The two main subcategories of stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) to choose from are hard shell paddleboards and inflatable paddleboards.

What’s the difference between inflatable paddleboards and regular paddleboards? Apart from the obvious hard-shell exterior versus the softer, plastic exoskeleton of inflatables, there are a few key features that will vary from one type to the next. These features include their purposes, performance levels, portability, pricing, storability, and ease.  Let’s paddle a little further and see what we discover:

Factors To Consider

If you’re in the market for a paddleboard, you’re probably asking yourself, “Should I get an inflatable paddleboard or a solid paddleboard?” With so many brands and models out there, it can be a difficult decision to decipher. Let’s break down the main factors to consider so that you can make the most educated choice between inflatable paddleboards vs. hard paddleboards.

Paddle with Purpose (and Peak Performance) 

When it comes to purpose and performance, are hard or inflatable paddle boards better? Each varies in what kind of uses it will be most fit for. Due to their design and construction, hard paddleboards are much more durable and possess more rigidity. The fiberglass or Kevlar material used is what makes them hard and sturdy, able to withstand years of surf. The epoxy resin finish ensures that it’s watertight, allowing no droplets or splashes to seep through. 

Hardshell paddleboards tend to be more stable and maneuverable on rough, choppy water, with more glide and less drag. On average, regular or hard stand-up paddleboards glide five percent faster than inflatables. Lifetime paddleboards offer elite performance- many models are equipped with patented features and designs like retractable fins that are less prone to breaking. All of these traits allow hard shell paddleboards to perform better in general, especially when surfing downwind or racing. However, inflatable paddle boards reign supreme when it comes to paddling in shallow waters or sailing down white-water rapids, where the PVC plastic can absorb more shock from rocks and the riverbed. Overall, your intents and purposes for your surf sessions will help determine whether you should get an inflatable paddleboard or a solid paddleboard.

Portability to Paddle Anywhere

If you’re all about traveling and exploring on your stand-up paddleboard, then you’ll likely want to take it anywhere and everywhere you can. In this case, you’d have an easier time paddleboarding abroad while on vacation with an inflatable paddleboard. They deflate and shrink into a compact unit that can easily be carried in a bag or backpack while on a plane. Unlike inflatables, hard shell paddleboards typically weigh around 40 pounds, with their wooden bases, plastic components, fiberglass shells, and epoxy resin finishes. This heftiness, combined with its size and shape, renders the hard-shell SUP a rather incompatible travel buddy. Inflatable paddleboards are much lighter and more portable, making them the ideal choice for the explorer who wants to travel- and paddle the world!

Enticing Pricing

It can be tempting to purchase another brand-new sparkling stand-up paddleboard, especially if you believe each one is a special, unique gem to collect! However, you don’t have to destroy your bank account to invest in a recreational activity you love. Because they generally consist of PVC plastic and air, inflatable paddleboards tend to be more inexpensive than hard paddleboards. 

There are plenty of high-quality yet affordable options- some of the best inflatable paddleboards under $400 include The Aqua Lily Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board for $370.99 or the Aqua Pro Inflatable Paddleboard with Pump & Backpack for $341.99. If you prefer hard shell paddleboards, then you have slightly more expensive taste- but fear not! There are plenty of superb hard shell paddleboards for sale that are within range of inflatable paddleboard prices. The Amped 110 Lifetime Paddleboard is a great option for intermediate paddlers who enjoy both surf and flat water paddling- costing just $479.99. A good paddleboard is worth the experiences it will cultivate, especially when its durable, well-designed construction is built to last through years of surf! 

Get Up and Go!

Some of us enjoy a no-nonsense, low-maintenance approach to our adventures. If you’re the type that just likes to get up and go when it comes to your watersports, then the difference between inflatable paddleboards and regular paddleboards will be salient to you. Inflatable paddle boards are easy to pack and transport to the site, but you’ll have to take them out and set them up properly with an air pump. It doesn’t take a ton of forethought to pack the air pump, or a ton of time to inflate the paddleboard, averaging about 10 minutes per board. However, if you’re taking young kids with you, you’ll have to multiply this number by however many fun-sized surfers accompany you. For paddlers who get those spontaneous urges to explore and desire a board that will allow them to get up and go, a classic hard-top paddle board is ideal.

Saving Space to Save Face

If you have limited storage space in your yard or garage, the ample room required to store a couple of hard shell paddleboards is something to consider. Having six 40-pound, 8-foot-long hunks of fiberglass stored in your garage can eat up a lot of space. A lack of storage space can lead to levels of clutter that could resemble a hoarding problem. Don’t get caught looking like a hoarder- consider inflatable paddleboards to save space and save your place! Inflatable paddleboards deflate easily when they’re not in use, which can amount to ten months out of the year if you live in a place with cold winters. If you’re looking to take your stand-up paddleboard on the road with you, whether in your RV, SUV, or Jeep, then the inflatable paddleboard is the choice for you. You can also take them on vacation and easily store them out of sight. Simply deflate your stand-up paddleboard and pack it away in the tightest of spaces, then take it out when you’re ready to get your paddle on!

Are Hard or Inflatable Paddle Boards Better? Choosing The Right Board:

In general, size is a significant factor when choosing the right stand-up paddleboard. There’s a sweet spot to strive for, between something that is big enough to balance and small enough to maneuver. Bear in mind that the size of your body should inform the size of your paddleboard. Weight is less of a concern to factor in since most paddle boards can accommodate up to 250 pounds. The length of your board should be considered, however, so that it can support you properly. A general rule for paddleboard sizing is to choose one that is 10 inches taller than you.

Finally, you’ll have to choose between inflatable paddleboards and regular paddleboards. If price, space efficiency, and portability are your priorities, then an inflatable paddleboard is the board for you. If performance, durability, and the purposes of surfing and racing are what you seek, then a classic hard shell paddleboard is the way to go.

We hope this article has helped shed some light on the differences between inflatable paddleboards and regular paddleboards. Whichever route you take, you’re bound to find plenty of top-notch paddleboards for sale that are fit for your adventures on the water! 

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