If you’re reading this you might be wondering what the deal is with these inflatable paddle boards, are they any good or are they just the latest gimmick? Let’s start with the most important thing, all inflatables are not created equal, some are great and some are not. After reading this article if you think an inflatable is for you other articles will help you pick the right board.
There are four major construction materials used to make sup’s, composites such as fiberglass or carbon fiber, vinyl wrapped eps, inflatables and plastic boards.
There are advantages and disadvantages of each Hard boards (composite or plastic boards), by far the best looking, they’re glossy (who can resist shiny things?) and some have awesome graphics. More than that, they can have sophisticated shapes, concave bottoms, hard edges, recessed decks and things you just can’t do with vinyl or inflatables. Those on the negative side, composite boards are relatively fragile, drop it on an unforgiving surface like a dock or a rock, and you could be looking at a repair job. If it’s your board and yours alone and you take care of your stuff it might be the way to go. If multiple people are going to use the board it may be best to stay away from the composite boards and look at other more durable constructions. Plastic can be the most durable but the trade-off is a much heavier board. This is a great way to go if you can leave it at the water’s edge and do not have to transport it on your vehicle.
Vinyl wrapped EPS boards like the Liquid Shredder Peruvian Softboards are a good compromise; they’re lighter than plastic and more durable than composite boards. On the disadvantage side, with a floating vinyl skin you cannot get the same shapes and edges as with the hard boards but that’s not a real big negative when you consider their relative light weight.
Finally, we get to inflatables. Even though I have a fleet of boards to chose from, my favorite board is an inflatable. This time I would like to start with the negatives and there are two. The first is, because of their construction they are limited to how they can shape the boards giving them more of a generic feel compared to some hard boards. Secondly, since they are inflatable they have more flex than other boards ( make sure to read part 2 of this article). Now for the pro’s and there are many!
Travel – What could be better? Inflatables can be packed up small enough to take on an airplane or put in your car or camper. If you’re going on a multi day road trip you may have better peace of mind than if it was left on the roof of your car overnight.
Storage – Live in an apartment? Vacation in an RV? No place to store a SUP? Want to take your sup on your boat? No problem! Deflate and put it in it’s bag, DONE!
Durability – I know a guy who bought an absolutely beautiful composite bamboo board. I mean this thing was gorgeous! He owned it a total of one day before he dropped it; it hit a sharp corner and put a hole in his board. Ouch! Inflatables are arguably the toughest. Plastic boards might take sharp objects better but you can drive a car over an inflatable without crushing it. On YouTube there are videos of guys throwing inflatables off the factory roof then driving over them with a forklift, now that’s tough! I’ve beat on mine with a hammer to show my friends what it will take. Actually, if you want to know how durable they are, think white water rafts, those things are tough and they’re made of the same stuff.
Repair-ability, Although I have never seen an inflatable that has been punctured, most
come with a patch kit, no need to take back to a store to get it repaired like most people would have to with a hard board.
Comfort – They are sooo much nicer on your feet and knees. The boards are stiff as heck but there is just enough give to make them much more comfortable, especially when I take a nap on my board. They don’t hurt anywhere near what a hard board does when you do a face plant, BAMB!
Bottom line, Inflatables are the bomb! Super durable, I can take it on my bike, I can take it on a hike. Heck, let a little air out and it makes an awesome sleep pad. They just ROCK! So if you agree with me and want an inflatable make sure you read my next blog. Although I paddle a couple of really good inflatables, some of them kind of suck. I’ll explain why in part 2.