All the paddleboarders know that the board plays the most important role in this sports activity. Its type depends only on how you’re going to use it, and what you’re specifically looking for. Thus, the board remains one of the major decisions to make when purchasing the equipment. Nevertheless, there are two main types that people focus on: the iSUPs, known as inflatable boards, and the hard boards.

Both bring remarkable performance and help you keep an active lifestyle, but they obviously come with similarities and differences. Even so, choosing the suitable one depends on each one’s needs and lifestyle. You’ll find all the details related to both styles so that you can further choose the preferred one, able to bring you unforgettable paddling experiences.

Inflatable SUP / iSUP

Inflatable stand-up paddleboards are usually made of PVC with woven fibers, and they weigh around 18 to 28 pounds. They feature a valve that needs to be attached to a pump in order to inflate the board. Once inflated, they can become extremely solid and steady, especially that some of them come with special rods that improve firmness.

They are usually more lightweight compared to the hard ones as they are made of air and plastic, this is why their costs are less expensive, as well. iSUPs are great for calm water paddling when you just want to relax, enjoy nature and surroundings. Thus, it’s not recommended to use them on rough water or for surfing unless their build specifically allows it.

As seen on Popular.Reviews there are exceptions, surf and rough water iSUPs that are smaller in length, generally measuring less than 10’, and have a considerably narrower tail that grants better responsiveness when you turn using foot pressure.  However, this design makes them less suitable for recreational paddling, but there’s no need to fret as inflatable boards come in different shapes and sizes, each catering to specific activities.

PROS:

  • Portability – It’s the main convenience they offer, as they can be easily carried anywhere thanks to the lightweight design. The greatest benefit is that they can be deflated, rolled up and taken with you everywhere you go. You can easily put them in a bag, or even in your luggage as they don’t require too much room.
  • Proficiency – Their performance is indubitable mainly because both the fabrics and construction have been lately improved. They are more durable, faster, and more effective, allowing for smoother paddling.
  • Costs – This type’s also a cost-effective one, considering that there aren’t too many elements included in their construction. There’s also a wide range on the market you can choose from, various sizes and colors that can match each user’s personality. Hence, they can be a great choice for beginners and families.
  • Safety – Finally, safety is what characterizes them, which is certainly the most important aspect to consider. They can be even safer than the rigid boards as there’s no slippery surface. This makes them both child- and pet-friendly, offering extra convenience.

CONS:

  • Maneuverability – Sometimes, they can be more difficult to maneuver compared to the fiberglass type. This is because they don’t turn as fast as a rigid board. Unfortunately, they might not bring you a quick-response anytime using them.
  • Flex – This is maybe the major inconvenience they come with, as many users have dealt with it. As they are more flexible than the rigid ones, they might not be the easiest to operate especially in rough waters or when surfing. Thus, they are suitable for flat waters, and smoother operation.
  • Endurance – The materials are prone to tear, considering that there are seams and glue, which can be damaged by UV and extreme heat. Leaking seams are also very difficult to repair, thus the board might not bring the same longevity as a fiberglass one would.

Hard SUPs

Known as solid boards, too, they differ from the iSUPs, as they are made of materials like fiberglass, foam, wood, plastic, and shielded by epoxy layers. They are known for their high buoyancy level, endurance, and solidity. Most of them are equipped with air vents on the deck, which are used to take care of the epoxy resin, leading to a longer lifespan.

They are a heavy-duty option, ideal for professionals, and people who attend paddleboarding competitions. They also deliver more effectiveness than the inflatable ones, especially when surfing and downwind. However, in this case, too, there are both advantages and downsides, so let’s find them out:

PROS:

  • Toughness – There’s no doubt they are extremely solid and rigid, providing maximum steadiness while paddling. They are usually made of a blend of fiberglass and foam, housed in epoxy layers to protect the board from hits.
  • Speed – Concerning that they have a stunning buoyancy, they are also speedier compared to the first type. Fiberglass flows easily, offering great floating abilities, making them an excellent choice for racers, or users who want to take their hobby to the next level.
  • Sizes variety – There’s a wide range of dimensions and lots of options available you can choose from. You won’t deal with difficulties if looking for a specific length or width, as you’ll surely find it, an aspect that can differ when coming to the inflatable ones. This is because they are easier to manufacture.
  • Long lifespan – They will surely provide you with a longer lifespan compared to iSUPs. As there are no seams and stitches, only highly-resistant materials such as fiberglass and foam, they will resist extreme weather conditions better, leading to many years of high-performance.

CONS:

  • Transportation – Unluckily, due to their large construction, they don’t make a deal with portability. There’s no chance to transport them either with a car or a truck, as they’re big and bulky.
  • Storage – In this case, too, it’s a pain to store them, so before purchasing one make sure there’s enough room in your house to store it. Otherwise, if you have a garage or basement, you won’t deal with space issues.
  • Ease of use –  As they are weighty and stiff, comfort isn’t exactly what defines them. They are solid, a bit difficult to carry, and they won’t bring the same comfort and convenience that iSUPs would. However, it also depends on the pad’s type they come with.

Conclusion

To sum up, both choices are suitable for all those who love this sport. Even so, necessities differ from a person to another. iSUPs remain the most practical and versatile option for beginners, people who just want to relax and enjoy their hobby. They are safe, kid- and pet-friendly, portable, and cost-effective. Hence, if you want to paddle on calm waters, they are the best option to consider.

On the other hand, if you are a paddling-passionate and want to develop new skills, then you should try the rigid ones. If you want to discover the rockiest rivers and lakes, they will surely help you out. They offer better maneuverability and speed, being the best choice for paddling enthusiasts.