When a would-be paddle boarder first proclaims to anyone that will listen, "I think I'm going to buy a SUP, you could bet your house the next question from someone will be...
"That's great, are you going for a hardboard or an inflatable"
For the purpose of this post we are going to highlight some of reasons we at Honu decided to focus solely on inflatable boards, after making them for more than 15 years! That's right, up until the 2020/21 season, Honu was known for their affordable composite boards. But the post isn't about us, it's about the boards. So ready on if you would like to get a better understanding about why you might chose an inflatable board.
Its often said that you should choose a hard board (aka composite board or fibreglass board) if performance is your most important consideration.... but this isn't absolutely correct. Even when you put aside all the distinct storage and transport advantages, inflatable SUPs can perform better in some cases:
White water & rapids. Why? Because they don't break on impact with rocks.
Multi-day touring. Why? Because they have more volume and so can carry more weight.
It's also worth mentioning that we often see the comparison between the two skewed from a quality perspective. That is, the comparison between products is often made with a relatively high quality, high-cost hardboard and an entry-level inflatable. This is not really apples for apples.
This above point is essential because of the vast performance difference you get between budget iSUPs and higher quality ones. The effect of materials, construction, and pressures result in a vast difference in your experience on the water. The technology that goes into inflatable boards has also vastly improved in recent times, and many people are surprised by how stiff and solid inflatable boards can feel after they are inflated.
With all that said, let's get to the heart of why you would choose an inflatable paddle board.
Storage & Transportability
Because you can deflate them and pack them away in a matter of minutes, inflatable boards are easy to store in your garage or even the bedroom closet. They are also much easier to carry when you go camping, traveling, or walking down the beach.
The exciting opportunity this presents isn't always apparent to the beginner. But as you gain confidence and a sense of adventure, it starts to become clear. With many people living in highly populated areas, the beaches and river spots are very busy, meaning you are always fighting for a little water to call your own. With an inflatable board, you can easily pack it in the boot of your car and drive to a secluded location.
And what about those spots that are harder to get to? You know the ones; you need to hike down a long or steep trail after a short drive into a national park. Virtually impossible to get to with a standard hard board, but completely doable when your board packs into a backpack.
Thirty minutes or so of walking and you can find yourself in some spectacular spots that will often be nearly deserted. You get to enjoy your own private SUP session in total tranquility wrapped inside a great mini-adventure.
Folks are often surprised to learn that iSUPs are more durable. They don't get dinged or scratched when you pack them in your car or drop them accidentally when you're juggling the board, beach gear, phone and kids.
And if they do get a tear, they are very easy and cheap to repair. Most boards come with a patch kit and repairs are quite easy. In fact, most people will feel confident to carry out repairs after watching a how-to video on YouTube. Five minutes of instructions, some basic tools, and about 30 minutes is all that is needed.
Often overlooked but worth mentioning is that you are less likely to injure yourself with an iSUP. If you lose your balance and fall hard onto an iSUP, it has a ball-like quality rather than hard fibreglass. Anyone who has cracked their elbow or worse on a fibreglass board will know what we're talking about here.
We believe that inflatable paddle boards are a great choice for all but the most elite paddlers out there. But, confusion in the market comes from the sheer volume of low-cost, low-quality options that skew much of the information you'll find on the matter. Our advice is to avoid the lower quality boards found on many of the usual shopping networks. Not only will you outgrow them quickly, but they are likely to wear quickly and end up in landfills far too soon. If you are really driven by your budget, look for a high-quality board being sold second hand. You'll get a quality product cheap, and help reduce waste and pollution at the same time. Win-win!