Inflatable SUP or hard SUP?… that’s the topic of discussion between many paddlers, and one that many find hard to answer.
You’ve probably heard some people say they will only ever paddle a hard board, and then others say an iSUP (inflatable SUP) is the way to go. So who’s right? Well to put it simply, there is a time and a place for both. But one thing is for sure… you will see many of each type of board on the water this year.
Choosing between an iSUP or a hard board really comes down to the following;
- What sort of paddler are you? And what do you want to use your SUP for?
- How do you plan to transport your SUP?
- Where do you plan to store your SUP?
- What is your SUP budget?
- How rough are you on your equipment?!!
What sort of paddler are you? And what do you want to use your SUP for?
You need to think about what you want to do on, and achieve from your stand up paddleboard.
The performance paddler
If you want to race at a high level, and enter sprint, distance and BOP (battle of the paddle) events, it will be very hard to find one board that suits all conditions. Hence, you see top racers with a line up of boards on the beach! These are generally of lightweight carbon construction, making them stiffer and more responsive. Although some of the race iSUP boards are up there with glass fiber race boards in the speed stakes, they do suffer when it comes to racing in swell or off the beach, due to the boards flexing slightly. Any flex will decrease the overall speed of the board. If you are racing seriously no doubt you will have a few boards in your collection anyway. But in the flat water events, taking place on lakes and rivers, there is really no reason why you shouldn’t see an iSUP on the podium this year.
For the performance SUP surfer there are so many variables to consider, such as rocker line, rail shape, bottom profile, fin setup and volume size. iSUP’s do not have the variety of bottom or rails shapes like a hard board, and therefore you can not expect them to perform like a hard board. However that doesn’t mean you can’t surf on an iSUP. Of course you can… you’re just unlikely to win the world tour on one!
or a shed (unless you want a board in the middle of your lounge!) And obviously if you have a 14′ race board you’re going to need a big one! An iSUP however can be stored almost anywhere, even in your wardrobe! So if storage space is an issue, then really your decision has been made for you! iSUP or no SUP!
What is your SUP budget?
This can be the largest factor when buying a SUP. How much do you want to spend? You will find that in general the RRP on an iSUP (at time of writing) will be less than the equivalent sized hard SUP.
In the secondhand market you will find that iSUP’s hold their money more. This may be due to the fact that there are less of them around. You will also find that most of the same aged iSUPs will be a very similar price. This is probably due to the fact that they are all in a very similar condition. iSUP’s are very hard wearing and generally look good even after 2-3 years of frequent use. The secondhand hard board market is more established and therefore there is more choice. However hard board prices can vary hugely even between identical boards, due to the varying board conditions. You can tell if a hard board has been looked after… if it looks good, then it is good. For used SUP’s and more. Go to the SUPboarder classified page and grab a bargain.
How rough are you on your kit?
If you want to get into white water paddling or think you’re likely to drive over your board in the carpark then an iSUP is for you! When it comes to durability an iSUP wins hands down. Most of the damage done to a paddleboard is done during transport, to and from the waters edge. If you’re good with your kit and not planning to have any fights with hard objects… then go hard. If you want the whole family and the dog on the board, or go sliding down the riverbank… then go for an iSUP.
To sum it up
There are so many more pro’s and con’s to each type of board. In the end most paddlers would love to have both. It all comes down to what suits you and your circumstances best.
Let us know what you’re paddling on and why.
For tips of what to look out for when buying an inflatable SUP. And what’s the difference between a good one and bad one. Read SUPboarders feature ‘iSUPs – everything you need to know!’ here.