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!
The general paddler (that’s most of us!)
Does this sound like you? Do you want to paddle every weekend or as much as you can? If so, then this is where you fit right in the middle of the inflatable / hard board mix. You could have an iSUP or you could have a hard board. Infact, many of you have both! The surf SUPer has their hard performance SUP, and also an iSUP for cruising up the rivers when it’s flat. The racer has their carbon hard board for the weekend race, or putting the miles in up the river or downwinder. But you don’t want the kids jumping on your race machine with your dog and their mates, so you have an iSUP as well for family use. If you think that you are going to get into paddleboarding but have to decide on one board, the best thing you could do is to demo or rent both boards from your local SUP shop/school and go paddling. You will get a feel for each of the boards and how they paddle, and that will help you make a decision.
The summer season paddler
You’re the one who gets out paddling on those nice sunny days or when you’re on holiday. Your board choice is unlikely to come down to performance, but more personal preference regarding the feel of the board, and practicality. So as mentioned before, the best thing to do is to demo/rent both styles of boards and just try them out for feel. And then think about the storage and transportation issues!
How do you plan to transport your SUP?
Transporting an iSUP is definitely easier than a hard SUP. You don’t have to have a roof rack or large van. Just deflate it, pack it in its bag and put it in the boot of the car. Also if you like to travel abroad, then flying with an iSUP is a joy. No worries about whether your boards going to come out of the plane in one piece! And no excess board charges. Just book it on as a normal bag and off you go. Also, walking with a backpack to your secret spot a mile along the coast, is alot easier than with a hard board in your hand.
However, if you’re lucky enough to live right by the water, or are already set up with a roof rack or large car/van then a hard board is no problem (just remember the roof rack straps!!)