Stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP) is becoming increasingly popular, and it’s easy to see why. Paddling through tranquil waters on a warm summer’s day certainly sounds idyllic. It’s a fun activity, and a fantastic way to spend time outdoors with family and friends. Plus, it's a great workout too!
There are two main types of paddle board: inflatable and rigid paddle boards. And deciding which one to go for depends on several factors. To help make your decision a little easier, we’re exploring the advantages and disadvantages of each, and the factors to consider when choosing your paddle board.
What is stand-up paddleboarding?
Also known as SUP, stand-up paddleboarding is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. Put simply, it uses a large, stable board (similar to a surfboard) and a paddle to navigate through water. Paddleboarding can be done along coastlines, rivers and lakes, and experienced riders can also surf the waves. You can start by paddling on your knees if you’re new to paddleboarding, and work your way up to your feet once you’re able to balance.
Paddleboarding is a great way to experience the outdoors, and it’s also a good form of exercise. If you’re just starting out, there are plenty of SUP beginner sessions available all over the UK. You can also read our SUP Guide for Beginners, with lots of handy tips to help you get started.
What do I need to consider when choosing a paddle board?
If you’re looking to buy your own paddle board, you’ll need to compare the two main types of board: inflatable vs solid. There are five key factors you should consider when choosing between the two:
- Storage: When choosing between an inflatable or a rigid paddle board, you’ll need to consider how much storage space you have. If you have minimal storage space, an inflatable board will be your best option as it takes up very little space. Even if you have a garage, you need to make sure you have enough space to maneuver a rigid board as they can be up to 14 feet long!
- Portability: Inflatable paddle boards are the easiest type of board to transport as when deflated, they roll up to the size of a sleeping bag. This makes them great for taking on holiday (and on a plane), as opposed to rigid paddle boards which are heavy and awkward to transport. Though solid paddle boards are all ready to go, without the need to inflate so it depends which aspect is more important to you (and where you’re likely to be using it).
- Performance: When it comes to performance, rigid paddle boards tend to be better than inflatables. They’re more agile, have better glide and are easier to catch waves when SUP surfing. Although if you’re looking for speed, rigid boards are only marginally faster than inflatable boards. And with advances in material technology and design, inflatable boards are being used more and more in competitions and by casual SUP racers.
- Durability: Surprisingly, inflatable paddle boards are more durable than solid paddle boards. Quality inflatables are made from military grade materials, so if you knock or drop your inflatable board, it won’t dent or scratch. This also makes inflatable boards perfect for white water paddling or paddling rocky rivers. Damaging a rigid board can lead to expensive repairs and more time out of the water.
- Cost: Generally, the most expensive type of stand-up paddle board is the rigid kind. This is because they cost the most to make and transport. They’re constructed from an EPS foam core with multiple layers of fiberglass saturated with epoxy resin. If you’re a recreational paddler, an entry level rigid or inflatable board is fine. Though beware of cheaply-made boards as they’ll likely be low-quality, with a short lifespan.
Inflatable stand-up paddle boards also don't hurt as much when you fall on them. An inflatable board is much easier on the body of the rider (and anyone else the board might come in contact with), but falling onto a hard board can hurt! This is another reason why beginners will often opt for an inflatable board.
Inflatable vs rigid SUP at a glance:
One question we often get asked is: ‘Are inflatable paddle boards good?’ Inflatable stand-up paddle boards were once considered a novelty among SUP boards, but they’re now commonly used and have become a great starting point when shopping for a paddle board.
As we’ve shown above, inflatable boards are easy to transport and store, durable and are usually more affordable than rigid paddle boards, making them ideal for leisure paddling. But if you’re looking for a board for SUP surfing or racing, a good quality rigid board may be a better option.
How long do inflatable paddle boards last?
Inflatable paddle boards can last for up to 10 years if they are correctly used and carefully maintained. The unique construction of inflatable paddle boards makes them much more robust than rigid paddle boards.
Though the durability of an inflatable board will largely depend on the quality of the board you buy in the first place. If you’re planning on making SUP a long-tern hobby, go for the best you can afford. And to keep your board in tip-top condition, it’s important to do the following:
- Rinse: You should rinse your board with fresh water to remove dirt, gravel and debris after each use. And this is especially important when using it in salt water, as salt can corrode the material and weaken the seams over time. Rinsing with fresh water will prolong the life of your board.
- Clean: To clean the PVC material on your inflatable board you can use any natural biodegradable cleaner (anything without chemicals). And when cleaning the traction pad be sure to scrub very gently so you don’t shred the pad. You won’t need to clean your board if you’ve only been paddling in fresh water.
- Dry: After paddling or cleaning your board, you need to let it dry completely before deflating and packing it away. Leaving it wet will promote the growth of bacteria and mould as well as weaken the seams.
- Storage: When the board is dry, deflate it, take off the fins and the leash, roll it up and pack it away inside the storage bag. Don’t roll the board too tightly as this can put too much strain on the seams. The bag should then be stored away from the elements and out of direct sunlight.
If you use your board regularly, there’s no need to deflate it after every use unless you need to make it more compact for storage or transport. There are generally no downsides to keeping a SUP board inflated, as long as you don’t keep it in direct sunlight.
No matter how careful you are with your inflatable stand-up paddle board, it may need repairing from time to time, especially if you come into contact with a sharp rock or object. Check out our article on how to repair your board to help you get back on the water if you get a puncture.
Which stand-up paddle board should I go for?
Decathlon’s in-house brand Itiwit offers a range of inflatable stand-up paddle boards for all abilities. Designed by our specialist team who love gliding on the water too, they know exactly what you need when it comes to boards, paddles and accessories. Here are some of the inflatable boards available from Decathlon:
Best entry price inflatable paddle board
A light, stable and easy-to-use 9ft long inflatable stand-Up paddle board, with a versatile pointed shape suitable for cruising or surfing small waves. It’s robust and easy to transport, and it inflates in less than 4 minutes! With a max. weight of 60kg, it’s perfect for women, children and teens who are new to SUP.
We love it because:
✓ Quick to inflate
✓ Robust and impact-resistant
✓ Less than £300
Best inflatable paddle board under £500
This board is designed to make stand-up paddle boarding adventures accessible to all. Set out with confidence thanks to its high stability and good glide on the water. It’s 31" wide and 6" thick, and reinforced for optimal rigidity. It takes 8 minutes to inflate, and it comes with a backpack carry bag for easy storage and transportation.
We love it because:
✓ High stability
✓ Good glide on the water
✓ Backpack for easy transport
Best inflatable paddle board under £700
This stand-up paddle racing board has been designed for intermediate paddlers, and is suitable for practice and competition. It’s 14ft long, and has a semi-rigid nose and tail for greater speed. It has polyethylene stringers on and under the board for greater inflated rigidity, and a grooved foam deck for comfort and grip.
We love it because:
✓ Takes weight of up to 110kg
✓ Semi-rigid nose and tail
✓ Good speed/stability
Which stand-up paddle board you choose largely comes down to your preference of convenience versus performance. Inflatable paddle boards are more convenient as they’re easier to store and transport. But a traditional hard paddle board—while not the most convenient—offers much better performance by having more agility and superior glide on the water.
Check out our guide on how to choose your stand-up paddle board if you need more advice on which board to go for. Or ask one of our expert sales assistants in store!