In the world of stand up paddle boards, you have a variety of choices. The one that is gaining the most attention is the inflatable paddle board. How are they different from hard paddle boards and are they better? What to look for before buying? These are all questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase. Please make sure you read our entire inflatable stand up paddle board (iSUP) buying guide to ensure you get exactly what you want. We promise you will be able to determine the best inflatable paddle board for yourself after reading everything below.
- 1 Hard Shell Paddle Board versus Inflatable Paddle Board
- 2 Types of Inflatable SUPs
- 3 Important Paddle Board Features to Consider
- 4 Best Inflatable Paddle Board Reviews
- 5 Why Inflatable Paddle Boards are Better?
- 6 Cons of Inflatable SUPs
- 7 How Hard is Stand Up Paddle Boarding?
- 8 How to Turn Your Paddle Board into a Kayak
- 9 5 Best Inflatable Paddle Board Brands
Hard Shell Paddle Board versus Inflatable Paddle Board
When looking at paddle boards, one of the first things you will notice is that you have the option to choose a hard board or an inflatable board. You get all of the same features with both types of boards. However, the hard boards are not as easy to transport like the inflatables. Inflatables boards are lighter, easier to store and just in general more convenient. This is perhaps why many people are choosing to give iSUP’s a try, but there are still things you need to consider.
Types of Inflatable SUPs
A paddle board is typically designed for fun and fitness, fishing or touring and racing. If you’re new to paddle boarding, just looking to have fun, or wanting to do yoga on the board, you should consider purchasing a displacement hull board. If you’re looking to paddle long distances or race you should consider a planing hull board.
A surfer may also enjoy a nose that curves up instead of a straight nose. This makes it possible for the tip of the board to stay above water instead of dipping below when you paddle forward. This is less of a condition when you have an inflatable, unless you are expecting to be in choppy water when you venture out.
Planning hull paddle boards tend to be very stable but slower. They tend to have a round nose, are the flatter and wider shapes that ride on top of the water. They look like a surfboard and they perform great in waves. At higher speeds their performance increases. These are great boards for beginners and kids who are just looking to have fun.
Displacement hull paddle board tend to be less stable but faster. They have a pointed nose that slices through and pushes water to the sides like a kayak. This allows the paddler to reach higher speeds with less work compared to a planing hull. This design is especially helpful for paddling longer distances.
Important Paddle Board Features to Consider
Paddle Board Width
When considering any type of paddle board, you have various widths to choose from. In general, the wider the board, the more stable it will be. Wider boards tend to be slower and easier to handle. This makes it a perfect choice for beginners and it is recommended that beginners choose a board that is 31 inches or wider. An experienced paddle boarder can go with a board 30 inches or less if they want to go fast or long distances.
Paddle Board Length
Length should also be something you look at. If you have a long board, it will be faster, even more so if it is long and not very wide. The downside is that long boards are harder to turn. Generally, someone who wants to surf on it will stay with a board that is 8ft-10ft and those who want to race will stay with a board that is 12ft-16ft. If you are just a rider who wants to enjoy a stand up paddle board, you can most likely stick with a board that is somewhere in the middle with the ideal range being around 10ft-12ft long.
Paddle Board Volume and Weight Limits
If the inflatable paddle board you choose cannot support your weight or displace the correct amount of water it will be difficult to ride. The closer a rider gets to a paddle boards weight capacity the lower the board will sit in the water and the less stable it will become. The higher the board’s volume the higher amount of weight it can handle. If you are a large person or plan to ride the board with a friend or pet, buying a high volume iSUP is critical. A short and wide board could have a high volume just like a long and narrow board could have a low volume.
There are different thicknesses when it comes to all paddle boards, but it makes the biggest difference in an inflatable. The thickness will give you a different buoyancy on the water. If you choose an inflatable paddle board that is less than 6 inches thick, you will feel as though you are standing on thickened water. Many people, especially beginners, do prefer to have something a little more solid under their feet.
Paddle Board Paddles
Inflatable stand up paddle board paddles are made from wood, plastic, aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fiber. Plastic, aluminum and wood paddles tend to be slightly heavier. The fiberglass and carbon fiber paddles will be lighter but they also tend to be more expensive. If you plan on going on longer trips the lighter paddles will not tire you out as quick and are well worth the extra cost.
The paddle board paddle length is also an important factor. A too short paddle may hurt your back and a too tall paddle will tire out your arms quicker. Generally paddles should be 6-12 inches taller than the paddler. Use a shorter paddle for surfing and use a longer paddle for flat water.
The blade is the bottom part of the paddle that pushes the water. Larger blades are used for surfing and smaller blades are used for flat water. The bend just above allows for more efficiency. It may look weird but elbow of the blade should be facing aft.
The Leash is important because it keeps the board attached to you in case you fall into the water. This is probably more critical in waves but still helpful to have. Leashes usually wrap around your ankle or your calf. They generally should be about the same length as you board or a little shorter. The two leash styles are coiled or straight. Straight leashes are good for racing or just for recreational use. They tend to stay out of the water and do not get tangled as often as a straight leash. Straight leashes are more traditional and may drag in the water. The leash is really a preference thing so it’s best to try out a few and see which one you like the best.
Rocker is the slight curve on the front end of your paddle board. Rocker keeps the nose of the board from going under the water. Boards with rocker are normally for surfing. They will be slower than boards with no rocker. Tail rocker is when the back of the board slightly curves up. This makes it easier to turn in the water. Finding the perfect combination is the key.
Fins on the bottom of the boards help add tracking and stability. Some iSUPs have removable fins while others are permanently attached. Also some come with just one large fin while other will have one large center fin and two smaller side fins.
Best Inflatable Paddle Board Reviews
If you are a new paddle boarder, you should stick with a planing hull board. Look for a wider board that is flat on the bottom, and one that is thick enough to keep you comfortable. A higher volume board will be more stable which is great for yoga or other fitness activities. It could also allow you to bring another person or pet along with you for the ride. The lower price makes the Ten Toes iSUP one of our best inflatable SUPs for beginners.
A more experienced paddle boarder will have an easier time finding the right inflatable board. They do not have to worry as much about the size or how stable the paddle board is. They can focus more on how it tracks, inflation time, and the accessories. This is one of the best inflatable stand up paddle boards for touring and racing. Click hee to see more info on the Tower Xplorer.
The board we really love is the ISLE Airtech 11ft paddle board. This is a newer board and uses ISLE’s new Airtech Fusion-Lite construction. That makes this one of the lightest boards on the market especially since it’s longer than 11ft. This is a very durable board and the manufacturer states it can survive being run over by cars and more. It also comes with all of the accessories you will need. If you can afford it, this is one of the best inflatable paddle boards on the market. Click here to see more info on the ISLE Airtech 11ft iSUP.
The iRocker 10ft inflatable paddle board is one of the cheaper boards you can buy. Please do not let the price fool you because this is a very good iSUP. It also comes with every thing you need like a hand pump, adjustable paddle, back pack and a repair kit. Since this paddle board is made from military grade material I wouldn’t expect to use the repair kit anytime soon though. If you are looking for a cheap paddle board that is made well, this is the board for you. Click here to see more info on the iRocker 10ft iSUP.
If you are looking for an all inclusive inflatable paddle board set the Atoll 11ft iSUP may just be for you. It comes with a dual action hand pump, 3 piece adjustable paddle, a repair kit, a detachable fin and a back back with front and rear bungee tie downs. Its fusion light construction material make it about 30% lighter than comparable boards. Click here to see more info on the Atoll 11ft iSUP.
This 10ft iSUP uses ISLE’s new Airtech Fusion-Lite construction. This board is generally 30% lighter than paddle boards of similar size. This paddle board comes with a 3 piece adjustable paddle, a carry back pack, a repair kit, a removable fin and a high pressure pump & gauge. This is a great all around paddle board. ISLE claims this is their best selling inflatable board paddle. If you want to know why click here to see more info on the ISLE Airtech 10ft iSUP.
If you have a young child that would like to get an inflatable stand up paddle board we recommend the Lucky Bums 7ft iSUP. The weight capacity of this board is 120lbs. If you have a larger kid you may have to look at the 9ft board. This iSUP includes a dual-action high pressure pump, pressure guage, 3-piece adjustable paddle, removable fin, a repair kit, valve wrench and a storage backpack. This board is made from rigid material and can with stand run ins with rocks and trees. Customers love how easy this board is the set up and how stable it is. They also love the price. Click here to see more info on the Lucky Bum 7ft paddle board.
Beyond the stability, it is important that you look at the weight limit of the inflatable to make sure that it can carry the amount you want. There are a lot of inflatable stand up paddle boards that can hold several people at one time. Others may be ideal for only one adult and a single child. You need to make sure that it can meet your needs. If a board is over weighted it will sit lower in the water and make it less stable and more likely to tip over.
If you are considering an inflatable SUP, it is recommended that you find a rental place that offers them. This way, you have the ability to try it out before you invest the money. The same is also recommended for anyone who has never been on a paddle board and wants to consider a hard, fiberglass board.
Most inflatable paddles boards come with accessories such as paddle, pump, carry bag, etc and these can help sway your buying decision. It is always a good thing when things like these are included with your purchase and not separate. Make sure you know exactly what comes with your iSUP before buying it because you may have extra expenses.
You should choose a paddle that is somewhere between 6″-10″ taller than you. Having a good hand or electric pump can make getting on the water fast and easy. A carry bag is nice if you have to walk or hike a considerable distance to your destination. A repair kit is an essential whenever you plan to go out on the water. For whatever reason, if you get a hole in your iSUP it is good to be able to repair it on the spot. Also, inflatable stand up boards that come with extended warranties provide a little more assurance that you will be cover in case of any defects.
Extreme Max BoatTector Complete PWC Anchor Kit
This anchor kit comes with everything you need when relaxing on your iSUP. It has the grapnel anchor, which has four shanks, 25ft hollow braid polythene rope which has a steel snap hook, the UV resistant PVC marker buoy, and a padded nylon storage bag to make it easy to carry. Overall, this anchor holds steady at a 4.8-star rating for the simple fact that it is easy to use whether you are rafting, kayaking, or on your iSUP.
SurfStow SUP Yoga Gear Anchor
This anchor is designed to be easy to use when you are fishing or doing yoga. It works best in calm waters that are 15’ or less. It is made of galvanized steel to ensure it does not corrode and it is made to grip all types of river, lake, or ocean floors. This includes mud, gravel, rocks, and even sandy bottom areas. It does have four shanks to ensure that you always get a good grip when enjoying your time on the water.
AIRHEAD SUP Anchor Kit
This is a bright red grapnel anchor that weighs in at 1.5 pounds. The attached rope is bright yellow to ensure it is very visible. Most owners love that it is such a small anchor that you can hold it under the cross straps when it is not in use. They say that it is ideal for anyone using it to work out doing yoga or Pilates on a SUP. They also feel that it can hold securely to any area you want it to while you go snorkeling or swimming.
SUP Padded Carrier/Storage Strap
Even with an inflatable SUP, you still sometimes have the task of carrying it. This can be difficult when you consider not only the board, but the anchor, paddles, and other things you may want to take along with you. That is why many companies have developed a carrier strap and this strap is perhaps one of the best. It has a 4.5-star rating because it is adjustable, triple padded, and extremely useful. It also comes with a removable drawstring bag where you can store your water bottle, sun screen, and other personal items.
THURSO SURF Adjustable SUP and Surfboard Carrier
This carrier has a shoulder strap sling to give you a hands free carrying option. The carrier clips on and clips off to make using it easy. The strap is adjustable to fit both you and the board. Velcro straps attach the paddle to it and you can use the paddle as a handle when you need more stability. The shoulder strap is triple padded and very wide. It is backed by a 100% guarantee. If you don’t love using it, you can get a refund or a replacement. As a bonus, it comes with a water bottle bag.
Deluxe SUP Carry Pack by BPS
This SUP carrier comes with a waist carry bag and a large waterproof phone case so that you can take your phone and keys with you when paddling. There are adjustments on the carrier to ensure it works well with your size and the board’s size. It has a large padded shoulder strap so that you can carry the board without feeling the strain of its weight. You can use the carrier immediately if you take just a couple minutes to read the instructions. It comes with a total replacement guarantee for a full 12 months and you get to choose whether you get a refund or a replacement if it does not meet with your expectations.
AIRHEAD SUP Inflatable Stabilizer Set
When paddle boarding, stability is not always something you can depend on, especially as a beginner. This iSUP accessory gives you a stable platform to stand on when fishing, doing yoga, or bringing your pets and children on board. It has PVC bladders and inflates or deflates quickly to immediately make your paddle board easier to use.
Why Inflatable Paddle Boards are Better?
More and more people have decided that an inflatable is the way to go, even those that have standard hard boards. One reason is due to them being more affordable. Most cost less than $800 and come with the paddle. The hard boards can often start around $800 and go up. They are great for beginners who are looking to try out the sport but prefer to not invest a lot of money right away.
An iSUP also makes for a great choice for kids who may want to get on it. The softer surface is less likely to hurt them and they are durable enough that parents do not have to worry about kids who may be rough on it. As an added bonus, with all the money that you save by choosing an inflatable paddle board, you can upgrade the paddle, the air pump, and other accessories that you may want to improve.
Cons of Inflatable SUPs
If you want to go fast on the water, you may not want an inflatable SUP. They are slower moving and they are not great when it comes to surfing. With that idea in mind, you should also understand that there are inflatable stand up paddle boards that can work just as well for surfing or racing. You simply have to look a little harder to find them and they may be more expensive.
You also have to keep in mind that you have to inflate and deflate the paddle board. Some people do not enjoy spending time doing this task because it does slow you down a little. Some boards can take 10 minutes or more to inflate and deflate. It is also hard for some people to get it pumped up to the recommended PSI with the hand pumps. If this is a concern for you because you want a solid platform to stand on, you can always consider an electric pump. Full inflation is the key to the board not having a dip where you stand at to paddle in the middle of the board.
How Hard is Stand Up Paddle Boarding?
Combining a core, arm, and leg workout with components of kayaking and surfing, and stand up paddle boarding is the result. Stand up paddle boarding lures people of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels because of the ease of getting out on the water.
Unlike surfing, paddle boarding can be done on the calmest of waters. Most people do not have the luxury of living near an ocean which makes paddle boarding a wonderfully fun way to make use of most bodies of water.
Flat, tranquil waters are best for beginners, but stand up paddle boarding can be seen anywhere from bays in the Philippines to the north shore of Hawaii.
Although there are pictures showering the Internet showing people performing yoga poses on their boards or toting their adorable pets while they ride, stand up paddle boarding does not always have to be this wild.
Many inquisitive riders question whether their age or size will be a factor in their ability to ride their board. There are varying boards and situations that can work with just about any age and size. As long as a rider is willing to put forth effort and patience, stand up paddle boarding will be possible.
Learning how to stand up on a paddle board is a breeze when the proper gear and techniques are used. This means having the proper board for the desired level of difficulty as well as water conditions.
Surf stand up paddle boards are easily maneuverable in the surf and rugged waters, but are less stable in calm, flat water. These boards are also for riders who are intermediate or advanced in stand up paddle boarding.
Racing stand up paddle boards offer a slimmer width and can generate face speeds, which are perfect for down winders and open ocean competitions. These boards tend to be a little more challenging for beginners but are a supreme choice for elite racers.
The all-around stand up paddle board is the most common and widely favorited as the best board for first-time paddlers. The shape of the all-around is versatile and works effectively in all conditions. Starting out as a beginner in stand up paddle boarding, this board can set any rider off on the right foot.
Within minutes, most first time paddle boarders are up and out in the water moments after grabbing their stand up paddle board. As long as you follow some basic guidelines, making way in the water will happen with ease.
Facing the right way on the board sounds very simple, however, for non-surfers it can be confusing at first. After falling off a board, a rider must check and make sure that the fins are facing the back; ensuring that the fins are at the back means the board can keep straight while a rider paddles.
When paddling, a rider must always make sure that they are clear of any other paddlers in the area. With winds and currents going in the same direction it becomes very easy for paddlers to somehow end up in the same place. These large boards can hurt if they collide with someone else, so to ensure safety, look out for other paddlers.
With any water sport, the water itself has to be respected. A paddler must know their own physical strength as well as swimming abilities before they set out for extreme stand up paddle boarding. Stand up paddlers must be mindful of the wind as well. When standing on a paddle board, the rider becomes a sail in the wind. When weather conditions take a drastic turn, riders should lay flat on their boards and paddle using their arms.
As a beginning stand up paddle boarder, a rider should always use a leash and practice properly falling off their board. Falling correctly means the rider falls as far away as possible from their board. This ensures that neither the board nor the fins will harm the rider when they fall.
Paddling using arm strength seems like a no brainer. Stand up paddle boarders show immense strength in their arms, however that is not where the paddling should originate. Paddling with the core is crucial. The core muscles act as a center for the rest of the body, acting as a line of defense. Paddling with arm strength alone will leave any rider exhausted.
In comparison to surfing, paddle boarding offers a much faster reward for work put in. It may take someone three or four surf lessons before they are even able to stand up the board. However, with stand up paddle boarding, a rider can stand up on the board within minutes.
The most difficult components of stand up paddle boarding involve balance and maneuvering. Balance is something that comes naturally to some but can be very difficult for others. Balance is a key component in having success as a rider. A tip for beginning riders is to not stare down at their feet. Although this seems to be the safest way to ride, it actually makes riding much more difficult. The best tool for beginners is to gaze at the horizon; with a firm stance, and a focused gaze, the board will move in the desired direction.
Maneuvering is the final piece that will make stand up paddle boarding easier once mastered. All riders have to get accustomed to using a paddle and understanding the amount of force it takes to guide the board in the proper direction.
Stand up paddle boarding is the quickest growing water sport because of the difference in levels for all riders. To make the most out of a stand up paddle boarding experience every rider must understand their ability and comfortability level.
The weather conditions, attire, and water can all contribute to either a positive or negative stand up paddle boarding experience.
Stand up paddle boarding is an emerging water sport that can easily be a part of any family’s outdoor excursions. A day out on the water enjoying this sport will also include an amazing workout and tranquil scenery.
How to Turn Your Paddle Board into a Kayak
Do you have a stand up paddle board (SUP) that you no longer use? Are you tired of it taking up space and not being something you use? If so, perhaps it is time to give it a makeover. You can learn how to turn your paddle board into a kayak, and perhaps rediscover how much fun being out on the water can be. All you need is a plastic SUP, few parts, and a little creativity.
Where to Begin the Transformation
The first thing you will want to do is get the right paddle for yourself. A SUP will have a different paddle than a kayaker will use. To skip purchasing a paddle would be bad unless you have a SUP paddle that converts to a kayak paddle. The good news is, there are a lot of manufacturers making SUP paddles that break down and become kayak paddles because there are so many people choosing to do the transformation. Even those who still want the SUP may choose to sometimes use it as a kayak.
Next Step when Building Your SUP Kayak
Next, you will most likely want to find a seat that you feel comfortable sitting on. This seat will have a low back support and perhaps a little cushion for you to sit down on. You will need to figure out where to place the seat. If you put it in the middle, it may cause the paddle board to sit with one end higher than the other. This could be bad for your adventures. Often, it is best to have a friend tell you how the board is sitting in the water while you try out different seat placement options.
Final Step for SUP to Kayak Transformation
One thing that a kayak will have that your SUP does not, is the paddle holders. You will not want to forget to add them. Ideally, you will place the paddle holders near the rear of your paddle board. This will ensure that they are not in your way if you decide to use the paddle board as a paddle board, but that the paddle holders are available when you are kayaking on it.
Things to Consider Before Starting
Transforming a stand up paddle board is not difficult to do. However, if you do not have the plastic style SUP, you may want to get someone else to help you with the transformation. Drilling into harder materials may not sound difficult, but it can end up messing up your board if you are not careful. If you have a plastic board, you should have an easier time of drilling and not have to worry about messing it up. The trick is mostly going to be the seat position and ensuring that it is in a stable area. If you do not have someone who can help you figure out where to place it, you may also want to consider taking it to a prefessional.
5 Best Inflatable Paddle Board Brands
When you’re considering the purchase of an inflatable paddle board, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go with the best product you can find. The top brands know what you’re looking for in a paddle board, and sell many different styles, sizes, and shapes of boards.
Keep reading for all the information you need on the top board makers of this type, so you’ll know which ones to check out when it comes time to make a purchase.
Ten Toes Boards
This cool company is located in Los Angeles, California, and its name is an homage to a classic, yet short-lived surf board company. Since they are in LA, they are right at the source of great surfing at all times too. Their boards are designed to be easy to use and able to transport around wherever you want to go to find the best waves. They come in a variety of sizes, from 8 feet to 14 feet long, and each of them weighs around 30 pounds, give or take. Each item they sell is made of military-grade PVC, so it’s resistant to tearing and punctures as much as possible.
The paddle that comes with the products they sell is aluminum, meaning it’s strong and won’t weigh you down. All of these features make these boards something you can really get some use out of. For example, they even sell replacement fins if you lose them, and each board is tested for over 70 hours before it’s placed into a retail package. This means that the company prides itself on making sure that each product that they make works like it should.
Atoll Boards wants to help you, even before you are a customer. They encourage their customers and potential customers to ask questions, so you can make a purchase that will be the best for your needs. You can contact them by phone, email, or even snail mail with your questions, comments, or problems. The board they are most known for is olive drab green, 11 feet long, and only weighs a little over 20 pounds. It comes with all the things you need to make it work for you, including a travel bag, a pump to blow it up, and an adjustable paddle.
They also sell replacement parts and accessories for their boards, in case something breaks or you something. They have a 60-day return policy, a 2-year warranty, and offer promotions throughout the year, so you should always make sure that you visit their website to see what is going on.
This company came about in 2004 when a couple of dedicated surfers wanted to do something besides climb the corporate ladder. They are now among the largest retailers for paddle boards online. The cool thing is that the company is headquartered in San Diego, where they are able to test their products on a daily basis. Unlike other companies, employees at ISLE really use their products. They have a great selection of inflatable paddle boards in stock. Their paddle boards range anywhere from around 10 feet to 15 feet, and even models designed especially for women.
There is also a model for kids if you have a young one who is interested in the growing sport of paddle boarding. Besides that, they come in different colors and styles, so you’ll always look good when you’re using one. Their website offers a place to ask questions, pages that help you choose a product, as well as an area dedicated to explaining how to take care of your board, which is something everyone needs to read to protect their investment.
This is another company that tests out their boards to make sure that they offer you a great experience. They have blue and white boards, which come in 10 or 11 feet lengths for you to choose from. There are also packages, if you need to purchase more than one at a time. These 2 packs offer a savings, and each product comes with all the accessories you need.
These boards have a special drop stitch core that makes them more rigid than other brands that you find on the market. They also have a no-slip deck pad, so you won’t be slipping and sliding around when you’re riding it. They are said to be able to store in nearly any car, and can be checked in at the airport when you’re going on a trip. That means you never have to leave home without your trusty iRocker paddle board.
The inflatable boards that are available through Tower Boards come in so many sizes that you may have trouble finding the one that is the right length for you. However, all you have to do is visit their website for information on how to choose a size. You can also learn nearly anything else you may want to know about their boards. Their website features all the boards that you can choose from. It also lists accessories that you may need when you own a paddle board.
Many products come with a 2-year warranty and are made of top-quality materials. They are virtually impossible to mess up, and they are easy to use and take care of. Most items are white or gray, so they may seem plain, but what they lack in design, they make up for in versatility. This company was also started in San Diego, so you know that the workers are actual surfers. They have a 15-day return policy and you can exchange items if you think they aren’t for you.
These top 5 paddle board brands offer some of the best paddle boards that you can purchase. Each company has a range of products. They are able to promise you top-of-the-line merchandise and customer service that doesn’t just end when you make a purchase. You should really consider any or all of these brands when you’re searching for your new inflatable paddle board.