Inflatable SUPs: Are they worth the money or just full of air?

By Nicole Iacovetta

Inflatable boards have come a long way in quality and performance.  Once seen as inferior to hard-top boards, they are now gaining some of the respect they deserve. Ranging from basic touring boards to performance models, inflatables are diverse and are even raced by athletes around the world.

Customers often ask what the difference is between an inflatable versus a traditional board.  Here are 5 great reasons to consider buying one:


Inflatable boards offer many perks in regard to travel and storage. They can be easily deflated, rolled up and stored in a carry bag which is a huge space saver. This is helpful for those living in apartment buildings with narrow entry ways and elevators or houses without garages and cars that don’t have suitable roof racks or convertibles. Transportation is a breeze simply by throwing in the trunk of your vehicle, bringing it on an airplane so you can paddle your dream destination anywhere in the world. With most inflatable boards weighing under 30 pounds they are easy to carry by yourself. Some bags even have backpack straps so you can wear your board as you hike or bike to your next adventure, most also have wheels.


When a customer tells me they hate paddling inflatables, I ask them if the board was properly inflated. An under-inflated board will produce a bumpy ride as you will feel every ripple of water beneath you and will also provide less stability. I compare it to sleeping on a water bed versus an air mattress. People are often impressed at how hard an inflatable SUP feels when it is inflated to its maximum PSI (pounds per square inch) level. At Downunder, we carry Red Paddle Inflatables because they have the highest PSI in the market.  The honeycomb construction of the Red Paddle boards is incomparable. The interior is designed like honeycomb, meaning even if the board was not to be optimally inflated, it would still be firm.  With the double barrel pump included with purchase, Red Paddle inflates in under five minutes. For those of you who don’t want to use your muscles, you can even hook up an electric pump and cheat!


Soft? How can that be? I know I just stated they were firm, so how can they be soft too? Firmness relates to the overall structure of the board, while softness describes the feeling of the material.  Inflatables are wonderful options for fitness and yoga because the entire top surface is more comfortable against your body.  They are great boards for families with small children because they are less likely to get injured if they fall accidentally or while horsing around.  Hitting your face on fiberglass can hurt! 


Unlike regular boards, inflatables are really resilient.  You don’t have to worry about scuffing the rails with your paddle, scraping it on rocks or paint chipping over time. You can take your favorite pooch ‘on-board’ and not have to worry about them scratching it up. Boards are often cumbersome to carry and navigate, but inflatables won’t get damaged it if you bang into something or dare I say… drop it! They are a smart choice for those wanting an extra board at their vacation houses as you can toss them in your yard or leave it on your boat. Oh, and when you forget it’s on the top of your car and drive into the garage, chances are you’ll realize before there is any real damage.  That said, should you damage your board, it comes with a patch kit, and most SUP shops have products to help with repairs.


As I mentioned before, inflatables come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Whether you are casually cruising on a lake, surfing ocean waves, burning some calories doing core exercises, racing long distance or battling some white-water rapids there is a board to fit your specific needs. And many will accommodate paddlers in excess of 300 lbs.  they even make multi-person inflatables.  Come to Downunder to checkout the Invader, with a capacity of 8 adults or a whole squad of kids – you can take the entire tribe, even your canine mascot!