How To Choose An Inflatable SUP ( Stand Up Paddle Board ) – Buyer’s Guide 2018

At a first glance, all inflatable SUP boards look very similar, but there are actually many different design variations which can make a big difference to how and where they should be used.

It’s important to put some effort into finding the best inflatable SUP for your needs.

Now, here’s are the steps to finding the best:
A. Get educated – Read this buyer’s guide;
B. Pick a quality inflatable SUP – Aim for the best inflatable paddleboard for your money.

How? Its simple, read my reviews and choose one of the proven Inflatable SUP’s from this comparison table.

If you’re looking for and inflatable SUP for a specific activity, check out our other SUP reviews and guides here:
How To Paddle Board,
Benefits of Paddle Boarding,
Best Inflatable SUP for yoga,
Best Inflatable SUP for Surfing
SUP Fitness and Training
11 SUP Yoga Poses For Beginners

Before we start, let’s get inspired by Guilherme below 🙂

The most adventurous surf dogs I’ve ever seen!

Fun little wave on the Gold Coast by @supdogoz #suppup #supwithpup #supdog

A post shared by Standup Journal (@standupjournal) on

Now, lets get started:

PART I: THE BASICS

Elevating you game: how to choose the right inflatable SUP?

Here are some of the features to look out for:

Now that we got the base mindset how to choose down, here is the detailed checklist

The first step in choosing the best inflatable an inflatable SUP is to decide what kind of stand up paddling you want to do.

In these inflatable SUP reviews, we’ve been looking at how to choose a SUP for all-round paddling and general use. These SUPs are ideal if you want to try out lots of different disciplines, if you’re a beginner to intermediate SUPer or if you just want a basic board for a bit of fun. In general, the best all round SUP board should be large, thick and stiff enough to offer stability (especially for SUP yoga) but light, curved and thin enough to handle well over choppy water, light surf and waves.

If you’re looking for something a little more specific, SUP boards have been designed for many your specific use. Check out some of our other SUP inflatable reviews to compare inflatable SUP yoga boards, inflatable SUP for surf boards (more category reviews on the way).

Size: As with any kind of inflatable SUP, you should select the right size based on your height and weight. Tall, heavy adults will need a larger board for more stability, while small, light adults and kids will need a smaller board as they’ll struggle to control a large SUP.

Makes sense, right?

As a general rule, if you’re under 140 lbs you should choose a short 9’6″ board; if you’re between 140 lbs and 200 lbs you’ll need a board that’s around ten feet long; if you’re heavier (or if you’ll be carrying extra passengers) you should look for a large SUP measuring 11 or 12 feet long.

However, there are slight variations between inflatable SUPs depending on how they’re used. The best yoga inflatable SUP boards are long and wide, providing a large, stable surface area for trying out ambitious yoga positions. Surfing SUP boards, on the other hand, tend to be narrower to help them glide over the waves smoothly.

Thickness of board: Inflatable SUP boards range from four to six inches thick: thicker boards usually feel stiffer and more stable than thinner boards. However, these boards are so well made that when they’re fully inflated, they feel just as solid as hard SUP boards, regardless of their thickness.

If you’re used to solid SUP boards, you might find thin four inch thick inflatable SUPs disconcerting at first. This is because you do get a greater sense of movement on the water than with solid boards. If you’re heavy or the water is particularly rough, you might feel like the board is buckling if it’s very thin, so experienced solid SUPers might prefer to opt for a thicker board first. However, these sensations are so slight that beginners to stand up paddling will hardly even notice the difference.

While you’re looking at the thickness of inflatable SUP boards, you should also consider their volume. This will have an impact on how long they take to inflate and how high they sit in the water.

PSI: The PSI (pounds per square inch) refers to the maximum pressure to which you can fill an inflatable SUP with air. When it comes to pressure, higher numbers equal fuller and stiffer boards. Most all-round inflatable SUPs (including five of our six inflatable SUP reviews) have a maximum of 15 PSI, but bear in mind that if you’re very light you can get probably get away with filling your board to a lower pressure.

The time it takes to fill an inflatable SUP to the required pressure depends on the type of pump which you’re using and – if it’s a hand pump – your arm strength. With a hand pump, you can expect to fill an inflatable SUP in around five to ten minutes, but topping up the last few PSI can be very physically demanding on the arms and lower back. If you don’t have a lot of strength (or if you want to save your energy for the water) you might want to get a separate electric pump which will inflate your board in a fraction of the time.

Board Surface: When you’re looking at how to choose a SUP, the top surface of the board might have several special features which could influence your decision. Many boards come with large anti-slip traction pads on the top side – perfect for doing SUP yoga without losing your footing. The largest of these can be seen in our Aqua Marina Monster inflatable SUP review, where the traction pad covers almost two thirds of the board.

Elsewhere, you might want to look for bungee cord or storage space for your belongings. The PEAK inflatable SUP has bungee cord which is secured at six points on the deck, giving plenty of storage that’s more secure than other four point bungee cords. Alternatively, the Red Paddle Co RIDE board comes with a RAM mount and a waterproof phone case so that you can record your travels without damaging your tech.

Some other features which you might want to look out for include D-rings to attach a leash, handles for easy carrying across the shore, or even rod holders for inflatable SUP fishing.

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

What are the characteristics of an inflatable SUP?

Inflatable: There are so many benefits to choosing an inflatable SUP board over a hard board. This is particularly true of SUP yoga, where inflatable boards are the preferable option. Inflation only takes a matter of minutes (and deflation is usually even quicker) so you can be ready to go in less time than it takes to detach a solid board from a roof rack.

When not in use, inflatable SUP boards can be rolled up to the size of a sleeping bag. This means that you can store and take your iSUP anywhere – even if the only storage space you have is a small cupboard or if you want to take your SUPing abroad.

Even very high quality, advanced SUP boards are much cheaper than traditional hard SUPs, costing as little as a few hundred dollars. This brings them into the range of affordable hobby items regardless of your budget.

Fins: All SUPs should have some sort of fin configuration, and the exact number and placement depends on how the board should be used. Stand up paddle boards with three fins make great all-round SUP boards; those with fewer fins work well on flat water, while boards with five fins are best suited to surfing. Typically, the large center fins can be removed on inflatable SUP boards to help with storage.

Size and shape: While many different size options are available (depending on your height and weight as well as the board’s intended use), the best inflatable paddle board for the money should offer a large, stable surface on which to glide. As a result, many basic SUP boards have a fairly wide, flat profile – these are called planning boards. Other options are available (including displacement boards which have a shape that resembles a kayak) but these are built for speed and fast turns rather than gentle paddling.

What types of inflatable SUPs should you choose?

The best all round SUP boards are designed for beginners to have a go at lots of different types of stand up paddling. As well as being suitable for novices, these boards are great for anyone (even kids) who want to have fun and do some gentle paddling without too many fancy features. To compare some options, read our inflatable SUP reviews below.

The best inflatable surfing SUP boards have a narrow tail and a wide nose to give a smooth, stable ride over waves. Featuring more fins than flat water SUPs, you’ll need plenty of experience and control on one of these boards to compete with traditional hard surf boards.

The best Inflatable SUP for yoga, are long, wide and thick, offering a large surface area and plenty of stability. Specifically designed for challenging yoga routines, these SUPs are fitted with anti-slip traction pads to keep you in place.

The best inflatable racer SUP boards are designed for speed. These boards are light and nimble, cutting through the water easily and handling well. They don’t provide as much stability as other types of SUP boards, so they’re not ideal starting points for newcomers to the world of stand up paddle boarding.

The best inflatable fishing SUP boards come with plenty of space to secure your tackle, rods and fishing gear. These aren’t racing boards, offering stability instead of speed. For an alternative to a fishing SUP board, consider looking at inflatable fishing kayaks, too.

The best inflatable touring SUP boards offer superior tracking and gliding to all round SUP boards. These are great for recreational racing or building up fitness, so they’re ideal for anyone who wants to step their paddling up a notch.

The best inflatable kids SUP boards are smaller and lighter than adult boards, making them easier for kids to maneuver. Measuring five or six feet long, many come with short or adjustable paddles, letting kids paddle as efficiently and comfortably as possible.

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

What size paddle board do I need for my weight and height?

In general, small adults weighing 140 lbs or less should look at boards around 9’6″ in length. If you’re slightly heavier – weighing up to 200 lbs – 10’6″ to 11’6″ long boards should provide enough support and stability. Longer SUP boards measuring 12 feet or longer should be reserved for anyone weighing more than 200 lbs. For kids, inflatable stand up paddle boards can be as short as five or six feet long.

There are many other factors which affect whether an inflatable SUP is suitable for you (including its shape and fin set up), so make sure you consider all areas and read the manufacturer’s guidelines before you buy.

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

What inflatable SUP accessories can I buy?

Many inflatable SUP boards come with a variety of accessories including bags and backpacks, adjustable paddles and even waterproof phone cases.

Elsewhere, you can buy a wide variety of accessories to improve your SUP experience. The Red Paddle Co RIDE board comes with a RAM mount, but these can also be bought separately if you choose a different board.

Some accessories (such as carry straps and leashes) are practical, while others enhance the fun and comfort factors. For example, detachable seat backs are available to let you sit down on your board and rest comfortably.

If you want to have a go at trying out a specific SUP discipline on your all-round inflatable SUP board, accessories can help you do so. For inflatable SUP fishing, rod holders are available; for SUP surfing you can buy different fins; anti-slip mats can be added to your board to help with those SUP yoga poses.

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

PART II: INFLATABLE SUP BUYING TIPS

Inflatable surfing SUP tips for beginners

Inflatable SUP surfing doesn’t require any previous skills or experience – it can be taken up by complete beginners. One of the best parts of the sport is that you can start out fairly easily on flat water and progress to bigger waves as your confidence grows.

Firstly, before you even get out on the water, it’s important to get your foundations right. This means preparing your paddle board, paying particular attention to filling it to a high pressure. You’ll want to fill it to as high a pressure as possible without exceeding the maximum set by the manufacturers – doing so could cause the seams to tear. I recommend a maximum pressure of somewhere in the region of 15-25 PSI.

Now, I suggest you head over to my SUP Fitness and Training article for some basic training.

Also, if you like yoga please make sure to check out our 11 SUP Yoga poses for beginners

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

Should I get an inflatable SUP or an a hardboard SUP?

If you’re new to inflatable stand up paddling then you probably won’t notice a huge difference between a well-inflated SUP board and a hard board. However, if you already have more experience or if you’re looking to invest in a long-lasting board to progress with you, there are a few subtle differences which will make a difference to the sport.

Although many SUP boards for surfing come in various size options, inflatable SUP boards are generally longer and wider than traditional surfboards. This makes it easy to balance, providing a level of comfort and stability which beginners might find reassuring.

Stand up paddling is actually a great way to ease yourself into the world of surfing, so an inflatable board may prove the way to go if you’re not brave enough to dive straight in with a hard board. The fact that iSUPs are slightly larger than hard boards means that they can catch waves fairly easily – even small ones – so if you choose an inflatable board you might find yourself out on the water more regularly.

If you intend to take surfing seriously, you may find inflatable boards frustrating. You’ll probably notice bumps in the water very easily, and you might struggle to catch the biggest waves due to the fact that the entire board is the same thickness. However, inflatable boards do give traditional hard boards a run for their money, especially as they can be used on flat water as well as on waves.

In fact, if you will definitely be paddling on flat water as well as in the surf, buying the best SUP for surf and flatwater is your best option. With just one buy you can enjoy both options: the same can’t be said for a hard board. Traditional surf boards struggle to track in a straight line on flat water, so you’ll get much greater control from an inflatable.

In addition to the size, stability, versatility and beginner-friendly benefits that you get from an inflatable SUP, there is one other major difference between iSUPs and hard boards which might sway your decision. It goes without saying that inflatable boards can be deflated when you’re finished, meaning that they can be rolled up, stored and transported incredibly quickly and easily. This offers a level of flexibility and freedom which is simply impossible with hard boards – perfect for free spirits and travel junkies.

How to choose the best inflatable SUP for your kids?

Although there are some SUPs designed specifically for children, technically there are very few real differences between adults’ and children’s boards. An inflatable is definitely a better option than a hard board as it will provide the same stability with a softer landing should your child fall.

Short boards measuring seven to ten feet in length are best suited to use by either kids or small adults. These usually measure around 28 to 30 inches wide. The size you choose will depend on your child’s height and weight, but do bear in mind that children grow quickly and they may want to move onto a larger board before long.

Short, narrow boards are ideal for children as they are easy to maneuver, due to the fact that kids will be able to reach the paddle comfortably. In addition, thin boards which are four inches thick are lighter in weight than thicker boards, making them lighter to move both on and off the water.

Alternatively, it is possible for your children to use an adult SUP for surfing. Choose a short, thin board and be prepared that they might struggle with reaching the paddle and turning the board. However, if you’re willing to put up with these short-term difficulties, a small adult board could end up lasting for years.

What should I look for in iSUP surfing accessories?

As soon as you’ve bought a board, you’ll need a paddle and a leash. Don’t even think about heading out onto the water without them.

Not every board comes with a paddle – even the top-end RIDE iSUP from the Red Paddle Co forces you to buy a paddle separately. There are just about as many variables when it comes to paddles as there are with boards, so do your research. The best SUP paddle for surfing would be lightweight (made from carbon fiber which floats) or adjustable so it could be used by different riders.

Many boards come with a waterproof backpack in which you can roll up and store your deflated paddle board. Other popular accessories which can be stored in an inflatable SUP travel bag include alternative fins, a pump, a pressure gauge, a removable seat or a waterproof phone cover. The Red Paddle Co even provides a repair kit as standard with every board, to give you peace of mind should the unthinkable happen.

PART III: Q&A

How to care for inflatable SUP boards?

Many outdoor sports stores sell protective sprays which can actually care for your board and prolong its life. These sprays strengthen the surface and guard against potentially damaging elements and UV rays. These sprays are fantastic, but follow the manufacturers’ instructions carefully as they risk making your board slippery.

In addition, prevent the build up of dirt and bacteria by rinsing your inflatable stand up paddle board after every use. Plain soap and water will provide gentle care, which is much better than harsh chemicals.

Once you’ve washed your board, dry it thoroughly to avoid mildew, then roll it loosely and store it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

If you plan to use your SUP regularly, you can leave it fully inflated between uses. As always, make sure that it is kept clean, dry and cool. If you choose to do this, check your iSUP’s pressure again before you surf as the pressure will drop slightly over time.

It should be very easy to store inflatable SUPs indoors as they can be rolled up like a sleeping bag. However, if you’re unable to keep it inside and the only option is for it to stay outdoors, protect it from sunlight, the elements and any knocks and bumps by storing it underneath a tarpaulin or other weather-proof shelter.

Lastly, the ultimate form of care for your SUP is to carry it by the handle, well above the sand or rocks. Dragging your board along any surface will cause it to weaken or even tear, so taking a small amount of care can save you a lot of money.

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

How to store an inflatable SUP for winter?

Whether hot or cold, wet or dry, the weather always affects stand up paddle boards. The elements can cause perishing, weakening and other damage, so regardless of your area or the time of year, SUPs should be kept carefully.

Storage for inflatable boards should be the same during winter as it is in summer: keep them cool, dry and out of the elements.

It is possible to store stand up paddle boards fully inflated, but if you can’t see yourself using it much during winter months then it’s best to deflate it while not in use. If you’d rather not deflate it completely for whatever reason, partially deflate it to below 15 PSI – just remember to top it up again the next time you want to get out on the water.

How long does it take to inflate a stand up paddle board?

The time it takes to inflate a SUP depends on several factors, including the volume of your board, the intended pressure, the type of pump you’re using, and your own physical strength.

Naturally, larger boards do take slightly longer to inflate than smaller boards. Similarly, if you’re trying to inflate your board to 25 PSI, it will take longer than a board that only needs to be filled to 15 PSI.

Hand pumps rely on physical strength, so topping up the last few PSI may take a while as it can be very tiring, but it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes. As a result, electric pumps are usually much quicker (and easier), although they’re not compatible with many surf SUP boards.

All things considered, it should take around one to three minutes to fully inflate a stand up paddle board.

Things not to do with your inflatable SUP

The best SUP boards for surfing are expensive pieces of kit, so take good care of them to make sure you get your money’s worth.

For the most part taking care of your inflatable SUP comes down to common sense, but there are a few mistakes which too many people make. Avoid these and you’ll prolong the life of your board dramatically.

Firstly, don’t let dirt or grime build up on your board. Rinse it after every use, regardless of whether you’ve been out on fresh or saltwater. Not only will this prevent a hard layer from building up on the surface of your board (which could affect how smoothly you can glide) but it will also reduce bacteria. Don’t resort to abrasive chemicals or cleaning equipment as these will only scratch the surface – simple soap and water will do the trick.

Don’t leave your SUP out in the elements. A damp board can harbor bacteria (especially if it’s rolled up) so once it’s dry, store your inflatable board in a cool, dry place indoors. Sunlight can cause some of the materials used in inflatable SUPs to perish, so choose somewhere out of direct sunlight.

Don’t damage your board. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprized how many people are careless with their SUP equipment. Knocking or dropping your board – or tying anything to it – can cause bumps or even cracks in the surface. These imperfections will not only affect the glide: they could encourage water to leak into the board as well.

In addition, never drag your board across the sand or rocks on the shore. Inflatable SUPs are built with carry handles for a reason, so use your handle to protect the surface of your board.

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

How do inflatable SUP boards work?

Stand up paddle boards are essentially just buoyant boards which can be used on the water for surfing, paddling, touring, yoga or fishing. Often, traditional hard boards are made of lightweight fibreglass. Inflatable stand up paddle boards are very similar to hard boards, except that they can be deflated and rolled up when not in use, making them easy to transport and store.

SUPs need a pump in order to inflate to be as stiff as possible. Many boards come supplied with hand pumps, which are more physically demanding than electric pumps. However, they’re the safer option as electric pumps can put too much pressure on the seams, potentially leading to ruptures.

As well as being stiff from being inflated to the correct thickness, inflatable stand up paddle boards have another feature to make them stable. Rails are inserted down the sides of the boards to prevent flex and buckling, particularly with heavy riders.

While traditional hard surf boards are carefully shaped to catch the waves as easily as possible, the inflatable nature of iSUPs means that the thickness is the same the whole way down the board. However, inflatable SUPs are shorter than hard boards, and they usually have wide noses and narrow backs, which makes up for their uniform thickness. This is just one way that they manage to catch and ride waves in such a similar way to surfboards.

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

How do you deflate a paddleboard?

Deflating a stand up paddle board is very quick and easy. It works in exactly the same way as an inflatable mattress or ball, where the air leaks out through a valve.

Before you start deflating your SUP, make sure that it is dry and in an area well away from any water. The last thing you want is for any water to accidentally leak into the cavity of your board as drying it out would be very difficult.

To deflate your board, push the valve and turn it to the ‘open’ position. Some air may start to leak out, but you can speed up the process by rolling the board from the other end. Rolling the SUP like a tightly packed sleeping bag will force the air out within around one minute.

How long does an inflatable SUP last?

With the right care and storage, there’s no reason why the best SUP for surfing can’t last for years.

Many boards come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which usually range between one and three years. A warranty can’t be used as a hard and fast guideline of the lifespan of an inflatable SUP, but it can give you an idea of how long the manufacturer thinks the board will stay in peak condition.

Not taking proper care of your board – including dragging it or storing it in direct sunlight – will significantly reduce the lifespan of your stand up paddle board.

Help with iSUP choices for a bigger guy?

The key to choosing an iSUP that can support a heavier weight is to find one that has a high maximum pressure. The best surf SUP for big guys probably comes from The Red Paddle Co, who produce boards which can be filled up to 25 PSI – significantly higher than many other brands. These are incredibly stiff and resistant to flex.

Similarly, the thicker a board is the more stable it will feel. Bigger guys would benefit from a board measuring six inches thick, such as the PEAK inflatable stand up paddle board.

If you’re bigger or heavier, stability will probably be one of your greatest issues when it comes to stand up paddling, so a large board is a good choice as it will make you feel more secure. Some SUPs measure 12 feet or more in length: these will give you a greater surface area over the water so will make you feel stable. However, if you specifically want sharp turns and easy maneuverability, you can still opt for a smaller board provided that it’s stiff enough to avoid buckling.

Check out my comparison table of the best inflatable SUP for your money

PART IV: CHOOSE YOUR INFLATABLE SUP

There’s a reason that in the last couple of years alone, thousands of paddleboarders have decided to buy inflatable SUPs over fiberglass ones:

Studies show that inflatable SUP’s sold now count for between 80-90% of the market depending on the country.

This trend continues to evolve:

It all depends where we look. Today for example 98% of SUP boards, in Germany are inflatables. But in countries like France, Spain, Portugal and also the Scandinavian countries we still sell a majority of hard boards.

So, should you choose inflatables SUP over a hard-shell paddle board?

With the advanced manufacturing process’s today, the best inflatable SUP’s (stand up paddle) boards, offer the same level of paddling, while being lighter, simple to store and easy to transport – all for a lower price than hard SUPs.

The wrong paddle board will give you a clumsy, strenuous experience: the perfect inflatable SUP for you will make paddle boarding a pleasure.

The problem is with so many boards to choose from it’s a tough decision to make.

Now:

How should you choose the best inflatable SUP?

To save time, effort and frustration I have spent days reviewing and comparing the absolute best inflatable SUPS. You can find the results of my findings below.

I have tested and reviewed 42 models and chosen the top 4 for your money.

For good order, here is the full list of products reviewed

Here is the comparison table of the best inflatable SUPs for your money:

Comparison Table

Read the full reviews and comparisons here

If you have a specific type of activity in mind please check out the below posts to find the best reviews and guides:
Best Inflatable SUP for yoga,
Best Inflatable SUP for Surfing (more category reviews on the way).
SUP Fitness and Training
11 SUP Yoga poses for beginners

Conclusion

The best all round inflatable SUP boards offer so much versatility and fun – nowhere else can you find a single board that will let you try out so many different SUP disciplines in one place.

Check out our inflatable SUP reviews to find the best board for you – and once you’ve tried it out on the water, we’d love to hear your feedback!

I suggest you head over to my full reviews and comparison post for the best inflatbalbe SUP for 2018 here

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *