As more and more people began enjoying the water from atop a paddle board, it became evident rather quickly that the need to be able to travel with a board was becoming paramount. The average SUP user can attest to the fact that traveling with a SUP, even to a local spot, can become difficult at times. The boards are big, they can be heavy depending on the manufacturer, and are hard to store. And if you have ever taken a SUP with you through the airport and onto a plane, then you definitely know the definition of ''over-sized luggage." These apparent deficiencies led to the development of the inflatable board. The idea was simple- create a full sized SUP board that could be inflated and deflated in order to make traveling and storage incredibly easy. The task though, was to create a board that felt like a hard board when using it in the water. After a few years of testing and re-testing, most manufacturer's dialed in their designs to combine both the ease of use and a great experience of paddling on the water. But, as more and more companies pop up, most producing inflatable boards, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which board is worth the price tag. Luckily, there are some basic guidelines one can follow in order to ensure the board you purchase is going to be what you're looking for. So, let's discuss!
As with any type of board, there are basic guidelines one must consider before making a purchase. Each type of board, whether it be race, yoga, surf, or as we are going to discuss, inflatable, has a different set of guidelines to look at in order to choose the correct one. For inflatables these categories include: size (which would encompass what you are using the board for as well as thickness) durability (which would include the type of materials the inflatable is made out of) and accessories. Let's start with size.
Your average paddle board, inflatables included, will usually run around the 10'6''x32'' frame with minimal variation. This size is great for cruising the bay, maybe doing some yoga on it, and to mess around in small surf in the ocean. This is your all around size- really good for every SUP activity, but not great for anything specific besides cruising and yoga. If you are looking to purchase a specific yoga board, it is also important to look at the size of the pad on the board. You will want one that spans the entire length in order to make performing postures comfortable. To see an example of this, look no further than the Evolve Roots Inflatable- pictured below. And not only that, the average paddle board enthusiast will be able to get on a 10'6'' and feel perfectly comfortable, almost right away. So, we recommend everyone start there. Perfect examples of a great 10'6'' board can be found in the Evolve and Movement SUP lineup. (pictured below)
Most inflatables will run around 5'' thick. Overall this is well enough to float almost every paddler looking to get on the water. However, there are exceptions to the rule. If you are on the heavier side, the thicker the board, the better. Some boards will go as 6'' thick or 15+psi. This added inch will float more weight giving the bigger paddler an easier time staying afloat, not sinking the center of the board in creating a U shape in the water, and much better balance. This is important when it comes to inflatables- you are going to want a board that is going to be able to handle your weight. If you are 215 lbs+ you may want to look into purchasing a board that is at least 5'' thick but maybe 6''. The previously mentioned Boardworks SHUBU would be a perfect fit!
Moving on from there in terms of size, we now have manufacturers producing inflatable boards that are perfect for surfing! This is an exciting development for anyone who has traveled with a paddle board overseas. The ability to deflate it and fit it into a check on bag is amazing. And not only that, the boards themselves function in a high capacity in the waves too!
In regards to size and thickness, any board under 10' is automatically for surfing. The decreased length takes the glide factor out of the board in the flat water which makes it miserable to paddle long distances. Without the added length paddlers are forced to provide maximum strokes with little to no glide. So, if you're looking at an inflatable board at 10' or under, make sure you are purchasing it as a kid's board or as your new traveling surf board. A great example to check out is the Starboard Converse and Hyper Nut. The Converse comes in at 9'0''x30'' and the Hyper Nut at 7'8''x30''. Each with their own unique design and feel in the water. And both used primarily for the surf!
When inflatable boards first began to hit the market, it did not seem like the technology to keep them in proper order was quite there yet. The materials used in the original boards would tear, they would often not be thick enough making paddlers sink in the middle after many uses, and often times holes would appear as well. As time went on, the technology began to improve and these early problems were often times mitigated.
What you are going to want to look for in today's market is cross stitching and layered boards. The cross stitching increases durability at the seams of the boards which is important as they have to be able to keep air inside of them for long periods of time. And the added layer of PVC fabric and chambered air technology give the paddler the feel of being on a hard board even though they are instead standing on an inflatable board. A good indication of what to look for can be found on the Evolve website and is pictured below:
The last consideration to take in mind when purchasing a new board is the accessories that come with it. Most manufacturers will supply customers with a bag, pump, fin, and patch kit. This list is fairly standard. So, if your purchase does not include these basic things, then the board should be much cheaper from the beginning.
Alright, so with that initial list in mind, what you are going to want to look for is quality. When it comes to the bag some manufacturers provide one that is your basic backpack type with straps for your shoulders. And other companies provide a bag with both straps and wheels, in order to use it like you would a piece of luggage. This added benefit makes transporting the board even easier, so if you see a bag included, make sure it has the wheels as well!
Next up, is the pump. Most manufacturer's will provide customers with a standard manual pump in order to inflate your boards. What to look for here is the added featured of a plug on the side of the pump in order to be able to push air into the deflated board while pushing down and pulling up on the handle. This will decrease the amount of time spent pumping your board up and increase your time on the water! Usually the manual pumps are included, but in order to get the maximum amount of volume for your purchase this often overlooked accessory comes in handy! And one other thing to keep in mind when considering pumps is that electric pumps are also an option! Plug in, turn it on, and go! Nothing easier.
Once you have considered these two options, as long as your inflatable board comes with a fin and a patch kit, you are ready to go!
Purchasing a new board is a big commitment. It takes time, patience, and willingness to investigate what you are getting yourself involved in. The sport of SUP is a great way to take your physical activity to the water. And with the purchase of an inflatable board you will have the added benefit of easily traveling to places which you may not have been able to do with a standard hard board. We hope this short guide can give you a starting place when considering your next purchase. And like always, if you have any questions or need any additional advice, feel free to reach out to us at 410-289-8787. We would love to answer any and all of your questions. We look forward to seeing you out on the water!!
*As an added benefit, check out our video below, giving a brief guide to inflating your board and what electric pumps work best!! Thanks for stopping by!