Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Boarding is considered to be one of the fastest growing pastimes in the world. There are a variety of reasons for this, but it is primarily because it doesn’t require much equipment to get started and is an activity that everyone can participate in, regardless of age or ability. When selecting a SUP, there are two fundamental options – inflatable or rigid. Both have their own set of benefits and drawbacks to consider.
Inflatable SUP Boards
Inflatable SUP boards first became popular because they are so easy to transport. Unlike their rigid counterparts, inflatable boards can easily fit into a backpack when deflated. This makes taking them on cruises or through an airport extremely easy. Not only can they be deflated and made extremely small, but this also makes them easy to pack. Carrying around a rigid SUP would not only be an inconvenience, but nearly impossible in a crowded airport.
While it does take a little time to use a hand pump to get the inflatable SUP ready to ride, it shouldn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes. One thing to keep in mind is that getting the ride amount of air pressure is critical. If the inflatable SUP does not have enough air in it, the section being stood one will often bow. This raises the front and back sections, while potentially pushing the center below the water level. Taking the time to inflate the board correctly can make or break how well it handles in water.
A hidden benefit of an inflatable SUP is its durability. This has been proven particularly true on shallower rivers and lakes. If an inflatable SUP hits a rock, it will most likely simply bounce off of it. If a rigid SUP hits a rock, it could end up receiving a huge dent in the bottom of the board.
Rigid SUP Boards
The primary benefit of rigid boards (fiberglass) is that they can be faster and more agile. If the SUP is being used to catch waves, then a rigid board is often a better choice. Along with greater speed, rigid boards tend to have longer fins, which greatly improve agility.
Another benefit of a rigid SUP is that it can be customized to fit personal specifications. While this is not an option most people will ever require, it is something to keep in mind.
Overall, inflatable SUP models provide a variety of benefits which are not available with the rigid alternative. While they may not be quite as fast or agile, the gap in performance is quickly closing. With the added benefit of easy transportation and improved durability, it is obvious why some people consider the inflatable SUP to be one of the best innovations in recent history.