The 3 Types of Paddle Boards You Should Know

Which Type of SUP is Right for You

Before you make the decision to purchase a stand up paddle board (SUP), there are 3 different types of paddle board constructions that you should know about.

The 3 types of SUPs:

  1. Hard Boards
  2. Inflatable SUP Boards
  3. Soft Top Boards

What makes the different types of stand up paddle boards type unique from one another? It’s simple. They are all constructed of different materials, which means each type of paddle board will perform slightly different from one another. Depending on your lifestyle and needs, one type of paddle board may be better suited for you. Below is a quick guide on the 3 types of paddle boards available.

3 people holding boards

The 3 Standup Paddle Board Styles and Constructions

Epoxy Paddleboards

This is your traditional hard paddle board. Epoxy hard boards are typically constructed of EPS foam and multiple layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin to prevent dings. Ultimately, EPS construction creates a lightweight, more durable hard paddle board that offers both maneuverability and flexibility for the rider. Epoxy paddle boards are extremely agile in the water and their shape allows for additional glide, making them the perfect board for long-distance paddling adventures. 

man carrying a versa SUP

Inflatable Paddleboards

Inflatable stand up paddle boards have been rising in popularity over the years because they are the easiest boards to store at home and transport to and from the water. All you have to do is pump up your board to the suggested PSI and you’re ready to paddle. Surprisingly enough, inflatable stand up paddle boards are just as rigid as epoxy boards because they are constructed with drop stitch technology and high-density PVC layers that creates a solid SUP. Modern iSUPs are extremely stable which makes them great for beginners.

woman standing on an ISUP

Soft Top Paddleboards

The same idea as a soft top surfboard – a soft top paddle board’s front deck is constructed with a spongy, soft foam material. However, foam SUPs are still rigid as the core of the board is created out of strong & sturdy materials. The core is constructed of an EPS high-density foam blank and has a supporting piece down the center of the board, known as a stringer, for rigidity. ISLE’s Soft Tops have an additional layer that is laminated with fiberglass and epoxy resin – Something other companies do not have.

Check out our SUP Construction Guide

2 people carrying the SUP Cruiser

Pros and Cons of Epoxy Paddle Boards


  • The most agile type of paddle board
  • Has the best glide, tracking and control
  • Best choice for SUP surfing, SUP racing and long-distance expeditions
  • Provides optimal performance compared to every other type of paddle board


  • The most difficult board to transport (typically need a truck or roof racks)
  • Least durable type of paddle board (if you drop it, it is vulnerable to dings & scratches)
  • Need to have enough storage space in your home and a large vehicle or external racks to transport to & from your home
  • Typically, the most expensive type of paddle board

Perfect for…

man standing in water next to paddle board

Pros and Cons of Inflatable Paddle Boards


  • The easiest type of paddle board to transport and store because when deflated, it rolls up to the size of sleeping bag
  • Inflatables are the most durable type of paddle board – if your drop it, it won’t ding or scratch
  • You can travel with it anywhere (even on an airplane!)
  • Amazing stability – great for beginners
  • Typically, more affordable than epoxy paddle boards


  • You will need to inflate and deflate your board before & after you go paddling (unless you leave it inflated which is fine too)
  • Epoxy paddle boards perform better than inflatables (but not by that much!)

Perfect for…

  • Those who travel often and want to bring their boards with them
  • First-timers
  • Those who have limited storage space in their car/home

person carrying an inflatable bag

Pros and Cons of Soft Top Foam Paddle Boards


  • The most affordable type of paddle board
  • An excellent choice for your kids/beginners or as a designated family board
  • Falling on the board’s deck will not hurt


  • Epoxy paddle boards perform better than soft SUPs
  • Weigh more than epoxy and inflatables
  • Soft top foam paddle boards are typically limited to one design whereas epoxy and inflatables have multiple shapes & sizes giving you more options to choose from

Perfect for…

  • The frugal paddler
  • Kids/beginners or a family lake/beach house
  • Recreational cruising
  • Those who need a board that can take a beating

2 paddle boards on the beach

Posted in Gear Guides, Paddle Board Lifestyle
Douglas Robichaud - Doug is a content writer at ISLE Surf & SUP who has been surfing and paddle boarding for over 10 years. With a degree in English/Journalism, Doug has been an outdoor adventure content writer for over four years. Since joining the ISLE team, he has become a paddle board expert in all topics ranging from products, basic tutorials, tips and tricks, SUP safety, and new trends.