The Difference Between Inflatables and Hard Paddle Boards

Posted on July 11, 2021 by Douglas Robichaud

Inflatables vs Hard Paddle Boards

So you’re not sure if an inflatable SUP or a hard, rigid paddle board is right for you. It’s ok to feel stuck between the two because both types of SUPs have their benefits. Figuring out which type is right for you all depends on your needs and lifestyle.

*Note: Hard paddle boards are also referred to as epoxy, non inflatable, traditional or fiberglass paddle boards

To help make your decision way easier, we are going to explain the ideal person for an inflatable and a hard paddle board. We guarantee that after you finish reading this, you will have made a decision.


There are 5 factors you should consider when deciding between an inflatable SUP and hard paddle board.

  1. Portability
  2. Storage space
  3. Durability
  4. Performance
  5. Cost


Inflatables are the easiest type of paddle board to transport. You don’t need a large truck, SUV or van because when deflated, inflatables roll up to the size of sleeping bag.

An amazing perk to inflatables is that you can easily fly with them when you go on vacation. Toss it in a travel bag and check it so you can avoid paying those tedious airline surfboard fees that hard paddle boards will rack up.

When transporting hard paddle boards, you will need a large car or car racks. In addition, hard paddle boards weigh more so they will be heavier to carry to and from the water.

*Keep in mind that you will need to inflate and deflate your inflatable before and after you go paddling. If you’re more of a load and go type of person, a hard paddle board will be your best friend.


When deciding between an inflatable or a hard paddle board, it’s important to consider how much storage space your home has. If you live in an apartment or home with no garage (or minimal storage space), an inflatable will be your best option. You can store your inflatable virtually anywhere in your home.

When purchasing a hard paddle board, you need to consider where you will be storing it during SUP season and the off season. Yes, you could store it in your garage, but you still need make sure you have plenty of clearance and room to maneuver your board (9 to 12 feet long) in and out of your home.


Inflatables are more durable than hard paddle boards. If you drop your inflatable by accident, it won’t ding or scratch. If you drop your hard paddle board, there’s a chance your board will be damaged and may need to be repaired immediately. If you want a carefree board, an inflatable will be your best option.

Since inflatables are more durable, they are the perfect board to use when white water paddling or paddling rocky rivers.


When it comes to paddle board performance, hard paddle boards provide optimal performance compared to inflatables. Non inflatable paddle boards are more agile, have better glide and are easier to catch waves when SUP surfing. In other words, hard paddle boards are the best option if you plan to use your paddle board for SUP surfing, SUP racing, or long-distance expeditions.

We did a speed test between inflatables and hard paddle boards and found that hard paddle boards were 5% faster than inflatables. See for yourself here. This shows you that inflatables are super rigid and aren’t too far behind epoxy boards when it comes to speed.


You’ll want an inflatable paddle board if…

  • You have minimal storage space
  • You travel often and want to take your board with you
  • You’re a first-timer or on a budget
  • You’re an adventurous paddler and need a durable board\

You’ll want a hard paddle board if…

  • You plan on only using it at local beaches, lakes, bays
  • You want to catch waves & go SUP surfing
  • You’re a load and go paddler
  • You want optimal performance, agility, and speed when paddle boarding

One of the largest differences between an inflatable paddle board and a regular hard paddle board comes down to your preference of convenience versus performance. As noted above, inflatable paddle boards are inherently more convenient due to their less demanding storage and transportation requirements. On the flip side, a traditional hard paddle board, while not the most convenient, will surpass an iSUP’s performance by having more agility and superior glide on the water. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with either, but just make sure to​ choose the right paddle board​ that best matches your preferences. Still not sure, take our board finder quiz.


Posted in Gear GuidesIndustryPaddle 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.


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