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December 19, 2021 8 min read

iSUP vs Traditional: Why Choose a Blow Up Paddle Board

GILI inflatable boards with other paddle boards

Paddle boarding is a fun way to stay healthy and connect with nature, it’s perfect for the whole family, and whether you’re experienced or not, it’s easy to get to grips with. 

If you’re new to the SUP (stand up paddle) world, you’re probably wondering what type of board is right for you and which would be most beneficial for your lifestyle. 

There are many boards on the market, but the first (and biggest) decision you’ll need to make is whether to purchase a blow up inflatable paddle board or a traditional hard paddle board. 

What’s the Difference Between iSUPs and Traditional Paddle Boards?

Before we begin on the reasons why you should choose an inflatable paddle board over a traditional paddle board, let’s first discuss the differences between the two. 

The name inflatable paddle board gives away the biggest difference, one can inflate and deflate, and the other can not. 

Most regular paddle boards are made of fiberglass and epoxy resin layers that cover hollow wood or foam. 

Inflatable paddle boards, on the other hand, are made by drop stitching layers of polyester fabric and polyester threads. 

Both types of boards have their pros and cons. What you intend to use the board for, the ability you can paddle at, and the lifestyle you live will ultimately influence your purchase. 

With that being said, let’s get into the 9 reasons to choose an inflatable paddle board over a hard paddle board.

Durability

Blue gili air inflatable paddle board on waters

The word inflatable gives off the vibe that blow up paddle boards wouldn’t be as durable as a regular SUP. This is a huge misconception.

Hard boards are prone to dents and holes that can be caused by accidental drops and bumps into rocks or other debris in waterways. The repairs for hard boards can be difficult, expensive, and you will always need to take them to a professional to avoid further damage. 

ISUPS don’t have this issue, and a bump into rocks will cause little to no damage. The super durable, military-grade PVC material that makes up blow up paddle boards has a high level of durability and is extremely difficult to tear or damage.

If you do happen to puncture your board, most iSUPs come with an easy-to-use repair kit and can be fixed right at the water’s edge. 

If you’re a thrill-seeker and looking to paddle on white water where rocks are bound to be present, you’ll be less likely to damage an inflatable board. With that being said, you do still need to be careful, as an encounter with a sharp rock or stick could damage your board and cause an air leak. 

Taking proper care of your inflatable board is important, and if done right, inflatable SUPs can last you years. Be sure to rinse them down with fresh water and allow them to dry completely before storing them out of direct sunlight.

Easy to Store

One of the main reasons people love inflatable paddle boards is how easy they are to store

Once deflated, paddle boards are usually no bigger than a large backpack and can be stored in a garage, shed, basement, or any available space you can find in your home. 

However, hard paddle boards need proper storage in the form of a board rack that can take up a large amount of space. 

Blow up SUPs are great for people with limited storage capacity. An inflatable board would be your best option if you live in an apartment, a converted van, or even a home with minimal storage. 

Easy to Transport

Man inflating a gili inflatable paddle board near SUP backpack

As well as being easy to store, blow up paddle boards are also easy to transport. 

As mentioned before, when deflated, iSUPs can roll up and fit into a backpack or a large duffel bag that can then be carried to any body of water. A lightweight inflatable can easily explore remote locations that you can’t access with a regular paddle board. 

Because of their small size, inflatables can fit in the trunk or backseat of your car, meaning there is no need for car roof racks or an extra vehicle for the boards. 

Inflatable paddle boards are extremely convenient and also much lighter than hard paddle boards. They can effortlessly be carried from the car to the water and can be inflated in roughly 5 minutes. 

Great for Overseas Travel

Alternatively, if you’re wanting to take your board overseas, a blow up SUP will save you money, effort, and a huge amount of stress. 

If you’re thinking about taking your board on holiday because you don’t want to pay rental costs? An iSUP would be perfect!

Airlines charge extremely high prices for surfboards and paddle boards, but with an inflatable, you can squeeze it into a backpack or carry bag and check it in as luggage.

Traveling with an inflatable board can save you money and it also gives you the ability to paddle wherever you want, whenever you want. 

As the popularity of paddle boarding increases, so does the desire to make them smaller and lighter for transportation reasons. Companies are creating newer models regularly that can even be taken on as hand luggage. 

Affordable

Man paddle boarding on a lake using GILI

Generally, blow up paddle boards are cheaper than a regular SUP. 

Depending on the materials used, blow up boards can be found at extremely affordable prices and are perfect for first-time paddlers or for people who are shopping on a budget.

Not only are they cheaper when initially buying, but you’ll also save money on repairs. Blow up stand up paddle boards come with their own repair kit that can be used at home or at the water’s edge. 

Hard paddle boards, on the other hand, would need to be fixed by a professional and could be expensive. 

Easy to Learn on and Stable

ISUPs, once inflated, are roughly six inches above the water and have a wider deck than hard paddle boards. Inflatables have a greater level of stability that makes them perfect for beginners or young children. 

Blow up boards are also perfect for SUP fitness activities. These boards are stable enough so that you can do yoga and pilates on the deck.

Safer for Kids

Couple paddle boarding with their kids on a GILI Manta board

Another advantage of an inflatable SUP is how safe they are for kids. 

If your child happens to fall while paddling on an inflatable, there is no hard surface for them to hit. 

The board is softer and full of air, so if your child does fall, they will simply bounce off the deck and into the water. 

Great Performance

If you want to use your board for things such as SUP surfing or racing down rivers, then a hard board may be a better option for you. This isn’t to say, however, that iSUPs can’t be used for these things. 

Although hard paddle boards are slightly more agile than inflatables, inflatables are still super rigid and just as fast.

For everyday use, you’ll find no trouble with a blow up paddle board  board that also provides comfort as well as fantastic performance. 

Pet-friendly & Great for Groups

Man paddle boarding with his dog on a GILI Meno

The ability to take your dog out with you has never been easier, thanks to inflatable paddle boards. 

Your dog’s paws will easily be able to grip onto an inflatable SUP deck, and scratches won’t be a problem.

The stability of a blow up paddle board means even if your dog moves unexpectedly, you most likely won’t end up in the water.

Blow up boards tend to have a higher weight capacity, meaning an extra person or furry friend can sit at the nose of your board and enjoy the ride while you do all the hard work. 

If you’re heading out on a family paddle trip, you can perch your little ones at the end of your board or teach them the ways of SUPing on a board all of their own. Having numerous paddle boards at home that can deflate will save you storage space and make transportation convenient.

The high weight capacity is also beneficial for SUP anglers. Fishing gear can easily be transported, and the stable deck makes a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy a long day fishing. 

FAQ’S

🏆 Why are blow up paddle boards so popular?

Inflatable paddle boards have become increasingly popular for a handful of reasons. 

They’re durable and less likely to damage when paddling in white water or water filled with debris. Inflatable SUPs can be deflated and fit into a backpack, meaning they’re easy to store and transport. 

They can be taken overseas without paying high airline fees because they can fit in a suitcase or simply checked in as luggage. Inflatables also tend to be cheaper than hard paddle boards and cost less in repair fees. 

Their high level of stability means they’re easy to learn on and can be used for various SUP fitness activities. They’re equipped with a soft deck and filled with air, so if you happen to fall in, you won’t be injured.

Inflatables are also pet friendly, and it’s never been easier to take your dog out on all your water adventures. 


👍 What do I need to know before buying a blow up paddle board?

Before buying an inflatable SUP, you need to consider what exactly you’ll be using the board for. Whether that be for fishing, yoga, touring, or just as a recreational activity. 

Next, you’ll need to think about your paddling capabilities. If you’re new to the sport, a wider board with more stability may be a better option for you. 

If this is your first blow upSUP purchase, your board should be versatile and an all around board. Board length should also be considered, 10’6” to 11’6” long and 31” to 35” wide is a great starting point for beginners. 

The overall weight of the paddler and any passengers needs to be thought about. If you’re paddling with a child or animal onboard, you’ll need to add up the total weight and ensure your board has a capacity high enough for it. 

We’ve gone into more detail about everything you’d need to know before buying an inflatable paddle board in our blog post here.


🏝️ What makes a good blow up SUP?

What makes a good inflatable SUP will differ from person to person. 

If the board is durable, stable, and fit for what you want to use it for, then you should be good to go!

It’s always recommended to do your research before purchasing a board to make sure it’s the right fit for you.


❓ Do blow up paddle boards pop easily and can they be repaired?

You may think an inflatable SUP would pop easily, but no, they don’t! 

Inflatables are extremely durable and can easily withstand drops and bumps, unlike a hard paddle board that would ding and need repairs. 

If you do happen to tear your inflatable paddle board, you can easily fix it with an at-home repair kit. 


📦 Can you keep an iSUP inflated?

You can leave your blow up paddle board inflated, as long as it is left out of direct sunlight and stored appropriately. If you do leave your board inflated while it’s being stored, it’s best to release some air in case of expansion should it get warm. 

Although it is okay to leave your paddle board inflated, it is recommended to deflate your board if you won’t be using it for a long period of time to prevent any damage.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant


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