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Inflatable vs Rigid: Which Stand-up Paddleboard is Right for You?

 When it comes to buying a stand-up paddleboard, you are faced with some crucial choices. What length should your new board be? What shape should you choose? Do you need two, three, or four fins? How wide should it be? How thick should it be?

The answers to these questions depend on a host of factors, including your experience, height, weight, and what you are going to use your paddleboard for. For example, racing paddleboards are very different from cruising or yoga boards.

However, the biggest decision you need to make is whether to buy an inflatable SUP or a rigid paddleboard.

What To Consider: Inflatable vs Rigid Paddle Boards

To make this decision easier, we are going to explore the pros and cons of both types of board. After reading this, you should feel much happier about choosing between an inflatable and a rigid paddleboard.

Here are the five factors you need to consider:

  1. Portability
  2. Storage space
  3. Durability
  4. Performance
  5. Cost
It’s really easy to travel with an inflatable board.

Portability Of The Board

Inflatable boards are the easiest boards to transport. Most roll up to about the size of a large sleeping bag and usually come complete with a handy backpack for easy carrying. That means you don’t need a truck, large SUV, or even a roof rack to take your board to the water; it will fit in the back of even a compact car. You can also carry an inflatable board on your back, making them ideal for hiking to out-of-reach paddling spots.

Inflatable SUP board weigh in at less than 20 kg/45 lbs., so they can also be transported by air. This is useful if you want to take your board on vacation.

On the downside, you will need to spend time pumping up your board before using but, with a decent two or three-chambered pump, this should take no more than ten minutes. You can also buy electric pumps that run off your car’s auxiliary power supply.

If you choose a rigid board, you’ll need to resign yourself to carrying it on a roof rack or trailer, and you’ll have to pay a surcharge if you want to take it on a plane. Also, you won’t be able to carry it far by hand. However, on the plus side, you won’t need to spend time pumping it up before heading out on the water.

Winner: Inflatable boards

Storage space

If you have a rigid board, you will need to find space to store it, preferably so that it is not resting on the ground. That’s no problem if you have a spacious garage, but could be an issue if you live in a small apartment. Just getting a rigid board into your house could prove impossible. However, if you do have a garage, all you need to do is carry your board from your roof rack to your board storage rack – after washing it down with fresh water, that is!

Once deflated, an inflatable stand-up paddleboard can be rolled or folded down into a compact bundle and stored just about anywhere you have a little space. It will probably fit into a wardrobe. However, some manufacturers recommend that inflatable boards are stored unrolled and slightly inflated if they are to be left unused for several weeks.

Winner: Inflatable boards

Durability Of The Board

Inflatable paddleboard technology has come a long way in the last few years. Most are now made with several layers of military-grade PVC, making them very strong and durable. Seams are reinforced, and the boards themselves can take 20-30 pounds of air pressure, despite only needing 12-15 pounds to work. Most manufacturers offer a 1 to 2-year warranty against material failure.

This doesn’t mean that inflatable boards are indestructible, but they are durable enough to survive some rough handling, such as hitting a rock, submerged log, or the shore. However, while inflatable boards can be repaired if damaged, it’s not always easy, and a badly damaged board will need to be replaced.

In contrast, rigid boards are more easily damaged. Hitting a rock on a fiberglass, epoxy, or wooden board will result in a crack or a hole. Damaged rigid boards can be repaired but will need the services of an experienced board shaper. These repairs can be expensive. If you anticipate riding your board on rivers or rocky white water, a rigid board will be something of a liability.

However, remember that a damaged inflatable board will deflate and could sink. Even a badly damaged rigid board should still remain afloat.

Winner: Inflatable Boards

Performance: Better Hard or Inflatable?

If you are serious about things like speed, handling, glide, and efficiency, a rigid board is your best choice. They are made for racing, surfing, and other high-performance stand-up paddleboarding activities. They have a lower profile, offering less drag, and that means they move through the water more efficiently. They are also more rigid, and less board flex means a more efficient ride.

That said, as inflatable board technology improves, the performance gap between inflatable and rigid SUP boards is closing. The best inflatables use an internal drop-stitch construction, which means they can be pumped up to high pressures without bending or distorting. Some also have carbon fiber reinforcements to make them even more rigid. They aren’t quite as stiff as a rigid board, but the best inflatable paddleboards come close.

Winner: Rigid Boards

Board Cost Difference

Rigid boards are invariably more expensive than inflatable boards. Of course, there are expensive inflatables and cheap rigid boards, but, on average, hard boards cost more. However, rigid boards tend to last longer than inflatables. Inflating, deflating, and rolling an inflatable board increases wear and tear. Eventually, all that extra stress will take its toll.

If you buy an inflatable stand-up paddleboard, expect to replace it in 3-5 years. However, a well looked after rigid board could last much longer. 

Winner: Inflatable Boards

Conclusion: Hard or Inflatable Paddle Boards?

So, does this mean that inflatable paddleboards are better than rigid boards? Absolute not! For some people, a rigid board is actually the better choice. It all depends on what you need from your board and your personal circumstances.

If you want a portable stand-up paddleboard that’s easy to store, durable, and won’t break the bank, you should probably choose an inflatable board.

But, if you are more interested in performance than easy transportation, have enough room for proper storage, and don’t mind paying out a little more money, a rigid board is probably your best choice.

Still not sure which is right for you? Hire or borrow an inflatable board and a rigid board and compare them before making your final decision. That way, you’ll know from firsthand experience which is right for you.

5 Essential Stand Up Paddle Boarding Beginner Tips

Never been paddleboarding before? Here’s what to expect the first time you head out onto the water on a paddleboard. After all, forewarned is forearmed as they say!

You might be nervous  

It is perfectly normal to feel nervous before paddleboarding for the first time. After all, standing on the water on what looks like nothing more than a large plank is a daunting, unnatural thing to do.

The good news is that paddleboards are designed to be virtually unsinkable, and beginner boards are very stable. Not only that, literally millions of other people have been where you are; all paddleboarders were beginners once. They learned to paddleboard successfully, and you will too. Try to think of any nervousness as happy excitement; you are about to embark on a new activity that will literally change your life.

You are going to wobble – a lot!

Paddleboarders often talk about how stable their boards are. This makes it sound like paddleboards are as solid underfoot as a cruise ship. This is not the case! While paddleboards are more stable than most surfboards and kayaks, they still wobble when you shift your weight. Once you stand up, even small wobbles are magnified, and that can lead to a lot of leg shaking.

The good news is that, with time and practice, those wobbles will become perfectly normal, and they won’t make you panic. In fact, you’ll learn to anticipate and allow for them as you glide effortlessly on the water.

Remember this; every wobble is a training experience for your muscles and nervous system. Each time you wobble, you are learning to become a better paddleboarder.

Of course, wobbling often leads to falling in…

You’re probably going to fall in 

Unless you have the balance of a gymnast, you are probably going to fall into the water during your first paddleboarding experience. This is not only normal, but it’s also pretty much expected. You may even spend more time in the water than on it at first. That’s okay; it’s all part of the learning process.

Most novice paddleboarders start by riding on their knees, and then, when they feel ready, make the transition to standing. This might take a few minutes, or a couple of paddleboarding excursions. There is no rush to stand up – it’s not a race.

Once you are ready to stand up, you might fall off as you try to get up, or a few seconds after successfully standing. You might even fall off after you’ve been paddling a while and think you’ve mastered paddling on your feet. You could even be lucky enough not to fall off today, but that doesn’t mean you won’t fall off tomorrow! A personal floatation device is a must for this reason.

If you accept that falling off is a part of paddleboarding, it will be less of a shock when it happens. Dress accordingly so that, when you do fall in, you are comfortable and safe. A bathing suit is fine for warm water and weather, but a wetsuit may be a better choice when it’s colder. Just get back on your board and try again.

Incidentally, it’s not just beginners who fall off their paddleboards; experienced boarders fall in too. SUP is one of those sports that you never master, and learning new skills is almost always accompanied by mistakes and mishaps. It’s only by pushing yourself that you get better.

You may get tired quickly

Even very fit people find paddleboarding hard work their first time out. That’s not because it’s a very energetic sport. It’s just that, at first, your movements will be very uneconomical, and that means you’ll use a lot of energy.

For example, holding your body rigid as you struggle not to fall in, keeping your paddle in a death-grip, getting back on your board for what seems like the tenth time in five minutes, and paddling using your arms instead of your whole body will quickly drain your energy.

The good news is that, as you become more proficient, paddleboarding gets much easier. You can still turn it into a workout if you wish, but just cruising along at a comfortable speed uses very little energy. Where you were once exhausted after less than an hour on your board, you’ll soon find you can paddle for several hours at a time without getting tired.

You’re probably going to get hooked

Once you stand up on a paddleboard for the first time, there is a good chance you’ll be hooked for life. You’ll realize that, yes, you CAN do this, and that it feels fantastic! SUP is the perfect way to explore almost any waterway, is a great way to unplug and destress, and provides a wonderful way to connect with nature.

Once you can paddleboard with reasonable proficiency, you’ll be able to explore your local lakes, rivers, and coastlines or even go SUP on vacation. Paddleboarding is an excellent activity for individuals, families, and groups of friends.

Most paddleboarders go on to buy their own boards so that they can get on the water whenever the weather is good. You may even start paying more attention to the weather reports, and especially wind and wave forecasts, so you can make sure you are ready for the next perfect paddleboarding day. You can paddleboard all year round too – although you may need to wrap up warm in winter.

The bottom line is that once tried, paddleboarding is hard to quit. The first time you stand up on a paddleboard will be transformative!

Don’t Be Scared: SUP Is FUN!

Like any new experience, paddleboarding for the first time can be a little daunting. But, very quickly, you’ll master the basics and start enjoying all the advantages and benefits this popular, rapidly growing water sport has to offer. Yes, you will probably fall in at first. You may even think that standing on a paddleboard is impossible. But, with a little patience, practice, and perseverance, you CAN do it. And the first time you stand up on a paddleboard? That’s a memory that will last forever!

10 SUP Safety Tips: How To Stay Safe When Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding is one of the fastest-growing water sports in the world. Accessible, enjoyable, and relatively easy to learn, an increasing number of people are hitting the water for what is one of the best ways to enjoy rivers, lakes, and the sea.

However, while paddleboarding is a very safe pastime, it is not entirely without risk. Make sure your next paddleboarding trip is not just fun but is as safe as possible too. Here are ten tips for staying safe while SUP.

1. Check your SUP equipment

Before putting your board in the water, take a moment to examine all your equipment and make sure it’s serviceable. Check the pressure in your inflatable board, check a solid board for dings, cracks, or holes, and check your fins are securely attached. Make sure your paddle is in good working order too. Ensure your leash has not frayed, and that all the other mountings on your board are solid and secure.

These checks don’t mean that your equipment won’t break, but it certainly lowers the risk of something failing during your paddle.

 2. Check the weather forecast

Make sure your paddling abilities match the weather. If you are a novice, you should not go out on the water in high winds, strong currents, or big waves. Even experienced paddlers should pay attention to the weather as very strong winds and tides can sweep even strong paddlers out to see.

Remember, too, that the weather can quickly change. Make sure you have an “escape plan” for if the weather takes a turn for the worse. If you are in any doubt, put off paddling until the weather is better or, in the case of wind and waves, seek out somewhere more sheltered.

3. Dress for the season 

You can paddle all-year-round in most countries, but you need to dress appropriately. Very strong sunshine can lead to dehydration, sunburn, and heat stroke, so it pays to cover up as much skin as you can in light, breathable, loose-fitting clothes.

In contrast, in cold weather, you’ll need to wrap up warm, paying extra attention to your extremities. Remember, you’ll warm up as you paddle, so dress in layers so you can regulate your body temperature.

You also need to consider the temperature of the water. This is not a problem for warm weather paddling but, if the water is very cold, you may need a shorty or full wetsuit or a dry suit to keep you warm if you fall in.

4. Plan your trip and share the details 

Even if you take precautions, accidents still happen when paddleboarding. Your board might get damaged, you might drop your paddle and be unable to retrieve it, or you could feel unwell and unable to complete your journey.

Make sure that you have a plan for your trip, and you share that plan with someone you trust. This includes where you are going and what time you expect to get back. That way, if you run into trouble and are unable to make it safely home, someone will know you are missing and can raise the alarm.

Of course, to avoid false alarms being raised, make sure you also tell that person when you make it back safe and sound.

5. Wear a personal floatation device (PFD)

Even strong swimmers should wear a personal floatation device while paddleboarding. You should never have to swim very far to get back to your board after a fall but, even so, it pays to be safe. You could fall awkwardly and be unable to swim, or you could hit your head and be knocked unconscious. A personal floatation device could save your life, and in some places are actually compulsory.

6. Use a leash

If you fall off your paddleboard, there is a strong chance that it will glide away from you, leaving you swimming to retrieve it. In rough waters, your board could even be swept away from you. Wearing a leash, which is a coiled plastic-covered cord that attaches your board to your ankle, ensures that your board never ends up too far away from you. You can also use your leash to pull your board back toward you to save you from having to swim after it. The last thing you want is to be separated from your board, and a leash will stop this from happening.

7. Beware of shallow water

Falling off your board in deep water can be an inconvenience, and you may end up getting cold, but it’s rarely dangerous. The same cannot be said for falling off in very shallow water, where a fall could mean you hit the ground, and even land on submersed rocks.

Take extra care in shallow water, kneeling down to prevent falling if you deem it necessary. If you do fall in shallow water, make sure you spread your arms and legs to stop you from sinking below the surface. If you are paddling on a shallow river where you know there are rocks, it may be prudent to wear a helmet.

8. Don’t paddle alone in new areas

One of the best things about SUP is that you can explore almost all navigable waterways. You’ll get to see things and places from the water that may not be visible from land. Solo exploring can be fun, but there is also an element of risk as you don’t know what hazards you may encounter. Alone, if you get into difficulties, you’ll have only yourself for backup, and if you have an accident, that may not be enough.

Reduce this risk and don’t paddle alone in new areas, or at least without getting some useful inside information from paddlers who know the area well. That way, you can avoid known hazards instead of inadvertently discovering them for yourself.

9. Stay Hydrated

The breeze generated by paddling often means you don’t feel hot. The occasional dunking in the water will also help cool you off! However, that doesn’t mean you can’t fall victim to dehydration while stand-up paddleboarding. You lose water in the form of vapor every time you exhale, and the breeze from paddling causes sweat to evaporate very quickly.

Dehydration will not only make you thirsty, which is a late sign you need to drink more water, but it could also lead to overheating. It could even affect your heart and brain.

Avoid dehydration by carrying water with you and drinking frequently. Try to consume about one liter of water per hour of paddling or more on very hot days. If you don’t want to stop to drink, use a hydration pack and hands-free drinking tube.

10. Carry your phone

Paddleboarding is an excellent opportunity to unplug from technology and enjoy some quality time out in nature. The last thing you want to hear is a ringing phone! However, for safety, most paddlers should carry a phone so that they can call for help in the case of emergency, especially if you are venturing far from the shore or to uninhabited areas. The GPS on your phone will also allow you to pinpoint your position so you can give clear instructions to whoever you are calling for assistance.

Make sure your phone is packed into a waterproof bag, that it’s fully charged, and that you have set the ringer to silent to avoid unwanted distractions. That way, you’ve got your phone for emergencies, but it won’t bother you during your paddle.

Stay Safe Out There, Paddlers!

Paddleboarding is a very safe activity, and accidents are rare. Reduce the risk even more by paying attention to these safety tips. That way, you’ll be free to relax and enjoy paddleboarding, secure in the knowledge that you have done everything possible to eliminate the main sources of danger.

7 Benefits of Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand-up paddleboarding dates back hundreds of years, but, for a lot of people, it’s a bucket list activity – something they want to do but have yet to take the plunge. In many cases, this hesitation is because standing up on a paddleboard looks so darn hard!

The reality is that paddleboarding is one of the most accessible watersports around. It’s suitable for people of all ages and abilities, and almost anyone can learn to do it.

Are you still on the fence about SUP? Do you need a little convincing that it’s the right watersport for you? Here are seven compelling reasons to try it yourself!

1. It’s easier than it looks 

Contrary to first impressions, stand-up paddleboarding is actually quite easy. With the right water and weather conditions, combined with a stable beginner’s board, you should be able to stand up almost immediately.

You will probably fall in on your first attempt to paddleboard; that’s all part of the fun. But, after a few outings, you should find that you fall in much less often. In time, you’ll go entire paddling outings without getting more than your feet wet.

You can learn to paddleboard all by yourself by watching YouTube videos or reading articles. However, to avoid picking up bad habits that could hold back your future progress, it may be useful to get a couple of lessons from a qualified SUP instructor. They will equip you with the skills you need for a lifetime of enjoyable stand-up paddling.

2. You’ll get a great workout

Stand-up paddleboarding is one of the best workouts around. It can burn just as many calories per hour as running but involves much less impact, making it easier on your joints. This means SUP is especially good for people who are older, overweight, or have pre-existing knee, hip, or lower back issues.

It is also a full-body activity. It works virtually every muscle in your body, from those in your feet to your shoulders and arms. It’s especially good for your core or midsection muscles.

As have probably guessed, SUP also develops your balance. That’s why you fall in less as you gain experience. Balance is an important fitness component and is something that tends to decline with age. Poor balance can lead to falls in elderly people, which can result in serious injury. Paddleboarding is a very effective way to improve and preserve your balance.

Not much of an exerciser? Don’t worry! It’s entirely up to you how hard, fast, and far you paddle. It does not have to be an intense workout. It can also be a gentle pastime. However fast you go, it will still help improve your fitness and health.

3. It’s a wonderful way to unwind and decompress 

Gliding across the surface of the water on your paddleboard is a great way to alleviate stress. The sound of the water beneath your board, being out in nature, and the rhythmical action of paddling will all help you to unwind and decompress. You’ll also have to focus on what you are doing, and that stops thoughts of work and other sources of stress entering your mind.

Best of all, you’ll have to leave your phone behind when you go out. Or, at least, put it out of reach in a waterproof case. Disconnecting from technology, even for just an hour or two, can have a big impact on your stress levels.

3. You’ll see your surroundings from a whole new perspective

Most of us are used to looking at the sea, rivers, and lakes from the land. But, when you paddleboard, this point of view is reversed. The world looks very different when viewed from the water.

It’s hard not to enjoy seeing familiar sights from an entirely different perspective. You’ll undoubtedly see things you have never seen before, like the underside of bridges, hidden bays, sea cliffs and riverbanks, small inlets and tributaries, and even water-facing buildings that you could not see any other way.

This often means that you don’t have to go far to explore on a paddleboard. Even familiar places look brand new.

4. SUP is a great way to spend time with family and friends 

SUP can be very sociable. Of course, there is nothing to stop you enjoying paddleboarding on your own, but it’s also a great way to spend quality time with your family and friends.

Going out for a paddle with a few other people adds a whole new dimension to your outing. You can take it in turns to plan your route, bring drinks and snacks for a picnic, or simply enjoy the company of your like-minded companions.

If you have a large enough board, you can take your kids out for a ride with you, and some paddleboarders take their dogs! Some boards are even built especially for groups and can comfortably hold four people, making them ideal for family outings.

There are also a growing number of SUP groups and clubs who organize mass paddling events, informal races, tours, camps, and other SUP activities.

5. There are lots of great places to explore 

Paddleboarding is one of the best ways to explore the coast and waterways. Paddleboards are easy to transport, can be used in even very shallow water, and can be launched from almost anywhere. They give you access to all navigable water so you can head out and discover new places to see. Because paddling is all-but silent, you’ll also see marine and wildlife that would otherwise be scared away. Paddleboarding is an excellent way to connect with nature.

A lot of people try paddleboarding on vacation, and then, once they are hooked, start planning their trips around their new passion. The good news is there are lots of exciting places to explore on your paddleboard. Some of the world’s best stand-up paddleboarding destinations include:

  • Venice
  • Thailand
  • Australia
  • Hawaii
  • Antarctica
  • Costa Rica
  • Mauritius

6. There is a type of paddleboarding for everyone

Just because you have mastered the basics of paddleboarding doesn’t mean you are going to lose interest. In fact, there are lots of different types of paddleboarding so that you’ll never outgrow this wonderful pastime.

The different types of paddleboarding include:

  • Touring
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Racing
  • Surfing
  • Down winding
  • White water
  • Yoga
  • Cruising

Different types of paddleboarding usually require different boards. For example, a super-stable board that’s perfect for yoga and cruising will be too slow for racing. In contrast, a long, sleek touring board won’t be stable enough for fishing.

However, if you get a good all-rounder, you should be able to at least have a go at most of the types of paddleboarding on this list. You may need to buy a more specialist board if you get really hooked on one particular paddle boarding discipline as the wrong type of board could hold you back.

Enjoy SUP!

It’s time to stop thinking about stand-up paddleboarding and give it a try for yourself. It’s the fastest growing water sport in the world for a good reason – it’s fantastic fun! Whether you want to get fit, lose weight, unwind, spend quality time with friends or family, or just take up a rewarding hobby, paddleboarding is one of the best ways to do it.