Can You Surf With An Inflatable Paddleboard?
The short answer is yes. You can catch small waves with any paddleboard, but if you want to really do some carving and ride larger waves you are going to want something more specialized. A solid board is going to give better performance than an inflatable but not everyone has room or a way to transport them. This is where inflatables are really perfect, you can still get out on the waves while having the option to throw your board in the trunk of your car when you are done.
When purchasing a surfing ISUP there are a few things that are going to be important. First, you want a shorter board, less than 10 feet. You want a thinner board than the standard 6-inch, this makes maneuverability better and less likelihood of catching the rail (side of the board) on the water and flipping over. Honestly, I’m pretty excited about these boards, catching waves is so fun on a paddleboard and ISUP’s can be taken on a plane as a carry-on.
All Surfing Paddleboards On The Table
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A Closer Look At Each Paddleboard
First out, this ISUP from Ancheer. It’s 9 feet long, 29.5 inches wide, and 5 inches thick. If you’re a beginner, this board is going to be a great option. It’s short, making maneuvering on waves easier, yet wide and thick enough for stability you will need if you are not used to surfing yet.
The max weight capacity is 286 pounds. It has two stabilizer fins and one slide-in removable center fin.
Not only is it going to be good for surfing, it’s also a little more all-around. This could be the one board you buy for all paddleboard activities. It’s made out of 0.9mm military grade PVC and they double layered it for durability and rigidness. It’s got the standard handle in the middle, but also a handle on the tail, which is nice when transporting.
Included with this board is a backpack/storage bag, a dual-action pump (a very nice bonus that you will appreciate when inflating this thing) with pressure gauge, a coil leash, a repair kit, and an adjustable paddle.
I like this board, it’s budget-friendly, well-built, comes with a better than average pump, and is not so specific to surfing that it wouldn’t be good for anything else. A great option for a beginner.
- Double Layered PVC
- Budget Friendly
- Less Rigid Than Alternatives
This is the shortest board on today’s list, it’s 8 feet 8 inches long, 31 inches wide, and 4.75 inches thick. It doesn’t have the dedicated shape of a full on surf ISUP but it’s got the length to help you maneuver on waves and get surfing. Because of the all-around style, it’s going to be a good choice for beginners. It has a weight limit of 286 pounds and a rider weight limit of 187 pounds, meaning you can bring your dog along if you are going for a nice paddle. There are two stabilizer fins and a slide-in center fin.
This board is not double-layered like the other boards, which can be a downside. But it’s still going to be stiff enough for stability because it’s almost 5 inches thick. Even with that downside, one great thing about this board is it only weighs 14.77 pounds, making it the lightest board on the list. It’s going to feel lighter and easier to handle in the water and if you are planning on hiking to a hidden beach or far away mountain lake it’s going to be easier to carry than alternatives.
Included with this board is a backpack/storage bag, a dual-action pump with pressure gauge, a coil leash, a repair kit, and an adjustable paddle.
This is another board that can be an everything board, it’s better than most all-around boards for surfing but still be really good for any other paddleboard activity. I like this board because it’s a Redder, they make boards that are high-quality and durable. This is considered, by them, to be their budget board. If you are looking for something to go surfing with, this one won’t disappoint.
- Budget Friendly
- Short For Maneuverability
- Very Light
- Only Single Layer PVC
- Less Rigid Than Alternatives
Now we’re getting into the specialized surf ISUP’s, and I really like this one. The rogue is 9 feet long, 30 inches wide, and 4 inches thick. The max weight capacity is 265 pounds with a rider weight capacity of 198 pounds. It weighs 20.28 pounds, has two angled stabilizer fins for better control on the waves, and a slide-in center fin. This is more of an intermediate to advanced board because the pointed displacement nose is going to sit more in the water for a faster ride but a more unstable one.
The Rogue has a raised kickpad. The foam footpad is bumped up on the back of the board making it so you can have more control when popping the board up over waves and maneuver better when surfing. The kickpad is not something you absolutely have to have, but if you plan on surfing bigger waves it’s nice to have. It has a pointed nose for picking up speed and a double-layered PVC construction for rigidness and durability. This board is only 4 inches thick meaning you can have a little more control, much like a traditional surfboard.
Included with the board is a backpack/storage bag, a dual-action pump with pressure gauge, a coil leash, a repair kit, and an adjustable paddle.
The Redder Rogue ISUP is one of my favorites. It’s very specialized to surfing and it doesn’t break the bank. It’s going to take some time getting used to, especially if you haven’t surfed on a paddleboard before, but with the double PVC it can take a beating. The kickpad is an excellent feature that I personally prefer. All in all when it comes to surfing this paddleboard is a performer.
- Dual Layered PVC
- Maneuverability-friendly Design
- Not Beginner Friendly
- Less Rigid Than Alternatives
The Whopper Zen by Starboard is 10 feet long, 35 inches wide, and 5.5 inches thick. This is a very good surfing paddleboard and because of the length and width, you are going to be able to use it for other activities. The max weight limit is 264 pounds. It has the 3 fixed fin style which means you can get out on the water faster and not have to worry about a slide in fin falling out if you get into the shallows. This board weighs 20.5 pounds.
This board is going to be rigid, not only is it 5.5 inches thick it also has a triple-sandwich rail laminate that acts as a dual stringer. Stringers are used on surfboards to make them stiffer in the water. There are two stringers on the bottom of the board as well as on the sides and they use a double layered 2000 denier deck on top of all of that. The Whopper Zen also has a kickpad, something you would expect from this level of inflatable paddleboard.
Included with the Starboard Whopper Zen ISUP is a backpack/storage bag with wheels, a dual action pump with pressure gauge, a repair kit, and a leash that is not rated for surfing but will work on flatwater and touring. Unfortunately, this does not come with a paddle.
This is going to be one of the most rigid inflatable paddleboards you will ever stand on. There is so much put into it to make it feel solid. I really like how they have made it perfect for surfing while including some extras to make it great for leisure and short touring. This is perfect for every level. The width, stringers, and length are all things that will make surfing easier for beginners who want to learn on a real inflatable surf paddleboard and also more advanced riders who want performance.
- Very rigid
- High-Quality Materials
- Beginner Friendly
- No Paddle Included
This is the ultimate inflatable surf paddleboard. It’s 8 feet 10 inches long, 29 inches wide, and 3.93 inches thick. These measurements result in a very controllable, fast board. It has a weight limit of 200 pounds and a removable FCS center fin. Having a stiff center fin really helps when surfing, so Red Paddle Co. uses FCS fins. FCS is a fin company that is one of the best in the business.
Along with all this, the board weighs only 16.28 pounds which is very light, so definitely a great option for travelers.
Red Paddle Co. uses their own patented MSL fusion to make their boards, making the dual layers stronger, more rigid, and wrinkle-free. A very cool feature that is unique to this board and company is that they use RSS battens. There are pockets laminated to the sides which hold 2 battons, these act as stringers for making it very stiff even though it is thin. And of course, it has a kickpad.
Included with this board is a backpack/storage bag with wheels, a dual-action pump with pressure gauge, a repair kit, and a waterproof phone case.
The Red Paddle Co. Whip is my favorite inflatable paddleboard for surfing. It’s built very well and has some neat design features. Thin is better for surfing and it’s one of the things that is usually given up when it comes to inflatables because it’s hard to make the board thin and rigid. The Red Paddle Co. has solved this problem with their unique battons. This board is going to be easier to handle on the waves than any other inflatable paddleboard and you easily travel with it thanks to its portable weight.
- Specialized Stiff Fin
- Battons For Rigidness
- Thin Rails
- Short Length
- Repair Kit, Waterproof Phone Bag Included
- Single Fin
- No Paddle Included
Good: Redder Vortex 8’8” ISUP – This board is good, it’s budget-friendly while having the length of a specialized surf paddleboard. It’s also very light which is a big reason I recommend it. One of big selling points for inflatable paddleboards is their portability. And this baby is portable. Long walks to the ocean or far away lakes are not going to be a problem.
Better: Redder Rogue ISUP – I love this board, it’s a full-on surf paddleboard with a kickpad and everything. I like the pointed nose because it makes it fast, and I love speed. It’s not as rigid as I like but the price point is right. It’s made with double-layered PVC so its durable. It’s short and not as wide as other boards for better maneuverability and a faster ride. I think Redder put a lot a thought into this with the angled stabilizer fins and they really did a good job. A great board, and you get a lot for your money.
Best: Red Paddle Co. Whip – I have to choose this board as the best option on today’s list, it’s just the best inflatable paddleboard for surfing in my opinion. It’s so rigid for how thin it is, you really do get what you pay for. It’s a beautiful board with a flawless finish and insane durability, they even say they ran it over with a tractor and it still performed like new. It’s really light too, you can take this board all over the world, and it will perform almost like a solid board. Even though they only have one fin they made sure to include the best fin available for inflatable paddleboards. This is for sure my number one pick.
What To Consider
Length – The length of the paddleboard you should buy for surfing really depends on what size you are and what you want out of your board. The shorter you go, the easier maneuvering and sharp turns will be. If you are a taller person or just a beginner who can’t stand up on a short narrow board, there’s nothing wrong with getting something a little more manageable for you.
Hull Type – Most paddleboards for surfing have a rounded planing nose for riding basically on top of the water and having a stable smooth ride. Some boards do have the pointed displacement nose like a touring board. This makes riding waves a little more advanced. Basically, it sucks the board into the water giving you faster speeds but less stability.
Kickpad – When paddling out into the waves with an inflatable paddleboard you need to be able to pop the nose of your board up over the waves in order to get past them. A kickpad is when they raise the end of the footpad making an edge much like a skateboard. You can use it to raise the nose of your board. It also helps to keep your back foot in place. On an inflatable paddleboard pretty much all control comes from your back foot since the rails are basically nonexistent. If your board doesn’t have a kickpad it isn’t the end of the world and you can still surf, but having one really helps.
Board Stiffness – The biggest challenge when surfing with an inflatable paddleboard is the board wobbling because it’s not solid. Many companies have come up with their own ways to overcome this. To make a board stiffer the thickness of the board is often increased, but when it comes to surfing you want a board that is as thin as possible. Having a thin board gives increased rail control and less likelihood of catching the side and rolling over.
By using a dual PVC layer manufacturers have been able to increase rigidness. Going even further some companies have added a sort of stringer to the board. Stringers run lengthwise on surfboards to increase their rigidness and help the board to flex a controlled amount. Stringers on surfboards are usually made out of some sort of low-density wood. On an inflatable paddleboard, stringers are often made of carbon fiber, they need to be strong when inflated but also foldable.
Companies like Red Paddle Co. have come up with their own patented battons. They are long strips that slide into laminated pockets on the sides of their boards. They are advertised to make the board up to 40% stiffer. A pretty cool idea if you ask me.