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Inflatable Paddle Boards vs. Solid (Hard) Paddle Boards

SUP vs. ISUP

Back in the day paddle boards were only solid and could only be enjoyed by people who had the space to store them and the vehicle to transport them around. Now inflatable paddle boards are becoming more popular and more affordable than ever. In this article, I am going to outline the different types of solid SUP’s, ISUP’s (inflatable paddle boards), and how they compare in regards to performance on the water and durability.

What is a Solid Paddle Board (SUP)?

There are three different kinds of solid paddle boards: soft tops, epoxy, and plastic. They each have their strengths and weaknesses as well as price ranges. Knowing the difference can help you decided on what kind is right for you.

Solid or foam stand up paddle boards sit lower in the water than ISUP's

Epoxy SUP

The traditional solid paddle board is epoxy. Epoxy boards have an EPS foam core and are coated with layers of fiberglass with an epoxy resin finish. They are the least durable of all the types of SUPs and the most difficult to transport. On the other hand, they are the lightest and have the best performance of all the other boards.

See Also: Best SUP or ISUP Paddles for Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

PROS

  • Stable
  • Best for surfing
  • Fastest on the water
  • Lots of styles to choose from
  • High performance

CONS

  • Scratch and ding easily
  • Difficult to store and transport
  • Hard when you fall on them
  • Get damaged from being dropped
  • Expensive

Soft top SUP's are heavier than inflatable paddle boards

Soft Top SUP

The second type of SUP is the “soft top.” Soft tops have the same EPS foam core as epoxy boards but have an EVA foam shell making the entire deck soft. The bottom is ABS plastic which is what is used for legos and keyboard keys.

See Also: Best Slim Inflatable Life Jackets (PFD)

Soft tops can be much more affordable than epoxy board but some companies go the extra mile and add a fiberglass and epoxy layer underneath the EVA shell, making them very durable and still soft yet expensive. They don’t perform as well as epoxy boards but they are much softer when you fall and a little more durable, making them family-friendly.

PROS

  • Have an EVA foam over the entire deck
  • Very pet and family-friendly
  • Cheaper than other styles of paddle boards
  • More Durable than Epoxy
  • Softer landing if you fall
  • Stable

CONS

  • Difficult to store and transport
  • Heavy
  • Get damaged from being dropped
  • Low performance

Plastic SUP's are the most durable but also the most heavy SUP

Plastic SUP

The third kind is plastic SUPs. Plastic SUPs have come out on the market a little more recently than the others. They are incredibly durable but very heavy and are often hollow and fill up with water. They don’t perform very well, but they will last for a very long time making them an excellent choice for children or if you will have lots of people using them.

See Also: Best Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers For Boats, Kayaking

PROS

  • Extremely durable
  • Cheap
  • Family and pet-friendly
  • Stable

CONS

  • Heavy
  • Low performance
  • Hard when you fall
  • Difficult to store and transport
  • Can fill up with water

Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards ISUP's are easy to transport

Inflatable SUP (ISUP)

ISUPs are made of PVC and have to be inflated. They are becoming very popular because they can be rolled up and placed in a bag and transported by any vehicle and stored almost anywhere. They are also very durable and easy to patch. The main downside to them is you have to blow them up with either a hand pump or an electric pump.

See Also: Best Inflatable Paddle Boards (ISUP) for Beginners

PROS

  • High performance
  • Durable, won’t ding or scratch
  • Light
  • Easy to store and transport
  • Come in all kinds of price ranges
  • Lots of styles to choose from

CONS

  • Can be less stable than other types of paddle boards
  • Require a pump
  • Requires work to inflate
  • Can get leaks

There are a lot of factors when deciding the right style of SUP for you.

How do they compare?

As far as overall performance goes epoxy boards are still the best although inflatable paddle boards are a close second. Epoxy boards sit more in the water making them more stable and faster, and they also have no give, so they are slightly more rigid than ISUP’s.

When it comes to durability ISUPs beat epoxy boards hands down. Epoxy boards scratch and ding easily and need more care to keep them looking nice. Whereas ISUPs do not get dings and are hard to scratch, the only care they require are a quick rinse and to be completely dry before storing away.

Soft tops and plastic paddle boards are comparable as far as performance goes and ISUPs beat them every time. The average soft top weighs around 50 lbs, and a plastic board weighs approximately 40 lbs but can fill up with water and become even heavier. ISUP’s weigh about 18-22 lbs and are much easier to maneuver and control on the water.

If you are looking for performance I would rank them: Epoxy, ISUP, Soft top, then Plastic.

If you are looking for durability plastic comes in first, then ISUPs, soft tops, and last in line epoxy. If you are still questioning the durability for inflatable paddle boards check out this video made by the Red Paddle Co. where they show the durability of their boards.

The style that has great performance and durability is ISUPs which are getting better every year. Someday they may even become advanced enough to beat epoxy boards.

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