September 07, 2020 6 min read

The time has come for you to take up a new hobby or sport and with all the hype surrounding paddle boarding, it is no wonder that you have landed yourself here, asking the big question on many aspiring paddle boarders minds and that is whether or not the inflatable SUP board is a better choice over the hard or rigid SUP.

When it comes to answering this question, the best way to understand and determine what will work for you, is to further understand the distinct advantages and disadvantages which define each of these paddle boarding options. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to what you will prefer, so let’s not waste any more time and let’s get into it all.

Originating out of Hawaii in the 1900’s, standup paddle boarding as a sport, otherwise known as SUP-ing, has developed into a worldwide water sporting phenomenon in many ways more than one. Popular amongst all types of people, ages, cultures, lifestyles, fitness levels and styles; there are however factors to take into consideration when deciding between the inflatable or hard SUP board:


paddle boarding with inflatable

As with any inflatable equipment, agility is a key and defining what performance level you want to engage in will ultimately determine whether or not agility is important for you. If speed and efficiency is what you take seriously when out on your SUP board, the rigid or hard paddle board will promote just that. Rigid boards are designed for high performance such as long-distance expeditions or racing as well as SUP surfing. There have been many speed tests performed to highlight how the rigid board compares to the inflatable and it has been recorded that hard SUP boards contribute a 5% faster speed performance than inflatables. However, choosing an inflatable board does not mean you need to compromise performance entirely as the technology which we find our inflatable SUP boards made of can support high pressure pumping and with carbon fiber reinforcements allowing them to be offer some rigidity and thus encourage performance too.


Understandably, the rigid SUP boards are found to be more expensive than your inflatable paddle boards due to various elements such as less wear and tear, longer lasting materials as well as performance contribution factors however, the inflatable boards can vary in these factors too as through the years and due to the increasing popularity of inflatable boards, higher quality inflatables have been designed to last longer and thus entering a competitive cost range with the rigid boards. At the end of the day, understanding your budget towards what you can spend not only on a board but on the maintenance and upkeep of your SUP board, will ultimately define which board to paddle out with.


One of the enjoyed and appreciated aspects of an inflatable SUP board is in its durability. Inflatable boards have proven to not be subjected to vulnerabilities such as easily being damaged. If you drop your inflatable, there is just about nothing that could go wrong. The hard or rigid boards are easily subjected to dings, scratches and being damaged thus making them slightly more difficult to maintain and protect than the inflatable board. Think about your next river rafting experience or taking your SUP board out on the rivers where there might be rocks or obstructions in the way. There is a good chance your board might experience some form of impact and with hard boards, you run the risk of damages occurring thus increasing your maintenance budget for repairs. If you are looking for a more carefree and manageable SUP board, the inflatable is a sure thing.


Practicality is key when it comes to any sporting equipment and gear and a massive contributing factor to practicality is storage and easy-to-handle or transport aspects. The inflatable is undeniably practical when it comes to deflating and folding into a carry bag for any trips, adventures or even onto the airplane. A simple way to keep your SUP experience with you anywhere you go without having the inconvenience of lack of storage space or luggage allowances. Being able to take your inflatable paddle board with you on trips can possibly save you money by avoiding those board rental costs at the resort or lake houses - who even charge extra for paddles sometimes!

Another important practicality factor when it comes to storage is how will your paddle board fit into your home? Do you have ample storage space in the garage or spare bedroom to store a rigid board or mount it onto a wall safely? Or perhaps you live in an apartment with not a lot of space; the inflatable board surely takes the lead in this consideration for storage and practicality.


Once again we touch on the inflatable board and the convenience which has been determined with regards to practical portability. Forget about those roof racks or leaving your SUP behind because of travel limitations; simply roll up and pack into a carry bag and sling it around with you wherever the SUP call on you. With the harder and more rigid boards, you could experience some limitations when it comes to travel and convenience. The weight of a hard SUP paddle board can also be a determining factor which might influence your decision; especially if you are someone who enjoys going on trips with the family or adventuring to new SUP-ing hotspots or going on multi day sup trips with loads of other gear.  Of course, if you have the resources and the capabilities to pack up your hard rigid board on your car or SUV or are willing and able to pay the additional weight and travel costs when flying, then by all means. But we do find the portability motivation towards deciding on an inflatable board versus a rigid board is something to consider.


Now that you understand the various elements and factors to take into consideration when it comes to deciding on your new SUP paddle board, the decision should come easily and so should the excitement. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what your performance aspirations are, the convenience and manageability you require as well as the resources at your disposal. The above five factors discussed can be easily elaborated on when it comes to discussing the benefits of the inflatable versus the rigid SUP board.

Inflatable boards are easier to store, convenient and practical to transport and pack up and of course are lighter in weight too. If you are looking to recreationally experience the SUP-ing sport and paddle board, the inflatable is a sure and great option, especially if you are just starting out. Due to the better weight capacity and stability found with the inflatable boards, you will be able to have an easier learning experience, especially for those who just want to have a little bit of fun out on the water.

man carries inflatable sup

Now, when it comes to the hard or otherwise rigid SUP paddle boards; there are a list of benefits to consider too. If you are a more experience paddle boarder or want to experience SUP surfing, the hard boards are known to provide a better performance and manageability when it comes to SUP surfing. The reason being that the rigidity of your hard board will encourage an easier glide and a smoother experience, leaving you with the support you need to up your skill level and performance.

As with any decision, putting in some time to do the research as well as testing out the options or reading up other’s reviews or experiences can surely go a long way in assisting you to make the right decision for your SUP experience. Why not ask a friend or anyone you know who has their own paddle board and get some personal insight into what works for them and what they would recommend. Maybe you can even convince them to take their inflatable or their hard board out for a whirl and spin. Try to get a first-hand experience on each of the boards to see what works for you, what is more comfortable as well as what will suit your lifestyle, your resources and budget and of course your storage space at home. Remember its always advisable to store your board in a proper bag to avoid damage and increase its lifetime. Are you looking for convenience and fun or are you searching for top performance encouragement?

At first it might all be a little confusing, especially if you are completely new to the SUP experience and sport but keep in mind that you can’t go wrong with either one of these options. What works for you and your lifestyle, is exactly what you need to determine when finding the right SUP board. Happy SUP-ing!

Author - Aleksandra Djurdjevic
Aleksandra Djurdjevic          

Senior Content Creator

Aleksandra Djurdjevic is a senior writer and editor, covering surf, kayak and various watersports activities. She has previously worked as ESL teacher for English Tochka. Aleksandra graduated from the Comparative Literature department at the Faculty of Philosophy in Serbia. Aleksandra’s love for the ocean / rivers, getting out waves, season after season, seeking epic adventures across the globe helps her continue to be a top expert at CSG.

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