Inflatable SUP vs Hard board:

A Comparison to Help You Choose the Right Paddle Board

Whether you’re paddling along a quiet coastline or out in the middle of a vast ocean, there’s something about being on a stand-up paddleboard that just feels liberating. And for those who love to explore, there are endless possibilities for where you can take your board.

So if you’re looking for an activity that will give you a feeling of excitement and adventure, SUP is definitely worth considering.

There are two main types of boards for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP): inflatable and hard. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it can be tough to decide which type is right for you. This article will briefly introduce both types of SUPs and help you decide which is the best option for you.


inflatable SUP vs hard board featured image

What is an inflatable SUP (iSUP)?

Inflatable paddle boards, or SUPs, are a relatively new addition to the paddle boarding world.

They differ from traditional rigid SUP because they are made of inflatable material and deflate down to a fraction of their size for easy transport. This also makes it ideal for apartment dwellers or anyone who wants to save on storage space.

Most inflatable SUPs are made with a PVC or polyurethane coated fabric. This material is very durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. The number of PVC layers and the threading quality play a significant role in an inflatable paddle board’s durability.

What are hard paddle boards?

A hard board SUP is a stand-up paddleboard made of dense and durable material, such as fiberglass or carbon fiber.

Unlike inflatables, they don’t have any type of inflatable chamber. Instead, they have a closed-cell foam core. This EPS foam is generally lightweight, strong, and resistant to water absorption.

These boards are heavier and more difficult to transport than their inflatable paddle board counterparts. However, they are more stable and provide a better glide.

A hard board SUP, also known as a solid paddle board, is made with an EPS foam core wrapped in multiple layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin. The epoxy finish is a resin applied to the surface of the paddle board. It is then cured with heat, which creates a hard, durable surface.

2 boys playing on a stand up paddle board

There are two types of hard boards:

  1. Soft-top
  2. Hard-top


The soft top paddle board features a foam covering that is considered more durable than the surfaces of a harder board. These boards are light-weight and generally more affordable than a traditional hard board.

The soft foam and fiberglass surface of a soft top paddle board provides a softer landing surface in case of falls.

These boards also tend to be a bit wider for stability, making it a good choice for beginners. Soft top boards are also a good choice for those who choose to do SUP Yoga, or are looking to make SUP a family sport.

People who paddle with pets prefer the surface of the soft top board because it gives their pets a better, less slippery surface to stand on.


Hard top paddle boards are sleek, strong, and generally a good choice for those who have experience in SUP, and want to seriously pursue the sport.

They are a great choice for any competitive paddle boarding or long distance touring because they feature precision handling in the water.

Hard paddle boards are made with Extruded Polystyrene cores (EPS), covered with fiberglass and epoxy. Resulting in a relatively lightweight board. Other options include much heavier boards made of plastic, and the lighter weight carbon fiber which is generally more expensive.

A hard paddle board is a good option for those looking for precision in their sport, such as competing or racing, surfing, or for long distance paddling. They also offer a bit more stability than an inflatable board, and hard paddle boards offer a little more variety in size, length and shape for a more custom fit.

How do inflatable paddle boards and hard SUPs differ?

The main difference between the two paddle boards is that an iSUP can be inflated and deflated, while a hard board is a solid piece of equipment.

Inflatable SUPs are made of PVC and can be inflated to varying levels of firmness.

In contrast, solid board SUPs are made of fiberglass or other materials and are generally more rigid. Inflatable SUPs are often seen as more beginner-friendly because they are lighter, more stable, and forgiving, while rigid board SUPs are usually faster and more efficient in the water.

Inflatable SUP vs Hard: A head to head comparison

When choosing between an inflatable SUP and a hard board, there are a few factors to consider.


The first consideration is portability. When it comes to transport, inflatable SUPs have a clear advantage.

Inflatable SUPs are extremely easy to transport when deflated.

You can even fit them into a travel bag or backpack without trouble. This makes them ideal for travel because you can take them anywhere without worrying about space or weight restrictions. It’s the perfect option for weekend getaways and spontaneous stand-up paddle boarding adventures.

On the other hand, hard boards weigh more and can’t be deflated. Their large size and weight make them more challenging to carry, especially at the end of your trip.

A dog and his owner out on the water with their inflatable stand up paddleboard

Storage space

Storage space is not much of a concern with an inflatable design; the paddleboard can be deflated and stored in a small area.

The inflatable paddle board is a more convenient option for people with limited storage space. It can be deflated and stored in a small bag, while the hard SUP takes up much more room.

They take up significantly less space than a rigid paddle board, making them perfect for those with limited storage space. You can deflate it and roll it into a small bundle that easily fits in a small bag or closet.

When it comes to storing your rigid stand-up paddleboard, you need to be mindful of the size and shape of the board. If you don’t have a lot of extra space, wall storage might be a good option.

An inflatable SUP is the best option if you have limited storage space.


Durability is a crucial factor to consider when choosing a SUP.

Hard paddle boards are more likely to get damaged since they are made of fiberglass. In contrast, the inflatable SUP is more durable. It can withstand more abuse, making it a better option for rocky shorelines and rivers. On the other hand, a fiberglass SUP can easily crack or chip if it falls on a hard surface.

They also require more regular maintenance to keep them in good condition. If you’re looking for a board that will last longer and handle more wear and tear, the inflatable paddle board is better.

When it comes to the durability of SUPs, there is a clear winner – inflatable SUPs.

Performance on the water

Rigid stand-up paddleboards offer the best performance on the water. They travel faster, smoother, and with less effort than an inflatable.

They are also generally considered the best type of board for SUP surfing and SUP racing. They have less drag than an inflatable SUP board, making them faster and more stable. They ride much smoother than inflatables, giving you better control over your board.

If you plan on surfing, a solid SUP is the best choice for you.


When buying a paddle board, it is important to be aware of the cost of different board types.

Non-inflatable paddle boards are more expensive than inflatable SUPs. An inflatable paddleboard typically costs between $200 and $500, while a hard SUP can cost anywhere from $600 to $1,500.

However, there are higher quality options that raise the price significantly. High-end inflatable SUPs have a better lifespan and durability than cheaper options. They usually sell for between $500 and $900. Whereas high-quality epoxy boards can cost anywhere from $1,300 to $3,000.

The main reason for this discrepancy is that an inflatable board is made mostly of PVC and polyurethane, both inexpensive materials. On the other hand, a hard paddle board is made of fiberglass or carbon fiber, which are more expensive materials.

Inflatable boards are much lighter than their hard counterparts, requiring less material to make them. This also makes them easier to transport and store.

So if you’re looking for an affordable option that’s still high quality, an inflatable SUP is the way to go.

A father and son paddle boarding on the ocean


Over time, the sun can degrade the materials of both hard and inflatable SUPs. To avoid this, keep your board out of direct sunlight and indoors as much as possible when storing.

A paddleboard with a puncture, tear, or compression ding can be fixed if you know what you’re doing.

Hard boards are more prone to cracks, making them difficult (and expensive) to repair. However, a hard SUP board can last for years with proper care.

Which type of SUP is best for you?

No one SUP is perfect for everyone. It is important to consider the different types of SUPs and what each one offers before purchasing. Some factors to consider include your budget, the kind of water you will be using it in, your experience level, and the paddler’s weight.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question – the best stand-up paddle board for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

In general, however, inflatable boards provide more versatility than hard boards. If you want a board that can be used for various activities, an inflatable is the way to go.

If you’re mainly interested in big wave surfing or racing, a hard board may be better. But keep in mind that inflatable SUPs have come a long way in recent years and can now offer similar performance levels as their hard counterparts.

Whatever type of SUP you choose, consider the amount of time you can spend on the water and your comfort level while paddling or surfing. With such a versatile tool at your disposal, you’ll have a great experience out on the water!