You’ve fallen in love with stand-up paddleboarding. You enjoy the sun on your shoulders, the serenity of being on the water, the versatility that paddleboarding offers. Renting or borrowing a board from a friend, though, doesn’t give you the same freedom and flexibility that you’d get with having one of your own. So you decide it’s time to invest in your own board to take your hobby to a new level. The choices can be a bit overwhelming with the huge selection of shapes, sizes and styles out there. To simplify the beginning of your selection process, though, one of the first things you need to consider is whether or not you want a board that is hard or inflatable.
Hard boards (also called epoxy boards, fiberglass boards, solid boards, etc.) are usually constructed with an EPS core and a fiberglass shell. Sometimes the shell is made with other material, though, such as bamboo. They are stable and easy to balance on, making them great options for surfing and paddling rivers. Inflatable boards are made from military-grade PVC. Contrary to what many people first think when they hear the word “inflatable,” it’s not squishy like a pool toy. These feel just as solid as hard boards and perform just as well under the right conditions.
How do you know which kind of paddleboard is right for you? Depending on what you are looking to get out of your board, one might better suit your needs than the other. Here are some things to consider when you’re thinking about making this big purchase.
When it comes to holding up to rough waters, this is where inflatable boards shine. Sure, it is possible for them to get punctured if you unexpectedly run into a sharp rock or branch. It isn’t easy, though, and the repair process is simple compared to that of hard boards. Getting dents and dings on a hard board can sometimes cause water to seep in which is trickier to fix and could cause permanent damage.
If you have a spacious garage or a large, bare wall with a rack for displaying, storing a hard board should be no trouble. But for everyone else, it can be tricky. This is why inflatable boards are ideal for those who are low on space or those who simply don’t want their board to be incorporated into their home decor. If you’re going to purchase a hard board, make sure you have a spot picked out where you know it can be stored without getting damaged.
Just like with storage, travel is much easier with an inflatable board. Not only does it take up minimal space in your car, but many inflatable boards also come with their own travel bag making it easy to carry them down to the water. Unless you have a car rack and are ready to lug a 40-pound board to and from the parking lot to the beach, an inflatable board is the way to go. Also keep in mind whether or not you ever plan on flying with your board since bringing your inflatable board onto the plane will be significantly easier than trying to haul on a hard board.
Ready to use
One downside to an inflatable board is the need to, well, inflate it every time you’re going to use it. There are some ways around this. For instance, you can always keep your board blown up until you put it away for the season. However, this requires having enough room for storing it like you would a hard board. Another option is using an electric pump instead of a hand pump so that you don’t get worn out before you even get out on the water. However, this still takes a bit of extra time and planning as some electric pumps can be slow. If you don’t think you’re ready to deal with the extra steps of inflating your board before use, a hard board might be a simpler way to go.
Inflatable boards have immensely improved over the past several years, and many of them ride similarly to hard boards. However, if you’re looking for something higher-end that is great for racing and picking up speed, a hard board is ideal. Hard boards also are easier to maneuver, so many surfers prefer these over inflatable boards. Mostly, it comes down to what you plan on using your board for and how serious you are about the sport. Inflatable boards are great for beginners or paddling rapids while hard boards have an overall better performance and are ideal for serious paddlers and surfers.
Whatever you’re looking to get out of a paddleboard, there are pros and cons to both. No matter which you choose, though, you can be sure that you’ll get a lot of use out of either.