Should I Buy an Inflatable SUP (The Complete iSUP Buying Guide)?

If you are debating whether you should get an inflatable SUP or not, you should absolutely do so because this board will be beneficial to you, especially if you travel a lot. You will be incredibly surprised at just how affordable, comfortable, stable, convenient, and functional inflatable SUPs are. Not to mention, an iSUP is also highly versatile, light, durable, and firm, just like a traditional stand up paddle board.
Should I Buy an Inflatable SUP

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Similar to epoxy boards with a solid construction, inflatable SUPs can also stand firm against rough conditions, which means that they can be used in all around paddle boarding and different paddle boarding activities, including surfing, racing touring, fishing, and yoga. However, what attracts a lot of customers is their portability because it can be deflated and rolled up to a size that can fit in a bag that makes it significantly easier to transport. Indeed, inflatable SUPs come with many advantages that traditional stand up paddle boards do not have.

How Does an Inflatable SUP Work?

An iSUP (Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board) is a watercraft that is particularly made for the extremely pleasurable and calming recreational activity of stand up paddle boarding. Inflatable stand up paddle boards are basically paddle boards you can easily carry around with you since they can be inflated or deflated at your disposal. Once you get to your destination, you can begin inflating your inflatable stand up paddle board and what’s really great about this board is it does not take more than 5 to 10 minutes to finish filling them with air.

In most cases, when you purchase an inflatable SUP, it comes with a manual hand pump, so you do not have to trouble your mind about worrying about where to buy one. Additionally, electric pumps are now available in the market, and all you have to do is press the button and wait until it finishes inflating your board to the set PSI level. Once it reaches the PSI level you set, the electric pump will turn off by itself.

Are Inflatable SUPs Worth It?

Since each person is different, whether an inflatable SUP is worth it or not ultimately depends on what your needs and wants are. If you are someone who likes to travel and visit different paddle boarding destinations around the world, an inflatable stand up paddle board will surely be worth it since you can pack and transport it easily. Even though some inflatable SUPs are slightly too large to be brought as a carry-on, you can check it on a plane as long as it is correctly packed inside a bag and does not exceed the weight limit.

Once you make up your mind that you want to get into paddle boarding, it can get a little overwhelming when deciding what kind of stand up paddle board you want to buy. Given that there are numerous options available in the market to choose from such as traditional stand up paddle boards and iSUPs. This is why it is crucial to know what kind of paddle boarding you want to do ahead of time so that your expectations won’t fail you. After all, no one wants to spend money on something then end up not using it afterwards, so you must really take your time before you purchase a specific type of paddle board.

Is an Inflatable SUP Better?

When determining whether an inflatable SUP is better than a conventional stand up paddle board with a hard construction, it all comes down to your riding goals and personal preference. There are positive aspects and negative aspects of having an iSUP, and it can be very difficult to know if it’s better compared to your traditional stand up paddle board. With that said, here are some of the pros and cons of owning an iSUP that will help you decide if an inflatable stand up paddle board is better for you:

Pros:

  • Easily transportable: An inflatable SUP can be inflated or deflated whenever and wherever you want, making them easy to carry around. Traditional standup paddle boards are a lot heavier than iSUPs, making it harder for you to carry to and from the water. These are the two most popular reasons why a great number of people prefer using iSUPs than regular stand up paddle boards made up of fiberglass, epoxy, or carbon fiber.
  • Excellent for traveling: Since an inflatable SUP can be deflated and rolled up as the same size of a sleeping bag, you can easily bring it with you. You won’t be paying for insanely expensive surfboard fees when you fly in a plane which means that you will be saving a lot of money. On top of that, an iSUP is also substantially lighter, so you can free your mind of worry about having to carry a heavy baggage around.
  • Great durability: A good-quality inflatable SUP that is taken out to the water frequently can last up to 5 years or more if you take good care of it. Many are taken aback when they learn that iSUPs are more durable than traditional stand up paddle boards and can even withstand going through rocky conditions but still providing maximum performance. The reason for an iSUPs extreme durability comes from the PVC material that covers the external layer of the board, which protects it from dents and scrapes.
  • Softer surface to land on: If you are new to the sport of paddle boarding, you will experience falling into the water or onto your board especially if you do not have a good sense of balance. In fact, everyone falls sooner or later, even if you’re already a professional. Even if an iSUP is still somewhat hard, its surface is not as rigid as traditional paddle boards made up of solid materials (fiberglass, carbon fiber, epoxy, etc.) making it a great board for both newbies and kids.
  • More stable: One of the many reasons why a lot of people like to purchase an iSUP rather than a paddle board with solid construction is because it provides more stability. Many of these sport’s participants find iSUPs significantly easier to improve their balance because it offers a smoother and quieter paddle boarding experience. In addition, a more stable board means that the probability of accidents like falling is less likely to happen.
  • Can be stored without difficulty: As previously mentioned, iSUPs can be deflated and rolled or folded compactly afterward which makes it very convenient to store. For this particular reason, iSUPs do not require an extremely spacious storage area, unlike traditional paddle boards. Therefore, an iSUP is best for those who do not have a storage place or garage since it can be kept in a small space like a drawer or closet.
  • Amazing for dogs: Inflatable SUPs are perfect for dogs because their surface will not cause your pet’s precious paws to slide as they normally would on a fiberglass board. If you’re going out for a vacation and have no one to look after your pet or you simply want to bring your furry friend along, you can definitely do so! Without a doubt, stand up paddle boarding is a very fun leisure activity that will bring you and your dog a lot of happiness.

Cons:

  • Cost: Most people think that inflatable SUPs are much cheaper than traditional stand up paddle boards, but that is not exactly the case. As a matter of fact, iSUPs cost just about the same as solid stand up paddle boards. If you want to save a little money, you can buy a secondhand board from a trusted friend you know, but this, of course, comes with a few disadvantages, provided that it’s not brand new.
  • Takes time to setup and pack: An inflatable SUP needs to be filled with air before you take it out into the ocean and then emptied of air afterwards once you finish paddle boarding. If you are someone who is not patient enough to inflate a board for at least no more than 5 to 10 minutes, an iSUP might not be the best for you. This is one of the reasons why some people prefer a traditional SUP better than an inflatable SUP.
  • Possibility of flex: A large number of beginners and first-time owners of iSUPs usually experience sinking in the middle of their board while riding it. The most common reason for flex is not filling your board with enough air, which causes it to fold in the center. Flex can greatly upset you and ruin your paddle boarding adventure, especially if it is your first time taking your board out into the ocean, so you must always ensure that your board is properly inflated to the right level.
  • Restriction in shape: Before, inflatable SUPs only had big, circular rails and the same level of thickness from the nose up to the tail. Due to this reason, a lot of people liked using traditional paddle boards better because they had different designs from which you could choose from to suit your needs and wants. With the advancement of technology, most iSUP manufacturers now have an extensive array of various shapes and sizes to accommodate all types of people who would like to get into the sport of paddle boarding.
  • Less maneuverability: Compared to a traditional stand up paddle board with a solid construction, an iSUP is a bit harder to move around. Traditional stand up paddle boards are easier to control because they have a streamlined design that allows for immediate reaction. However, this should not be a problem for you if you only plan to do recreational paddle boarding and do not intend to use your board for extreme paddle boarding activities such as surfing, touring, racing, fishing, and several more.
  • Hardness: Once you finish inflating your iSUP to the right level, they are now firm enough to be taken out in the water. Although iSUPs are still able to perform well in rough conditions and hold out against a few minor scratches, they are not entirely invulnerable to extremely sharp objects. This is one of the problems that traditional stand up paddle boards do not have to worry about, as they are extremely solid and cannot be punctured.
  • Ability to last: The PVC material used in making iSUPs will gradually deteriorate over time and a lot quicker when exposed to high temperatures and UV radiation. It would be best if you avoid leaving your iSUP under the scorching sun for prolonged hours because it will give rise to air expansion inside, that will cause the seams to become weaker. An iSUP with seam leaks can still be repaired, but it will take a considerable amount of time and effort, so you might as well consider replacing it to conserve your energy.

What Should I Look for in an Inflatable SUP?

When buying an inflatable SUP, you should look for boards with a multiple layer of strong materials that will help shield the board from air leaks and allow for more extreme activities and avoid ones covered with just one extremely thin layer of PVC material. It would help if you also looked for an iSUP with good traction pads that will provide you with additional grip and a higher level of comfortability for your feet. Furthermore, handles may seem like they aren’t that important, but a thoroughly constructed handle with comfort in mind makes a very huge difference that you probably don’t even notice, but handles make it more manageable for you to carry your board.

With that said, the first thing you should do is figure out what kind of paddle boarding you plan on doing to help yourself narrow down your options. Once you get this out of the way, you must now proceed to doing your own research to educate yourself about what qualities make up a great inflatable SUP. You need to consider numerous factors such as the size of the board, the materials used, the weight, the construction, the thickness, and even the kind of paddle to buy since all these have a significant impact on your overall stand up paddle boarding experience.

Who Makes the Best Inflatable SUP?

Your board has a big impact on your overall SUP adventure which is why it is very important to thoroughly examine the features of the inflatable SUP you want to purchase. With that said, always remember that this is a matter of personal preference since only you can know what qualities you like and don’t like in an iSUP. There are numerous manufacturers that make high-quality inflatable SUPs. Still, in no particular order, these ones stand out the most because they make the top of the line boards that are sold at a very affordable cost:

  • Bluefin: This company based in the United Kingdom has only been around for a few years, but they have shown that they are here to stay. Bluefin has gained immense popularity in the United Kingdom, and they are rapidly expanding their reach by opening markets in different countries such as the United States and Canada. Bluefin’s long-term warranty policies that last for up to 5 years combined with their product’s durability and quality are what many customers like about the company.
  • GILI Sports: GILI Sports first launched their brand back in 2018 with their 10’6″ AIR all-around model which they sold at a very reasonable price. GILI’s boards are not only beautiful looking, but they are also thoughtfully designed. Since they started, they have established that they are passionate about offering their customers high-quality boards that are long-lasting and have the ability to face harsh conditions.
  • iRocker: The founders of iRocker always put in a lot of work each year looking to make their extensive selection of inflatable SUPs much better. They listen to constructive criticism from customers so they can improve their models and provide paddlers with the features they want to have in an iSUP. This company has been around for quite a while now, and they have proven themselves to be one of the best companies that produce iSUPs ever since they first started.
  • NIXY Sports: NIXY is a business run by a family that is centered on producing the finest paddle boards in the market. They were looking for a board that will meet their needs and wants, but they couldn’t find one, so they started conceptualizing designs, and after a short while, NIXY Sports was born. This brand has an expansive range of stunningly beautiful inflatable SUPs that are incredibly light and firm at the same time.
  • THURSO SURF: This brand based in Canada was founded in 2016 when they launched with their 11′ all-around SUP. Now, they already have seven inflatable SUPs, which you can choose from. THURSO’s iSUPs are incredibly famous as it provides you with maximum paddling efficiency and the lowest amount of drag because of the founder’s background in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).

What Size Inflatable SUP Should I Get?

The size of the inflatable SUP you should get highly depends on what kind of board can support your weight and prevent you from sinking or falling into the water while standing on top of it. In addition, your board should be stable and comfortable enough to give you a trouble-free and relaxing time out in the water. To find the iSUP size that fits you best, you have to be aware of these four important determining factors:

  • Volume: If your board has more volume, this means that it can carry more weight. Using a board that does not have the capacity to support your weight, you are basically signing yourself up for a lengthy, wobbly riding experience that will drag your board and make it difficult for you to perform paddling. The buoyancy of your iSUP is measured in liters.
  • Length: The length of your board is greatly determined by what type of paddle boarding you are interested to do rather than your level of expertise or weight. Most paddle boards usually have a length of 10′ to 11′, which is a great range for all-around SUP. Your iSUP’s length is measured from top to bottom.
  • Width: A wider board offers you more stability, while a narrower board gives you more speed. A wider inflatable SUP is of great assistance to beginners because it makes it easier for them to practice getting the hang of maintaining their balance on top of the board. Your iSUP’s width is measured horizontally or from side to side.
  • Thickness: Inflatable SUPs should have a thickness of at least 6″ to provide you with sufficient stability. Some inflatable SUPs that are 4 to 5 inches thick will be useful for a short while, but it will eventually fold from supporting too much weight after some time. The thickness of your iSUP is measured by getting the distance between the top and bottom of your board.

Once you understand how these four factors affect your overall stand up paddle boarding adventure, you will be able to easily make up your mind on what type of board will serve you best. With that said, below is a guide that will help you select the perfect inflatable SUP for you.

Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board Size Guide
  All Around SUP Yoga SUP SUP Fishing Touring and Racing Group SUP
Length 10’6″ 11″ 11’6 12′ | 15′
Width 34″ 33″ 32″ 45″ | 56″
Volume 6″ 6″ 6″ 8″ | 8″
Thickness 326 L 345 L 336 L 584 L | 730 L
Weight 24 LBS 21 LBS 24 LBS 34 LBS | 50 LBS
Capacity 285 LBS 315 LBS 300 LBS 650 LBS | 1,050 LBS

 

What Is the Best Inflatable SUP?

The best inflatable SUP is one that provides you with stability, comfortability, affordability, and convenience, along with high-quality materials and construction. These are the main factors that you have to take into consideration when looking for an iSUP because they play a huge role on how your overall stand up paddle boarding experience will go. With that said, it’s a bit difficult to determine what the best iSUP is given that each individual has their own personal preference.

On top of that, the best inflatable SUP also highly depends on the kind of activity you want to do with your board. It would be best if you accounted for this factor as well, so you know exactly what qualities to look for in an inflatable SUP to give you maximum performance whether you want to go cruising, fishing, touring, racing, surfing, or do some yoga and meditate. Listed down below are some of the best inflatable SUPs that are perfect for particular activities done in paddle boards:

  • Recreational iSUP:
    • iRocker All-Around 11′
    • GILI Air –
    • iRocker Nautical
    • Boardworks SHUBU Solr
    • Bote Breeze Aero 11’6″
    • Naish Nalu Air 10’6″
    • ROC SUP Co. Explorer
  • iSUP Yoga:
    • Peak Yoga SUP
    • Hala Asana Board
    • Advanced Elements Lotus Ysup
    • Gili Meno Yoga Board
    • Isle Cruiser Soft Top
    • Bluefin Aura Fit
  • iSUP Touring:
    • Red Paddle Co. 11’3″ Sport MSL
    • NRS Thrive 10’8″
    • Atoll 11′ Board
    • Bluefin Cruise Carbon 12′
    • Badfish Monarch Board
    • Thurso Surf Expedition
    • Pau Hana Endurance Air
  • iSUP Fishing:
    • Elkton Outdoors Grebe
    • Body Glove Mariner XL
    • iRocker Blackfin Model X
    • NRS Heron Fishing SUP
    • Airhead Bonefish
    • Z-ray Fishing SUP
  • iSUP Racing:
    • Red Paddle Co Elite
    • Tower Paddle Boards iRACE
    • Tower Paddle Boards Xplorer
    • Aqua Marina Race Competitive iSUP
    • Zray R2 Racing iSUP
    • Z-Ray 12’6″ Rapid R1
  • iSUP Surfing:
    • Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6″
    • SereneLife Thunder Wave SUP
    • Badfish Surf Traveler
    • Tower Adventurer 2 Blow Up Paddle Board 10’4”
    • Earth River SUP 9’6″ V3
    • Hero SUP Spark 10’5″

How Long Will an Inflatable SUP Last?

The durability of an inflatable SUP widely varies depending on how extreme the activities you participate in are. On average, an inflatable SUP that is used frequently can last five years or more, especially if it is well maintained. If you buy an iSUP with poor construction and low-quality materials, do not expect much as it will only last for 1 to 3 years or even less.

To make your inflatable SUP last much longer, you should not let it sit under the heat of the sun for extended durations if you are not using it because this will ruin your board little by little. UV radiation and intense heat will cause the materials used in making your iSUP to slowly wear out and eventually lead to its destruction. If you are new to stand up paddle boarding, do your research or ask an experienced paddler so you can learn how to properly store and take care of your board after use to prolong its durability.

What Is a SUP Pump?

A SUP pump is used to fill your inflatable SUP with air. If you purchase an inflatable stand up paddle board, it usually comes with a hand pump that you can use which is very convenient. A hand pump means that you have to inflate your board manually, but there is nothing that you should be worried about because this process is not extremely tiring, and it will only take you about 5 to 10 minutes.

There are two types of manual SUP hand pumps to choose from, and this includes a one-way hand pump or a two-way hand pump. One-way SUP pumps only inflate when you push downwards, while two-way SUP pumps fill your board with air by either pushing downwards or pulling upwards. As a result, two-way SUP pumps will inflate your board faster, but it can be slightly more tiring compared to when you are using one-way SUP pumps.

Are All SUP Pumps the Same?

There is a wide variety of SUP pumps available for purchase on the market, and although some SUP pumps can be used on other types of inflatable stand up paddle boards as well, they are still not exactly alike. Aside from manual SUP hand pumps, there are also SUP electric pumps that will save you a lot of time and effort before you venture out to the ocean. The invention of electric pumps eliminated the trouble of manually inflating your iSUP because all you need to do is press a button, and the electric pump will do all the work for you within only 5-10 minutes.

What makes electric pumps extremely amazing and convenient is that you can set the PSI limit you want to achieve. The pump will automatically turn off automatically once it reaches the set limit. Due to this feature, you do not have to worry about not inflating your board enough or filling it with too much air. The invention of SUP electric pumps is truly a game-changer for those who want to finish inflating their board immediately to explore the marine environment, but there are still some who like using manual hand pumps because it is a good warm-up that prepares their body for the tiring yet fun adventure awaiting them.

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