Paddle boards are durable and sturdy pieces of kit that can last you for many, many years if looked after correctly. The life span of your inflatable paddle board comes down to a few contributing factors like the way you use it, the way you care for it, and how you store it.
Like with most purchases, the more you care for your SUP, the longer it will remain in your life and the more value you’ll get out of it. SUPs can be significant investments, and, understandably, you’ll want to get the most for your money.
But, how long do paddle boards last? And will you get enough time out of it to make the money justifiable? Let’s get into it and find out!
Inflatable paddle boards are made from PVC materials that are stitched together with a technique called drop stitching. Drop stitching attaches the military-grade materials together with thousands of polyester threads.
The way that inflatable SUPs are constructed creates an airtight core, making inflatable SUPs as rigid and as durable as hardtops.
Hard boards are designed with an EPS foam core that is wrapped with fiberglass layers and epoxy resin. Carbon fiber regularly coats the rails of hardtops to increase the board’s durability and overall strength.
Soft tops are fairly similar to hardtops, however, they have an additional soft, almost sponge-like material covering the entire deck. This spongy material makes them an excellent choice for surf schools or beginner paddlers because they won’t dent, ding, or scratch as easily as a hardtop.
For more information on the differences between all three types of boards, we’ve gone into more detail over on 3 Different Types of Paddle Boards You Need to Know.
Many different factors play a role in your SUPs life and how long you’ll be able to use it for.
The construction quality of the board can affect its longevity. Inflatable paddle boards come as multiple or single-layer boards. Multiple higher-quality PVC layers will create a more durable board than single layers.
Inexpensive boards may also have their seams joined together with a seam glue. Once seam glue is exposed to outdoor elements, it will begin degrading and will eventually burst open.
High-quality hard top boards will have a UV coating to repel UV radiation. UV rays can damage your board’s top layer, and although the coating won’t fully protect it against the sun, it will give it an extra layer of sunblock.
The more you take care of your board, the longer you’ll have it in your life. There are some easy-to-follow maintenance steps to improve your board’s life span, but we’ll go over those at the end of this article.
The amount you use your board plays a huge factor in how long the board will last. Boards that only get used a few times a month are going to last longer than boards that are being used every day for half of the year. The more the board is used, the more chances there are of dings, dents, scrapes, or accidents.
The brand your board comes from may not seem significant, but it can really make all the difference to your board’s life. Board’s from reputable companies are made with high-quality materials and designs that have gone through years of testing.
Think of your inflatable paddle board as a pair of shoes, buying an inexpensive pair from an unknown brand will most likely end with them breaking in a month or two. Buying a pair from a brand that is known for producing high-quality shoes, on the other hand, means you’ll most likely have your shoes for years to come.
This is the same with paddle boards, do your research before purchasing and investing in a SUP from a respected, well-known brand.
The condition you buy your board in can significantly shorten the board’s lifespan. Fresh out of the box, new SUPs will last you 5+ years as long as you take proper care of it. Second-hand boards, however, are more difficult to determine.
If you aren’t a SUP expert, it may be hard to notice any previous issues that the board might have had. If the former owner didn’t take care of the board correctly, then you may only have your board for a year or two before you need to replace it.
The longevity of your paddle board also comes down to the way you take care of it. Like with most things in life, if you look after it, you’ll more than likely get a longer lifespan out of your inflatable paddle board.
All inflatable boards come with a recommended PSI that you should inflate to. It is extremely important to stay between the recommended guidelines when pumping up your board.
If you over-inflate your inflatable paddle board, you can run the risk of over-expansion. Over-expansion happens in one of two ways, firstly by pumping the board up too much, and secondly by leaving the board inflated in hot areas.
Electric pumps like the GILI Electric iSUP Paddle Board pump are a fantastic accessory to have for your inflatable SUP because you simply plug it in, select your desired PSI, attach it to your air valve, and it does all the work for you.
After every use, especially if you’ve been paddling in saltwater, it is a good idea to rinse your board with fresh water.
If you don’t remove the saltwater from your board, it can dry out and start eating away at the materials of your board. For hard boards, it will corrode the outer material, and for inflatable SUPs, it can weaken the seams, eventually causing the board to break.
Washing away any other sand, stones, and debris will also prevent your board from being scratched or pressure dented while it’s in storage.
It’s not crucial to clean your board often, but every once in a while it’s a good idea to thoroughly clean your board with a soft cloth and a specified paddle board cleaning solution. You can also use warm water and dish soap.
Before placing your board in storage, always remember to completely dry off the board with a towel. Drying off your board will prevent mildew or mold growth while the board is not in use.
Just because paddle boards are designed for outdoor use, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can be in the outdoor elements for long periods of time.
Sunlight especially can cause havoc for both hard paddle boards and inflatable paddle boards, and it’s vital that you keep your board out of the sun when it’s not in use.
In a hard paddle board, the sun will cause delamination. Delamination is when the EPS foam core and the epoxy shell separate from one another, forming air pockets between the two materials. Although air vents are built into most boards to lower the chances of this happening, it is still possible if the board is exposed to extreme heats.
In inflatable paddle boards, the sun will heat up the air inside, causing it to expand. Once it expands, the higher air pressure can lead to the paddle boards seams bursting, eventually resulting in you having to purchase a new SUP.
Direct sunlight also causes discoloration in both types of boards. The colors of the fiberglass and PVC material will go dull, which in turn makes your board look old and weathered.
If you have an inflatable stand up paddle board and you’re planning on storing it away for the season, we highly recommend deflating it and putting it back in its designated storage bag. Not only will this rule out the issue of over-expansion of the air inside, but it will also prevent your board from being damaged.
If you’d prefer to keep your board inflated, you should release some air to create room in the board so if over-expansion does occur, the seams and materials will remain intact.
Inflatable paddle boards usually come with a designated storage and transportation bag that makes the perfect place to store your SUP when it is deflated. Keeping it in a bag will not only save on space, but it will cut out the risk of over-expansion and prevent damage from being done to the board by surrounding sharp objects.
Storage racks are also great solutions for both inflatable paddle boards and hard boards. Ceiling racks, wall-mounted racks, or freestanding racks are all available on the market and will keep your board off the floor and away from any danger.
The best places to install your paddle board rack would be in a cool, dry area, such as a garage, shed, or even under your deck. For extra safety, you can also drape a tarp over your boards to block off any dirt or debris. If you choose to do this, however, ensure you leave a gap between the board and the tarp to promote airflow.
For more paddle board storage tips, check out our How to Store a Paddle Board the Right Way article.
Inflatable paddle boards can last many years, depending on how well you look after them. If you take the time to care for your SUP, you can be paddling on it for many summers to come.
If a paddle board is worth the money or not comes down to your personal lifestyle. If you only take your board out once or twice a year, then it may not be worth the money for you. If you take it over every day during summer, however, then it would be considered an incredible investment.
Paddle boards can last for years, and with many on the market at all different price ranges, there will always be a board that will fit into your budget and lifestyle.
Inflatable SUPs can be left inflated as long as they’re kept out of direct sunlight and in a storage space with cool temperatures.
Leaving your inflatable SUP inflated and in areas with warmer temperatures can result in the air inside your board expanding and the seams of your board busting. If you’re going to leave it inflated, you should deflate the board by a few PSI to allow room for heat expansion.
Advanced designs, materials, and construction have made inflatable paddle boards as durable, if not more durable, than soft tops or hardtops.
With an inflatable SUP, you don’t run the risk of dings and dents as the board will simply bounce off of the object. The military-grade PVC and drop stitch technology they use to create inflatable SUPs is extremely strong and unlikely to break.
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