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So you’re ready to buy an inflatable paddle board, but you’re overwhelmed with the options?
Let us guide you on how to buy an inflatable paddle board and show you what features are most important. Once you know what to evaluate, you’ll be able to choose your perfect stand up paddle board.
There are many reasons to buy an inflatable stand up paddle board. The biggest reason is because it can travel with you wherever your adventures take you. An inflatable paddle board rolls up to the size of a sleeping bag to toss into your trunk, or you can put it in your SUP backpack and hike to remote rivers and lakes.
There are important differences between a solid or inflatable stand up paddle board, so let’s compare them here.
A solid paddle board maneuvers and tracks better than an inflatable paddle board. If you’re an advanced paddler, you might choose a solid paddle board for the improved performance if you’re interested in SUP touring or racing. Solid paddle boards can ding or crack if dropped or with improper storage, but they require no preparation time to get onto the water. Solid paddle boards take up more space for storage and require a truck or roof rack to get your paddle board to the water.
An inflatable paddle board feels as rigid as a solid board under your feet. They are great for beginners because they are lightweight and easy to carry, and they offer a softer landing when you fall. Inflatable SUPs tend to be less expensive than solid or epoxy boards of similar quality.
Transporting your inflatable paddle board to the ocean or lake is easy when you can toss it into your trunk, but it does require time to inflate the paddle board once you arrive at the water. Even though an inflatable paddle board might lose in a head to head race with a solid SUP, most people won’t notice the difference in its ability to maneuver or cruise on the water.
Let’s dive into the specific features to review when you consider buying an inflatable paddle board. Once you’re familiar with all the options, then you can find a quality paddle board that fits your needs.
There are many types of paddle boards that differ in their overall shape and performance. A board that works best to surf along the shore will differ in design and appearance when compared to a board you plan to take on a long-distance tour down the coast.
Here is a general overview of a paddle board’s shape associated with each style of board.
An all around board is the best option for beginners. It has a wide deck to allow for a wide stable stance and performs in any water condition. The nose of the board will be rounded to easily rise up on top of the water to turn and maneuver well.
A touring stand up paddle board is long and narrow so it can track well for long-distance trips. It will have a pointed nose to slice through the water at higher speeds, but the overall design is typically less stable for beginners.
Surfing paddle boards are designed to weave in and out of waves as you maneuver the surf. It will be shorter than other boards with a rounded nose to allow improved responsiveness by the paddler to catch a wave.
Fishing paddle boards are designed to accessorize. SUP fishing gives you improved visibility of the water with an open space to move as you cast and reel. They tend to be wide and stable with plenty of space for gear. All around boards can be rigged as a fishing SUP with the addition of action mounts to attach fishing rod holders and extra bungee storage space to pack your tackle and necessary gear.
Yoga paddle boards are wide and stable with a spacious deck pad for a comfortable downward dog. All around boards are ideal for SUP yoga because of their stability and extra deck space to move around on the paddle board.
The hull is the body of a paddle board, and its shape determines how well it will perform in the water. The two main hull types are a displacement hull or a planing hull. Some paddle boards combine the two styles into a “hybrid” hull type.
A displacement hull is designed with a sleek, pointed nose so it can cut through the water more efficiently. A displacement hull will be faster than a planing hull, and it is usually preferred for touring or racing SUPs.
A planing hull has a rounded nose and is designed to rise up on top of the water rather than slice through it. It will be a wide and flat paddle board with better stability and can maneuver side to side easily. A SUP with a planing hull is ideal for recreational paddling, SUP fishing, SUP yoga, and surfing.
The size of a paddle board determines how well it handles in the water, and there are differences to consider based on the length, width, and thickness.
A long board is faster than a shorter board and it usually has a displacement hull. They are ideal for long-distance touring or racing. A short board is easier to maneuver and will typically have a planing hull perfect for surfing or for children to use.
The width of a board determines its stability. On a wide board, you can maintain a wide stance for better balance, but you will move slower in the water than on a longer board. A wide paddle board is ideal for beginners due to increased stability, and also for SUP yoga or SUP fishing because of the increased deck space.
A thicker paddle board will have more volume, and therefore, a higher weight capacity. For tall or heavy paddlers this is an important consideration, but also if you’re a teenager who intends to bring their friends, or you’re a parent cruising with your children on the board.
As mentioned above, the SUP volume determines the weight capacity and the overall stability of the paddle board. The volume factors in the weight, length, as well as the thickness. The higher the volume, the more weight it can carry.
The volume and weight capacity are more crucial for the performance of a long board with a displacement hull. If you’re too heavy, your board will sit too low in the water and move slowly, but if you’re too light, it will be hard to maneuver and control. An all around board will perform well as long as you’re under the recommended weight capacity.
The weight capacity of a board is expressed in pounds, and it should factor in not only your own weight, but that of your gear. If using a paddle board to go fishing, you need to consider the total weight of your tackle box, cooler, and fishing rods when figuring out your total weight.
When buying a new inflatable paddle board, you want to examine the materials used to construct the board. What good is spending money on a stand up paddle board if it won’t last for a second season?
Inflatable paddle boards are typically made with military grade PVC and reinforced with drop stitching to be more durable and feel rigid under your feet. A single layer of PVC provides a lightweight board that is less expensive, but it has decreased durability in the long run. A single layered board will typically be thicker (at least six inches) to compensate for the decreased integrity and to increase the rigidity.
Double layer construction includes a second reinforced layer of PVC bonded to the first layer. It will be more expensive, but still light weight with the ability to perform better on the water.
The deck pad covers the center of the board where you stand when paddle boarding. A comfortable deck pad is important to protect your feet when planning a long day on the water. The deck pad is usually etched with a pattern to improve grip and reduce your chances of slipping off of the board. A large deck pad is important for the comfort of passengers riding on your SUP and when you’re enjoying paddle board yoga.
Attachment points include D-rings, action mounts, and Scotty mounts. Attachment points allow for the addition of accessories and additional ways to secure your gear.
Bungees can attach to D-rings to provide increased storage capacity on your board. Secure your ankle leash to a D-ring for safety. With enough D-rings, you can even convert your SUP to a kayak by attaching a seat.
A quality inflatable paddle board will have action mounts to attach fishing rod holders, cup holders, or your GoPro camera. Scotty mounts are a universal mounting system that are particularly useful for SUP fishing in order to attach fish finders and rod holders.
The configuration of your fins determines the board’s performance while stand up paddle boarding. You should also consider how easy the fins are to attach to your inflatable paddle board or if they are permanently affixed.
The central long fin is top priority when hoping for more speed on the water and if touring long-distance. The side fins add maneuverability and additional stability during challenging water conditions from wind or waves. A “tri-fin” design with once central fin and two small side fins will provide the most stability.
If the fins are fixed and cannot be removed, this makes storage more difficult with the possibility of damaging your fins or inflatable SUP. An attachment system that allows the fins to be snapped into place easily means that you can change up the number and position of the fins based on your activity for the day.
Most inflatable paddle boards allow for additional accessories to be carried with you to improve your SUP experience, so you should definitely look into what accessories you might need before you buy.
You won’t get very far without a paddle. An aluminum paddle is the least expensive but tends to be heavier. A fiberglass paddle is of higher quality than the aluminum, while the carbon fiber paddle beats them both with its lightweight shaft and better performance.
It’s important to adjust your paddle to the appropriate height for optimal paddling. Finding the best paddle can make your day on the water much more enjoyable.
An inflatable paddle board will obviously need to be inflated in order to hit the water. Most inflatable paddle board packages come with a manual hand pump to inflate your board, but there are differences in pump quality - so it’s important to consider what’s available before you buy.
A single chamber inflation pump blows air into your SUP only when depressing the handle.
A single chamber, dual action pump inflates on both the downstroke and the upstroke of the pump’s handle. This means faster inflation time.
A dual chamber pump inflates your SUP even faster because it has the capacity to pump in more air at the onset, and then convert to single chamber pumping for the final bit of inflation. A dual chamber pump will shorten your preparation time, but it will also be heavier and take up more space to transport.
If manual labor is not your style, then you need a 12V electric pump. Inflate your board in a fraction of the time with a pump powered by your car’s lighter or when attached to a portable power source.
An ankle leash is a necessary accessory every time you float on your inflatable SUP. It attaches to your ankle with a Velcro strap and the coiled leash secures to your board’s D-ring. If you fall off of your SUP, the ankle leash keeps your SUP close and prevents it from shooting across the water.
The nicest feature of an inflatable paddle board is the ability to travel with it anywhere, but in order to do so, you’ll need a SUP backpack. Most quality inflatable board packages include a backpack that can hold your deflated SUP, paddle, pump, fins, and necessary gear. Backpacks can differ in quality and storage space, and in the comfort of the shoulder straps.
For larger paddle boards or longer hikes, wheeled backpacks make for a nice upgrade.
A personal flotation device, or PFD, ensures your safety on the water and may even be legally required in certain locations. There are a variety of PFDs available, and their purpose is to keep you afloat if you were to fall into the water.
Some locations require any child twelve and under to wear a PFD when on a paddle board, while adults paddle boarding outside of a designated beach area must have a PFD on board for every passenger.
You can find paddle boards at discount stores and local sporting goods stores, but purchasing an inflatable SUP from a reputable paddle board company is preferred. Paddle board companies such as GILI, ISLE, iRocker, etc center their whole business around paddle boards, and continually improve their SUPs for a better paddle boarding experience.
Examine a company to see why they initially got into the paddle board business and review their customer service policy. If you have an issue with your paddle board, it’s important to have the option to speak with a representative and address your specific concerns.
Some paddle board companies think beyond the commercial aspect of selling paddle boards and work to improve our oceans. GILI Sports’ mission statement states that a portion of every paddle board purchase supports ocean conservation efforts.
Buying a quality paddle board can be a big investment, but one worth considering. Inflatable paddle boards are cheaper than solid paddle boards and are perfect for beginners. You don’t want to buy an inexpensive board that will not hold up to repetitive use.
When looking to spend less, you must still consider the construction of the board and examine the included accessories. Prices can differ based on the quality of the paddles, pumps, and backpack included with your purchase. Look at the big picture to find an affordable board with quality accessories included.
Make sure your paddle board includes a warranty! This is another reason to purchase from reputable paddle board companies, because they stand by the quality of their products with either one or two year warranties. Some companies even include a money back guarantee to ensure you’re satisfied with your purchase.
Most paddle board companies ship their products quickly and free of charge. Your inflatable paddle board will come packaged in a large box that contains everything you need to hop onto the water. If your paddle board is not what you envisioned, use your company’s satisfaction guaranteed policy to discuss your options for return.
Now that you’ve reviewed the various board types and designs, it’s up to you to determine which inflatable paddle board is best for you. Knowing how you intend to use the board is the best guide when choosing.
If you want a board to float with friends and try SUP yoga, then an all around board is perfect for a wide range of uses. If you’re a more experienced paddler and want to plan a long distance journey down the coast, then you should look for a long, narrow touring SUP for best performance.
You’ve been given a lot of information, but now you’re versed in how to buy an inflatable paddle board! Consider the activities you hope to enjoy, the shape and the weight capacity of the board, and the included accessories when you’re looking for the right paddle board.
The perfect board is out there waiting for you!
When determining the best size paddle board, you need to consider the length, width, and weight capacity. The wider the board, the more stable it will be, while a longer board will be faster on the water. To determine the best board for you, consider the activities you hope to enjoy and follow some simple sizing guidelines.
For an all around board and general recreational use, simply ensure you are within the recommended weight capacity for your board and it will perform well. If you’re looking to tour or race your SUP, you’ll want to dive deeper into the board’s specifics to find a board of optimal dimensions for your measurements.
A quality inflatable paddle board typically costs between $500 - $1200 and includes a quality board constructed for durability as well as the accessories you need to hop on the water. It is possible to find a cheap paddle board of good quality. Examine the included paddle, pump, backpack, and included gear to find quality components that will last.
The amount you spend on an inflatable paddle board depends on how you want to use it. If you are a beginner and want to test out the sport, you would do well with an inexpensive all around board for general recreation.
If you’re looking to travel to unique locations, to try out SUP fishing, or hope to paddle with friends, then you want a higher quality board that will hold up to frequent use and have attachment points and storage space for your adventures.
Remember the old adage; you get what you pay for - and let this help guide your decision. A quality board that’s built to last is worth the investment and will provide you with many years of use.
If you’re taking into account all the considerations that come with determining how to buy an inflatable paddle board, chances are you’ll want to think about what to do with your board once you’ve bought it. As such, you should brush up on how to properly care for your iSUP.
To protect your inflatable paddle board and to help it last longer, you should rinse it with fresh water after each use - especially if you were in salt water. Clean and dry your board before transport and storage. If your board is laden with sand, dirt, or water scum, wash it with soap and water or an inflatable boat cleaner.
Store your paddle board out of direct sunlight to prevent fading or damage to the quality of the board. You can leave your paddle board inflated as long as it is stored out of direct sunlight, but you will lengthen the lifespan of your board if you deflate it periodically.
An inflatable paddle board can typically last 3-5 years or more when cared for properly, though. the lifespan is reduced if it’s constructed with low quality materials.
A single layer board will not be as durable as one with dual layer construction, and will be more likely to puncture. A higher quality board will have reinforced seams to resist degradation of the glue that can cause a leak. Look for warranty information when purchasing a paddle board to protect your purchase.
Many factors determine how you pick an inflatable paddle board, as we have covered in this guide. To determine how to pick the right paddle board for your needs, consider what activities you’ll be using the board for. An all around board adapts to multiple activities, but a surfing board is tailored to ride the waves. Consider the weight capacity to ensure the board will support your weight as well as the weight of your gear.
Also, you need to consider the included package of accessories and the quality of the components, and look for warranties and guarantees with purchase. Buying from a reputable paddle board company protects you from being stuck with a low quality board that’s not built to last.
Yes! An inflatable SUP is less expensive than a solid paddle board and perfect for beginners. They provide a stable and rigid surface to enjoy most any paddle board activity including yoga, fishing, or touring. They are lightweight and easy to carry to the water.
The biggest advantage of buying an inflatable paddle board is that it can travel with you anywhere. An inflatable SUP can roll up to store in a backpack carried on your back as you hike to remote lakes and rivers. Plus an iSUP does not require a roof rack or big truck and can easily be tossed in the trunk for your trip to the beach.
Yes. Inflatable paddle boards are ideal for beginners because they are less expensive than solid boards, and are stable and lightweight enough to manage. A SUP with a round nose, a tri-fin design, and wide deck will help any beginner to succeed on a paddle board.
Yes. Any paddle board purchase requires a small investment, and an inflatable paddle board is typically the better overall buy. You’ll get more use out of your inflatable SUP when you can easily travel with it anywhere. It takes up little storage space and you don’t need a roof rack or special equipment to haul it to the beach.
Quality inflatable paddle boards are crafted with durable materials designed to withstand frequent use with a low risk of puncture. When you stand on your board, it’s so rigid under your feet that you’d never guess that it’s not a hard material.
The best inflatable paddle board is the GILI Komodo.
The Komodo is a versatile all around inflatable paddle board that can be used for general recreation, SUP yoga, fishing, or paddling with your dog. It is made of durable PVC and backed by money back guarantee and a 2-year warranty and has a large comfortable deck pad, multiple D-rings, as well as action mounts to affix extra gear. Plus, GILI donates a portion of every purchase to ocean conservation efforts so you can feel good about your money going towards something worthwhile.
We recommend GILI Sports for your next paddle board purchase. As a reputable paddle board company, you’ll buy with the confidence that your paddle board was designed for paddle boarders - by paddle boarders. A company that specializes in paddle boards knows what makes a great board, and it will have the customer service and warranty to back their products.
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