Stand-up paddleboarding is also known as SUP, and when you specifically talk about inflatable stand-up paddleboarding, it’s then ISUP. This sport, whether done on inflatables or not, is not only one of the planet’s fastest-growing sports, but actually the fastest growing in many areas. There are good reasons for this. It’s an excellent way to get exercise, it’s seriously entertaining and possibly most essential, it’s so simple to learn that nearly anyone can do it.
So, if you’re looking to join the growing ranks of this exciting sport, it’s certainly an understandable desire. On the other hand, picking the right SUP can be a pretty difficult task if you’re totally new to it. One choice that many new participants lean towards are inflatables, which have numerous advantages over other kinds of SUPs. Keep reading to learn what you should know about ISUPs before you go shopping.
To start with, you should know the perks and pros of getting an inflatable stand-up paddleboard. There are quite a few, which explains their serious popularity even withing a very popular sport.
For starters, they’re incredibly easy to transport. ISUP owners cite this reason more than any other for owning one. When an ISUP is deflated, they’re quite small and compact. They can even be stuffed into a backpack or duffel bag. That means you can move them easily in your car or boat, and you can even haul them onto an airplane. Some people even carry them on cruise ships to use at the best beaches they visit. None of this is really possible if you have a fiberglass board.
Secondly, ISUPs are much softer than harder materials like fiberglass boards. That means if you fall, and you will at times, you’re going to have a much softer surface to land on. You will likely fall more when still learning the sport than later, but even the best still take spills once in a while. Even if you use your ISUP in warm weather and gentle waters, paddling out into the waves enough times involves falls. This is really ideal for children and beginners.
Stability is also something else to consider. Interestingly enough, inflatable stand-up paddleboards are possibly more stable than even the harder boards. This makes the sport more fun and less arduous.
As a corollary about the first point regarding portability, the minimal profile of a deflated ISUP also makes storage a simple matter. You don’t need a storage shed or precious space in your garage to hang a large hardboard. A shelf in a closet or even some space under your bed is all you need. Deflate your board, roll it up into a carry bag, and stow it someplace easy. Some owners of hardboards living in apartments or condos like to leave their boards out on their deck, but then theft is a risk, and many residential communities prohibit such sights. ISUPs skip all these hassles.
Durability is perhaps a surprising benefit of ISUPs. They are so robust that they are honestly better able to deal with rocky shores and river paddling. ISUPs are not weak, and they can just bounce off of rocks that might ding fiberglass boards.
One more benefit ISUPs have might not apply to everyone, but if you own a dog, they can be great. They’re so stable that your pup can sit onboard without sliding around on his paws like can happen if you take him out on a fiberglass board.
Having read all that, you might be salivating at the thought of buying an ISUP, and given all the benefits, it might be the right decision. Anything that gets you involved in the world of paddleboarding can only be a good thing, right? Unfortunately, ISUPs aren’t perfect, so keep reading to learn some of the downsides. You should know these too before you go shopping so you can make a proper decision. Balance is crucial in paddleboarding, after all.
The biggest potential drawback might be that of maneuverability. Fiberglass and hardshell boards are typically shaped for faster response and sleek design. While every model is different, for the most part, ISUPs just don’t have the reaction times or maneuverability more conventional boards offer users.
Also, rigidity can be an issue. For the most part, inflatables just don’t get as rigid as fiberglass boards do. You can counter this to some degree by inflating them up to the appropriate air level and have a good time. However, their performance level in this area likely won’t compete with hard shells.
Cost is of course going to be a concern anytime you go shopping. You might be drawn towards inflatables thinking they’re going to be cheaper than fiberglass options. After all, they’re mostly just air inside, right? Ironically enough, most ISUPs are just as expensive as hard shells. It’s still a case of getting what you pay for, so don’t skimp here.
Flex is something you’ll have to deal with. Flex is typically defined as the sinking that happens in the middle of an inflatable stand-up paddleboard. Fortunately, you can counter this with more air pressure. The heavier a user is and the less air pressure there is in the ISUP, the more likely there is to be flex in the middle of the board when out on the water. Proper inflation for a quality board should prevent this from happening.
When shopping ISUPs, take a hard look at the outline shape, thickness, width, and length. These are the crucial factors in determining the versatility of the board, especially if you want to use the same one for all sorts of paddling. Here is a great site that has a ton of Reviews on ISUP’s.
Also consider the kind of fin system that might work best for you. Permanently attached fins that are unbreakable might be good for beginners looking for a carefree experience. However, configurable systems let you get more technical and adapt your board for different settings and style of paddleboarding.