The Inflatable Debate

When Going Soft Can be a Good Thing

Inflatable stand up paddleboards (SUPs) are becoming increasingly popular. And for good reason – they are significantly lighter than hard boards and are easily transportable and storable.

As a condo-dweller with very limited storage space, I am a huge fan of inflatable SUPs. I got my inflatable board about two years ago and it’s been one of the best purchases I have ever made. It fits in a large duffel bag and I can throw it into the trunk of my car and take it absolutely anywhere. I’ve explored many places in Ontario on my inflatable SUP – from flat water canals and ponds to 20+ kilometer river paddles (with rapids) on the Saugeen River.

Here’s a fast motion video of me rolling up my board from this past weekend. Compact, right?!

I get stopped all the time by people who have questions about my inflatable board because most people haven’t seen them before.  Here are some of the most common questions:

Are inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards durable?

Yes they are. Inflatable SUPs are made with a tough “drop stitch” material which makes them incredibly durable. This technology also enables inflatable SUPs to be inflated to an impressive 15 pounds per square inch (PSI), which makes them surprisingly very rigid (almost as rigid as a hard board).

How long do they take to pump up?

Most inflatable SUPs I’ve tried take about 5 minutes to pump up (and I must say, it’s 5 minutes of intense pumping). It can be a bit difficult, but hey, it’s a good way to get your heart rate up before you hit the water.

Here’s a fast-motion video of me pumping up my board this past weekend (in real-time it takes about 5 minutes to inflate to 11-12 PSI):

Are they tippy? And do inflatable SUPs handle differently than a hard board?

Inflatable SUPs will feel different than a hard board. Unless you have a really wide inflatable SUP (ie. one designed specifically for yoga), then an inflatable SUP will likely be a little less stable than a hard board.

If you want a board that you can SUP surf or manage well in rough waters, a hardboard may be a better choice. However, if you’re looking for a board that will handle well in flat water as well as a little rougher water, an inflatable will be just fine.

Where can I buy an inflatable SUP?

Inflatable SUPs are becoming increasingly popular, which means most companies that sell hardboards will typically have one or two inflatable models in stock.

My friend Katie was able to pick up an amazing inflatable SUP from Mountain Equipment Co-op at the end of this season for around $650 – which came with a high quality pump, lots of extra fins and a backpack for easy transport.

But you don’t need to head to a specialty surf or paddle shop…you can get a surprisingly decent inflatable board at places like Costco and Canadian Tire too.

How much are they?

Like hard boards, inflatable SUPs range greatly in price. Inflatable SUPs start at around $600 for a decent, entry level board and can go for as much as $1500+ for a higher quality, performance board.

Keep a look out for end of season sales. Many shops close up for the fall/winter season and they often do a big sell-off of their old SUPs at the end of the season. Also – check out used boards on Kijiji or other classified sites for great deals.

Toronto October SUP
Photo by: Shannon M at PaddleWagon
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