Rigid Versus Inflatable – Which Stand Up Paddleboard Should I Buy?

Since I bought my first board which was a rigid one, inflatable SUPs have come a long way.  I lived in a totally different situation and at the time the rigid was the best way to go.  I have since purchased an inflatable for the same reason, it suits my current lifestyle which is now not only on the other side of the world but about as different as you could get in every other way as well!

I have outlined the differences I have discovered between the two board types to give you a better idea of which one will suit you the best.  The list is by no means exhaustive but considers things you may not have thought of and represents my experience with each of the boards I have.  For more information on either of the boards please visit our ‘FAQ‘ page

 RigidInflatable
StorageDifficult if you live in a confined space such as a flat. Plan ahead for where you will store the board.  How long is it?  Will you need to store it inside your home? How will you get it inside? This board type is not a good option if you have lift access or if you will need to navigate a stairwell.  You might want to consider your ceiling height if you are storing it inside as moving it about will be easier if you have a higher ceiling height.  How big are your rooms/entrance hall, will you be able to move it about?  Your best option is storing in a garage or garden shed, check the board dimensions to ensure that it will fit especially for longer boards of 11-12 foot long.Easy, the bag is the size of a large backpack and will fit into most cupboards.  It is wise to store it away from heating units.
PerformanceMore stable than inflatable boards.  They also are easier to manoeuvre and have less resistance when moving through the water, that is they tend to glide more.  Rigid boards are more suited to catching waves or SUP surfing.I find my inflatable a little less stable than my rigid.  My inflatable is 10’ where as my rigid is 10’6”. Stability usually has more to do with the width of the board but I feel that my inflatable seems to bounce over the waves a little more than a rigid.  I have even noticed that it seems to bounce more so than SUP Blokes inflatable which is 10’6”
TransportYou need roof racks – but hey, who doesn’t want to drive around with a board on their roof!  Depending on your roof racks, security of the board may be an issue if you need to park and leave your vehicle unattended.  This can also be an issue if you have a tall car like a four wheel drive and have limited height restrictions accessing where you park your vehicle such as an underground car park or your garage.Easy!  Inflatable boards fit in pretty much any car and I would go so far as to say you shouldn’t have much trouble taking them on public transport if you wanted to.
Plane TravelYou will have to check with your airline as a rigid board is oversized and there may be an extra charge.  While many people travel with boards on planes all the time, the difficultly of handling and shape may make them more likely to get damaged accidentally.  Either way rigid or inflatable you do take a chance when travelling with them on planes.Easy!  We check ours in as checked baggage within the normal weight limits, (we have a hand held scale that we carry with us to check).  You may have to deposit and collect your bag at the oversized check in desk.
Set UpNo need to inflate, just take it out of it’s cover bag and straight onto the  water!Inflating and putting on fins takes a little time but the good news is that this warms you up so if the water and weather are a little chilly it’s less noticeable!
Ease and Comfort of CarryingEven though both of my boards are 10kg I would say that the rigid is more difficult to carry, it rubs against my hip which can be uncomfortable especially if there is a long portage to the water, also the hand hole cuts into my hand more (this might be more a design issue not present in other brands).  I find my rigid board is more difficult to carry when it’s windy as the wind can push it about quite a lot and it will do more damage if it hits a bystander or lands on your foot!The inflatable is a bit softer against my hip as I am transporting to the waters edge.  Also the fabric handle is a little more forgiving.  I also find that I can wedge the paddle into the elastic straps on the front of the board and pin it with my forearm which is carrying the board, freeing my other arm up to stabilize the board if it’s windy.  Inflatables generally have a handle on each end as well as in the middle which makes it easier to carry between two people.
Transport by Trolly

I would say a trolly is almost a necessity with a rigid board if you have more than 20 meters to the waters edge.  I find myself having to keep stopping for a rest if the water is a long way away – maybe I’m just soft!!  I’d especially say this is a good idea if you are walking over soft sand as that just makes everything harder work.  Yes trolleys are going to have a harder time on soft sand than firm ground but I find it easier.  Using a trolly also ensures your board doesn’t get dirty from putting it down to rest which saves you having to clean it off to put back in it’s bag if there is no hose/tap nearby.

 

I haven’t used my trolly for my inflatable as it’s on the other side of the world at the moment and I haven’t found I’ve needed to buy a new one.  There are probably 2 reasons for this;

 

  1. I paddled mainly at a reef protected beach in Australia with my rigid and when the tide was out it went out a long way and there was a lot of sand to traverse.
  2. In Scotland/Europe with my inflatable most of my paddling is in lochs (lakes) or coastlines where the waters edge isn’t as far away from where we can park.  I’ve also found there seems to be more grass nearby where we can inflate closer to the water.

If I were to use the trolly for an inflatable SUP I would think it would be easier to manoeuvre than the inflatable as there is a handle on the front to pull it by.  My rigid didn’t have this and I found it hard to maintain grip.

LongevityQuality plays a large part in the life of any board however a rigid board is designed to last longer than an inflatableInflatable boards don’t tend to last as long rigid boards.  What you pay for is generally what you get so go for the best quality you can afford.
DamageDepending on where you are paddling I would say the rigid is a stronger board and less likely to be damaged however…Inflatable boards are now designed to be a lot more forgiving in rocky environments.
Carrying equipmentMost rigid boards don’t really have anything to secure any sort of load if you are wanting to take things like a water bottle, dry bags, reef/surf shoes, food, camera equipment, camping gear…Most inflatables have an elasticised attachment on the front, and some on the rear to which you can attach anything you want to take with you, we’ve even been able to roll up the SUP back pack and paddle and attach it instead of having to leave it on shore unattended (if it’s not possible to store in your car)
Inflatable Boards on the beautiful sandy beaches of Scotlands Isle of Harris

Stay tuned, next week when we look at Christmas Gifts your SUP Chick or SUP Bloke really want.  Do you have a favourite SUP location that you think should be added here?  Contact us on the ‘Contact’ tab and we’ll include it in a later post.

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