Virtually every major manufacturer of stand up paddleboards now makes at least one inflatable SUP (iSUP), if not an entire range. There are also a few companies which exclusively manufacture iSUPs, such as Southern California industry stalwart ULI Boards, the UK’s Red Paddle Co and Los Angeles-based 360 Go Anywhere. Inflatable SUPs are growing in popularity around the world and for good reason. There are a number of advantages to owning an iSUP and in the section below we’ll highlight a few of the top reasons why an iSUP might be a good option for you.
Easy to store
One of the first challenges facing any prospective SUP owner is the age old question, “Where will I store it?” iSUPs eliminate this hurdle due to the fact that when deflated, they don’t take up a lot space. Many manufacturers, such as SIC, offer a purpose built backpack for storing and easily transporting your iSUP. You don’t have to worry about building a rack or devising a way to hang a board from the rafters or rearranging much at all to store an iSUP.
Travelling with a SUP is a hassle. Many commercial airlines balk at shipping a board and even if they do, there is a high probability it can be damaged in transit. Continually loading and unloading your board at home can be tiresome or simply unfeasible for some paddlers. Inflatable SUPs eliminate these challenges by affording paddlers a compact, rolled up board just begging to go on a trip to a waterway near or far. Have you ever thought about paddling a lake or river that is off the beaten path. A backpack ready iSUP might just do the trick. Just show up and inflate.
Inflating the SIC X 12.6 Air Glide.
Inflatables are by far the best option for boaters looking to add a SUP or two to their maritime activities. With an iSUP, you don’t have to worry about scratching your boat or board when loading and unloading. An iSUP is also not going to be accidentally crushed beneath the swim deck on your boat when entering/exiting the water.
Owning a SUP is like owning a car. You know sooner or later it is going to get a ding. Not so with an iSUP. A lot of dings happen when you are moving your board in and out of storage. With an iSUP, you will most likely have it deflated and rolled up sitting there ready to grab and go. No dings! Carrying it to the water is perhaps the second most likely scenario for a ding to happen. With an inflatable SUP, should your board come into contact with something along the way, chances are that your iSUP will bounce right off. No dings!
Once on the water, your iSUP will bounce off other boards and obstructions. No dings! Try it, it might even be fun.
If you take care of your inflatable SUP, it should last a long time. Dings and cracks will degrade a traditional foam-based SUP over time. Reputable iSUPs are made with a durable tarpaulin fabric which resists tears and punctures. So long as it isn’t abused, your iSUP will probably last a lifetime.
Inflatable SUPs are incredibly versatile. You can use your iSUP on any body of water, easily travel with it on a train or airplane, load it in your vehicle or store it on your boat. One board can truly do it all. An iSUP = endless possibilities for paddling.
Great for beginners
Taku Araki and his son Shiru on an ULI Board learning to downwind paddle.
Inflatable SUPs are a great option for beginners and first time buyers. Chances are you will grow out of your first SUP and your original board will become a spare that you loan out to friends and family. This is particularly true if you become involved in the racing or surfing side of stand up paddling. By making an inflatable SUP your first purchase you will retain the benefit of the versatility of your first board, while at the same time making the most of precious storage space as your quiver of boards expands.
Beginners benefit from inflatable SUPs in that their new equipment is far less likely to be dinged or seriously damaged during the initial period of getting used to handling a board than it would with a traditional “hard” construction. Also, the risk of a bump or injury from falling on an iSUP is virtually nonexistent.
Is an inflatable SUP for you?
Inflatable SUPs have their advantages and can be a lot of fun. They are perfect for recreational paddling and some constructions, such as the ULI Boards, are as fast as “hard” boards under the right conditions and are proven to work well in downwinders – Japanese paddler Taku Araki finished 27th and won his division in the 2013 Molokai to Oahu race on a 14’ ULI Board.
Take a look at SUP Examiner’s Reviews section for our take on some of the popular makes and models of inflatable SUPs. If you don’t find what you are looking for, let us know, and we’ll do our best to obtain a sample for testing.