Whether you are a veteran stand-up paddleboarder or a beginner to the watersport, you are likely to wonder, Inflatable SUP Vs. Solid SUP, which one is better?
To clear some of the confusion and offer you a better insight into making a choice that fits your circumstances.
We’ll compare Both the inflatable and the solid SUP on their distinct characteristics based on the,
- Material types and construction
- Durability and lifespan
- Carrying capacity
- Specific uses of each SUP
- The PROS and CONS for each SUP
First the basics of inflatable and solid SUPs
What is an inflatable SUP?
An inflatable SUP, also known as an iSUP, is a board with a drop-stitch core and layers of PVC and woven fiber.
This combination provides a type of paddleboard that is exceptionally convenient and reasonably affordable, thanks to its design.
For example, you can go SUPing in challenging rapids without worrying about costly repairs. Plus, you can quickly deflate it for better portability.
However, to paddleboard with an iSUP, you’ll need to inflate it first, and this type of board is not the best for performance, speed, and agility.
In a nutshell, the inflatable SUP is ideal for a beginner or a recreational paddleboarder.
What is a solid SUP?
Solid SUP (also known as the epoxy paddleboard) is a traditional paddleboard that uses a foam core and materials like fiberglass, epoxy resin, plastic, and wood for construction.
It provides excellent performance for a high price.
For instance, it is about 5% faster in water compared to an iSUP. Additionally, this SUP will be easier to surf with as it is more agile.
You will generally pay more to get a solid SUP. Potentially, repairs can be more challenging, and each repair could be costly.
As such, the solid SUP is suitable for an experienced and competitive paddleboarder.
Material types and construction
Common materials and construction – Inflatable boards
You can classify the inflatable boards by the number of layers in their core. The core of older iSUPs was only one layer, while modern ones are fusion or two-layered.
The core usually sports drop-stitch technology. Afterward, an adhesive layer, PVC, covers it and shapes the board. As for the deck, manufacturers prefer the EVA foam.
Let’s take a look at the materials and methods,
Drop-stitch refers to two sheets of fabric that are parallel and linked via thousands of threads. This technique is common in almost all iSUP constructions.
The Drop-stitch core is the inflatable SUPs bladder. It retains the shape of the board when it’s inflated.
PVC, or polymerized vinyl chloride, is used to connect the core fabrics near the ends. This plastic is lightweight and ideal for iSUPs
Flexible PVC is simple to use and allows for precise shaping. The result is a more efficient SUP board.
Typically, EVA or ethylene-vinyl acetate closed-cell copolymer foam covers the deck of an iSUP. Additionally, advanced patterns in the deck pad provide comfort and anti-slip properties.
Common materials and construction – solid boards
There are a few types of solid SUP boards. Such as the epoxy board and the soft-top board. These boards are easy to recognize from their construction method.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the construction materials and methods,
*Fiberglass and epoxy
Typically a foam core is covered with epoxy resin or polyepoxides. Then fiberglass or its composite becomes the primary construction material for the board.
These are the two most popular materials for constructing a solid SUP.
*Plastic and foam
Soft top SUP boards feature EPS core foam with the rotomolded plastic reinforced body. These boards boast a soft deck of EVA foam.
Plastic and foam are crucial construction materials for the soft top SUP. These boards are a hybrid of the iSUP and the epoxy SUP.
Paddleboards with carbon construction come with a similar foam core, but most of the board sports Carbon layers instead of epoxy resin or fiberglass.
The carbon fiber SUP is relatively expensive, but it offers the best lightweight and durable boards.
Wood SUPs come with a hollow wood frame that acts as the board’s core. It’s also the best material for handcrafting your SUP.
The wood SUP is expensive, and most retro boards require a lot of maintenance. However, these SUPs are the most elegant among the solid SUPs.
Will a solid or inflatable paddleboard last longer?
The iSUP is the most durable of the two SUP types. However, this durability is not absolute. The iSUP will last less time than a solid SUP if left with no protection in the sunlight for extended periods when not in use.
If you are going for river running or paddling in rocky waters, you should bring an inflatable SUP. After all, an inflatable is pretty sturdy, and it won’t cost much to repair.
However, if you are not careful with your fiberglass board, you will most likely end up with dings and scratches in your expensive craft.
The inflatable SUP will last longer against impact-based damage, but the solid SUP will fare better against the UV-rays.
Which SUP can hold more weight?
The iSUP is more buoyant and weighs less than the solid SUP due to its construction and inflatable nature. These qualities allow the iSUP to carry more weight.
In general, the inflatable SUP has a better volume number per cubic liter, making it very buoyant. Plus, the iSUP materials ensure that the board is lightweight and has more capacity to support the paddler and cargo weight. (obviously, we are going on the assumption that the SUP is correctly inflated).
In contrast, the solid SUP has a smaller volume number, and it has a much heavier presence in the water, so it can’t carry as much weight as the iSUP.
The inflatable SUP can hold more weight. (when adequately inflated)
Specific uses for each paddleboard
The Inflatable SUP is versatile and is suited to a wide range of activities and is best for:
- Recreational paddling
- Learning how to paddle a SUP
- SUP fishing
- SUP yoga
- Kids SUPing
A high-quality solid SUP provides excellent speed and maneuverability. Solid SUPs are ideal for:
- SUP racing
- Long-distance traveling
- SUP surfing
- SUPing in choppy waters and waves
PROS & CONS of each SUP
There are various advantages and disadvantages of an inflatable SUP. These are:
- Compact and highly portable
- High carrying capacity
- Less maneuverability than the solid SUP
- Needs inflating before paddling
- Slower than the hard-shell SUP
Similarly, solid SUPs also have many benefits and drawbacks.
- Faster in the water
- More maneuverable
- Very rigid
- Ready to go at any time with no inflation
- Less portable
- Requires more space to store
Still can’t decide? Here are some tips for picking your ideal SUP?
With all of the above in mind, here are some tips you can use to find the perfect SUP for your needs.
If you are a beginner or have little experience, consider purchasing an inflatable SUP. After all, they are pretty affordable, and any mistakes you make will cost you less.
If you are an expert and want to compete in a race, surf the waves, or go for a long ocean expedition, the solid SUP will offer you impeccable performance.
Note: There are exceptions among these SUP types. Not all iSUP will be inexpensive, and some solid SUPs will not be very fast.So, it’s better to focus on the characteristics of each board before you pick it.
A paddleboard that is well-designed and sturdy can easily enhance your SUPing experience. In contrast, an unsuitable board can ruin your weekend just the same.
So, take your time when choosing your SUP.
But don’t take too long as fun adventures await.
Guru thought: Any exercise is better than none. Any time spent in the water is better than none, so get out there and have some fun.