The Argument for Inflatable Paddleboards
By Lynn Smythe
I never thought I’d be a paddle boarder, I have a bit of water phobia and don’t really like going in water more than knee deep. Don’t get me started about that season I spent racing triathlons – that’s a story for another day. But for some reason, over the past few years, I’ve had a burning desire to learn how to standup paddle board. Must have been a mermaid in a former life or something?
I found a MeetUp Group near me that offered beginner paddle board lessons – Palm Beach Paddleboard – run by Vivian Caylor. Her group offered rentals and lessons for anyone interested so I signed up for an upcoming meeting and met with the group for the first time on May 27, 2017. I don’t remember really standing up during my first SUP adventure – that whole I’m terrified of water thing was in full force. So, during my first SUP tour I was fine with sitting and kneeling, standing could wait for another day.
But, I kept signing up for SUP tours and kept going out on the water. I’m not sure if I’m totally over my water phobia but, unless a really huge boat speeds by creating a HUGE wake, I’m mostly standing during my paddle board trips. With rentals from most SUP outfitters ranging from $25 to $40 for 2 to 3 hours I knew going out 1 to 3 times per week could start to get costly. So, that’s why 2 months later I decided it was time to buy my own board.
Hardboard vs Inflatable SUPs
I like hardboards, but living in a small, 2nd floor apartment that was already filled with 3 bicycles (I was the Bike Diva in a previous life) and driving a sub SUV (read car with hatchback) I didn’t have a way to transport or store a large hardboard. I started researching inflatable standup paddle boards (iSUP) to see if they were a feasible alternative to my SUP dilemma. Inflatables have the advantage of fitting into a relatively small carrying bag (think large backpack) when not in use so you can store them in a small closet then easily transport them in your car.
At first I thought an inflatable wouldn’t be anything but a glorified pool toy but then I started to notice more and more people with inflatable boards during my weekly paddling adventures. I even noticed that a few of the girls that paddled with their dogs actually owned iSUPs so I figured they must be pretty sturdy. See my companion article SUP with Pups on how to get started paddle boarding with your fur baby.
Best iSUP Package
I did quite a bit of research looking for the best iSUP that fit within my budget – I was looking for a complete package in the $500 to $700 price range. I was confident that I’d be able to find a decent board with all the necessary accessories without having to take out a small loan.
The Isle Peak iSUP consistently showed up as one of the top rated inflatables on many blogs and review sites. When inflated the board measures 10′ 6″ long by 31″ wide by 6″ deep and only weighs 23 pounds. Most hardboards weigh in the 30 pound plus range so this was a nice change.
I liked the fact that the Peak inflatable standup paddle board was offered as a complete package that included:
- Isle Peak iSUP
- High pressure pump
- SUP fin
- Adjustable paddle
- Safety coil leash
- Patch kit (haven’t needed it yet – knock on wood)
- Carrying backpack with padded shoulder pads
My iSUP is made by Isle Surf and SUP based out of San Diego, California. That’s a bit far for a road trip (I’m in Florida) but I did the happy dance when I found the Isle Peak listed on Amazon. I’m an Amazon Prime member and got FREE 2-day shipping. I don’t know how they managed to mail such a bulky, heavy package in only 2-days but it arrived in record time.
Inflatable paddle boards can take a bit more time to setup compared to their hardboard counterpart. Heck, with a hardboard all you do is throw it on the water and you’re good to go. With an iSUP you have to use a hand pump or electrical pump with a car lighter adapter to inflate the board. The Isle Peak iSUP package included a 2-stage pump; high volume to quickly inflate it to about 80% then flip the switch to the high pressure setting to finish inflating the board to 15 psi.
I have AMAZING legs from running and cycling but rather wimpy arms (picture a T-REX) – so, it can be a bit of a challenge to inflate my board. But it usually takes under 10 minutes and (bonus points) pumping it up gives me a quick upper body workout. No worries getting overheated inflating the board in hot and humid south Florida, just pop over to the water and ‘accidentally’ fall off your board for instant cooling!
Isle Peak iSUP Gallery
Click on any of the photos below to see full size images of me setting up and enjoying my Isle Peak inflatable paddle board. #ISLEsup
Do you own an iSUP or a hardboard? I’d love to hear your comments on which type of standup paddle board you prefer. Leave a comment at the end of this blog post or message me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final Verdict: To iSUP or Not
I’m really glad that I bought my own paddle board. How sturdy is an iSUP? You do have to make sure you inflate it to full capacity as recommended by the manufacturer. Isle recommends inflating their Peak iSUP to 15 psi – those last few pumps to get it to that pressure takes a lot of upper body strength. I may decide to purchase an electric pump in the not too distant future to make this task a bit easier on my T-REX arms. Electric pumps don’t save you very much time but, they’re perfect if you lack upper body strength or just don’t want to turn into a hot, sweaty mess while inflating your board.
So, how does an inflatable board perform compared to a hardboard? Hardboards give you a very hard, solid surface to balance on so I found that my iSUP feels a little more tipsy. It takes a little bit more effort to standup and balance on an inflatable but you’ll get used to it in no time. Also, I find the iSUP is little more sluggish when compared to a hardboard standup paddle board.
Isle has a great article on their website comparing iSUPs to hardboards and mentions, “When it comes to paddle board performance, hard paddle boards provide optimal performance compared to inflatables. Hard paddle boards are more agile, have better glide and are easier to catch waves when SUP surfing. In other words, hard paddle boards are the best option if you plan to use your paddle board for SUP surfing, SUP racing, or long-distance expeditions.”
Do I recommend getting an iSUP? Absolutely – perfect solution if you don’t have a large storage space at home and/or drive a small car. Do I still want a hardboard standup paddle board? Absolutely – I would love to get a touring SUP in the 12′ 6″ range. But until I move into my own home or rent an apartment with a garage, and switch to a full size SUV, I’m content to paddle my iSUP along the Intracoastal waterways of south Florida.