Inflatable vs Solid Paddleboards: Differences, Pros & Cons

When getting a paddle board, you have a choice between hard/solid/rigid ones and inflatable ones. The choice isn’t an easy one to make since both types of boards have their individual advantages and disadvantages.

While inflatable paddle boards are convenient in that they can be fold-able for easy storage and transportation, the solid ones offer better maneuverability on the water and are always ready to go. In the end, the choice is yours as there are a lot of subjective aspects to consider.

In this article, we compare the two in real-world scenarios to help you make a better choice between them. In our view, however, it all boils down to your situation in terms of the amount of storage you have, your budget, and the water conditions you’re going to face.

The Differences

When choosing between the two types of paddle boards, the main differences are as follows:

1. Form

As their respective names suggest, the two boards are different in their forms. The inflatable ones come as balloon-like items that are foldable when deflated. On the other hand, the solid boards can’t be folded or deflated but retain the same shape at all times.

2. Material

While the inflatable paddle boards are made of tough PVC material that changes shape depending on the amount of air in them, the solid boards may be made of other materials such as fiberglass, foam, wood, plastics and Kevlar with an epoxy lining although tough solid PVC is still used highly.

3. Shape

While the boards have roughly the same shape, the shape of the solid boards tends to be sharper and more defined than the inflatable ones. Rather than corners and defined shapes, the inflatables adopt more curves and circular shapes given the behavior of air.

4. Weight

The weight of the two boards is another major difference. If both are ready to use (the inflatable ones filled with air), you can be sure that the solid one will weigh much more than the inflatable one.

5. Durability

When you drop both paddle boards, the solid one is likely to get dented or even broken if it’s from a high point. The inflatable one will not get damaged no matter the height you drop it from.

These aspects are what you need to base on when choosing between the two boards. As stated before, it all depends on your subjective decision.

Inflatable Paddle Board: the Advantages

a picture of an inflatable paddleboard

The reasons to go for the inflatable paddle board include the following aspects:

1. Convenience

One of the main reasons to get the inflatable SUP board is that it offers a lot of convenience in terms of storage and transportation. When not using it, you’ll simply deflate it, roll it up and fit it anywhere from a backpack to a suitcase to a bike. They weigh almost nothing and won’t be a bother at all. You don’t even need special carrying cases are they’ll fit just about anywhere.

2. They’re Tough Enough for All Conditions

There’s a misconception that inflatable paddle boards, being filled with air, are weaker than their solid alternatives. The truth is that inflatable paddle boards are made of very tough material which makes them tough enough to handle all water conditions including rocky ones.

As such, you don’t need to worry about the durability of the inflatable paddle boards.

3. They Offer Softer Landings

The inflatable paddle boards, being filled with air, offer better and softer landings as the layer of air absorbs most of the shock. This is great especially for rookies or after an injury.

Another aspect in this regard is that of having the board cushion your fall. This is only possible with an inflatable board as compared to solid ones which will injure you instead.

4. They Cost Less Than Solid Boards

Inflatables will cost a fraction of the cost of a solid board and best suited to when you’re on a budget.

As long you get a quality inflatable paddle board, you won’t need the solid ones unless it’s a specific situation. For the best board, go for one with at least 14 PSI as it guarantees a high drop stitch thread count. This is the number of stitches running from the top to the bottom of the board. The higher the stitch count, the better the board.

Solid Paddle Boards: the Advantages

Hard Paddleboard

The reasons to go for a solid paddle board over an inflatable one include the following:

1.  They’re Ready to Use

Unlike the inflatable alternative which needs to be inflated before use, your solid paddle is always ready to hit the water. It may take about 10 minutes to fully inflate a paddle board before using it. For the solid ones, you simply take it out of the storage area and you’re ready to have some fun.

2.  They’re Better for Maneuvering Water

Solid boards are more responsive to the behavior of the water and thus offer you a better chance at staying in control. This is especially handy when the water is choppy as you’ll feel every move in time to respond as needed.

This is also important for competitions which use the solid boards as it allows for proper speed and performance of tricks. They’re also faster.

3. They’re More Reliable

While inflatable paddle boards are as reliable as their solid alternatives, the solid ones triumph in this department. You’re sure that the board won’t get punctured by some tough material underwater.

Also, if the inflatable board isn’t pressurized to the recommended point, it’ll have a shaky structure which can make it hard keeping under control. It also exposes you to objects underwater as it offers very little protection in that unstable state.

4. They Last Longer

Given the same conditions, a solid paddle board will outlive an inflatable one. PVC doesn’t fare well with exposure to the sun and other harsh conditions. As such, while more expensive, the solid paddle boards make it up with lasting long.

Go for a quality board and you’ll have nothing to regret with this type of paddle board. You have a choice between various materials such as fiberglass, foam and others all of which are great. The best of them all, however, are the composite ones which are made of various types of materials for better all-round performance.


To choose between the two types of boards, consider the aspects we dealt with above in terms of the form, material, weight, shape, weight and durability. Essentially, you need a board suited to your specific aims be they leisure or competition. Lastly, your budget is also a major factor to consider. 

Further SUP Ideas & How-tos

The following is a collection of more Stand up paddleboarding ideas and board guides

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