Overall, inflatable SUP’s have more durability, portability, weight, versatility, and injury prevention advantages. Therefore, they’re the best choice for all-around leisure paddling. However, if you’re looking for a board mainly for SUP surfing or racing, then hardboards might be your ideal choice, as they offer better glide and speed on the water.
Benefits of Inflatable SUPs:
Portability & Storage - The biggest advantage of inflatables is that they are easy to store and transport. You don’t need a large van or SUV because inflatables roll up to the size of a sleeping bag when deflated. In addition, most inflatable kits tend to be about the size of a suitcase, making them easy to fit in a closet, car, and even a travel bag so you can fly with them when you go on vacation.
Durability - Inflatables are surprisingly more durable than hard boards, even though they’re softer. In fact, they are significantly harder to damage and will withstand chipping, scratches, and accidental run-ins with rocks. Most inflatables are made from military-grade PCV, which provides more protection than a hardboard. Despite their firmness, inflatables have softer decks which makes them less likely to hurt should you fall on it.
Lighter and More Stable - Inflatables are typically more lightweight than hardboards with the same dimensions and offer greater weight support. They usually have more volume and higher weight capacities which can help when it comes to stability on the water. This is especially helpful for beginners who are new to paddleboarding and want something they can ride recreationally. The additional stability also makes them better for activities such as SUP yoga.
Benefits of Hard SUPs:
Performance - While inflatables offer greater weight support and stability, hardboards provide more speed and maneuverability. Hardboards have a better glide, maintain better momentum, and are easier to catch waves when SUP surfing. They are the best option if you plan to use your paddleboard for SUP surfing, SUP racing, or long-distance adventures.
Easier to Manage - If you have space for storage and a way to transport one, you’ll get into the water quicker with a hardboard than an inflatable SUP. You don’t have to worry about inflating a board before going into the water or deflating a board when you get out.