So, iSUP Vs Solid SUP: apart from the obvious differences – one type of stand up paddle board being filled with air, the other being a hard shell SUP – what exactly are the differences in terms of performance between and inflatable and hard SUP? Here Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co. looks at the pros and cons of both designs.
Air filled boards are the most popular type of SUP in the UK and Europe, and this doesn’t look like changing. If you stop and think about it the advantages are tangible.
SUPs are by their very nature big and cumbersome. Anything that can alleviate the strain of storage and transport is going to be welcome. iSUPs are particularly popular for families, city dwellers and/or those with limited options in terms of transport. Overseas travel also plays a big part, although with stand up paddling still a fledgling sport there aren’t huge numbers of riders flying abroad with kit – yet.
As long as your inflatable SUP is manufactured from top line material (most commonly double layer Dropstitch like Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s inflatable’s are) then you should have a hard wearing rigid vehicle. This will transfer directly to better tracking (straight line pointing), glide (momentum from each stroke) and in some cases stability, although other factors do come into play here. Thickness should also be considered. In cases of long or particular wide iSUPs increasing the board’s thickness can help with rigidity.
A stable, non-bendy inflatable SUP will be much more fun to use. If you’re a tentative surfer then you’ll have a better experience (yes, you can surf inflatables in small waves), while your general all round paddling will also improve. Paddle strokes with a stiff iSUP will be much more efficient than using something akin to a banana. Beware of cheap iSUPs on the market as these don’t have the rigidity required for an enjoyable, and even safe, ride.
There are a few compromises with iSUPs though. PVC material, which most are made from, does ‘stick’ to the water slightly so speed isn’t quite as full throttle. Blow ups are also at the mercy of breezy conditions while the ‘bounce’ factor of inflatables is more than a hard board. That said they can be a good option for many.
While hard stand up paddle boards are always going to be more cumbersome to transport, store and move about, they’re still the best choice for paddlers looking to get the most efficiency from their paddling. Even when starting to SUP, a hard shell board will be much more reactive. It will deliver a truer sense of what’s going on under your feet and complete moves – whether flat water pivot turns or carves on wave faces – much more efficiently.
Although Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co. doesn’t offer a touring/race SUP (yet) this area is still the realm of hard boards for those who want to cover the most ground as quickly as possible. Inflatable technology is no doubt getting better but the fastest kit (as long as the paddler is also fast) remains the domain of hard SUPs, just…
Waves, in particular, highlight the benefits of being on a hard SUP. When a rider engages a rail/fin an epoxy SUP reacts almost instantly and delivers the redirect paddlers have in mind. It’s then down to he/she to draw lines as they intend, the only limiting factor being personal paddling/surfing skill.
When SUP racing, even on all water round nose boards, the benefits of hard stand up boards remain glaringly obvious. Hammer down with a high stroke cadence, plus efficient and refined paddle stroke, will see SUPers flying on a hard shell board. That said, if you’re out for simple fun on the water then all this talk of performance will have no real bearing – you’ll be having as much fun with either iSUP or hard shell machine. And that’s the way it should be…
For more info on any of Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s range of boards please don’t hesitate to give us a shout. Check out the rest of our range here – https://freshwaterbaypaddleboards.co.uk