Paddleboarding is an excellent way to spend your weekend.
Finding balance, seeing new places, watching the sun go down from your paddle board as the sun's orange and red rays bounce off the waves; it’s hard to beat.
You may have rented a few boards or maybe you just witnessed someone's adventure on the water and thought, I need that in my life.
Inflatable Paddle Board vs Fiberglass: How Are They Built?
Obviously, the biggest difference between a fiberglass SUP and an iSUP is how they are made.
Your traditional hard boards are built behind the concept of using an E.P.S foam core for buoyancy. The foam core is surrounded by fiberglass, various types of wood, or carbon fiber to protect it from the water. If for you ever were to get a crack in your fiberglass, the board would start to take on water, essentially turning it into an anchor.
Every manufacturer makes their boards differently, but most all use what it called “drop stitching” and materials like military grade PVC or other hard rubbers. When Properly inflated, usually around 15 psi, iSUPs feel just as hard as a fiberglass board.
How does the Performance Stack up?
The last thing you want to do is buy a paddleboard that’s not going to do the things you want. Before you invest you need, to be honest with yourself and ask the following questions:
Am I just going to ride around on the lake casually?
Is speed or being able to surf waves important to me?
Depending on how you answer, you’ll have a better understanding of what type of board will work best for you.
If you want to do any racing or surfing, then you’re going to want to invest in a hard board. They are more rigid than inflatables, giving the rider more control and faster response times in the water. Also, they are just flat out faster than an inflatable board.
A lot of riders tend to believe it's the amount of friction caused by inflatables on the water, whatever it is, iSUPs have a noticeable amount of drag when compared to a hard board. However, if you want a board just to take to the lake and ride around on all day or for yoga, inflatables have a softer surface that will be easier on your body.
Transportation & Storage
When it comes down to an inflatable paddle board vs fiberglass, transportation & storage can play a huge factor in what you need. Not all of our vehicles are equipped with roof racks or truck beds, so this is an area where inflatables shine.
Hard boards are one HUGE solid piece making transporting it to the water a challenge in and of itself, not to mention finding a place to store it in your home. Now, if you have a roof rack, truck, or don’t mind just tying it down on the roof of your car, then it’s a pretty easy process to transport. However, if you plan to go long distance, you need to take extra precautions to make sure your board doesn’t get dinged or cracked by rocks while you’re driving. You’ll have to invest in a nice padded bag to place over the board to make sure it gets to the water safely.
An inflatable paddle board is so easy anyone can do it, without any training. Most inflatable paddle boards come with a travel bag these days, but even if you buy one that doesn’t, you can deflate it, roll it up, and place it in a duffle bag--how easy is that! Storage too, an inflatable will fit in just about any closet making it a great choice if you have a limited amount of space.
What's the difference in Durability?
Let’s be honest here, whether you choose to buy a hard paddle board or an inflatable; it’s going to be an investment. No board is really “cheap,” only less expensive. And that’s fine, you’re not going to need to buy a board every few months, you want one that will last for years to come.
Hardboards, no matter the material: fiberglass, bamboo, or carbon fiber, they all get scratches or cracks eventually. Scratches, while they may bum you out, they aren’t going to affect the performance of the board. However, deep cuts or cracks will. If water gets into your board, you run the risk of warping the board rendering it useless. There are DIY kits to fix cracks, but I would recommend that with serious cracks you take your board into a local shop and have a professional look at it.
I’m sure the biggest hang up you have about an inflatable SUP is the preconceived notion that it's not durable. When in fact, they are extremely durable. You don’t have to worry about scratches at all, and the material a high-quality iSUP is made from won’t be punctured by anything you come across in your lake. Should you get a small hole, they’re easy to repair yourself--except any holes around the seams.
What are the Pros and Cons of Each?
Both types of boards have their strengths and weaknesses, so you can’t make a wrong choice if you get a board that excels in what you want it too.
Fiberglass boards are faster and more responsive on the water, making them a better option for surfing and racing or for a rider that wants more control over their board.
You don’t have to inflate once you get to the water, which translates to more time on the water!
An iSUP is easy to transport, especially if you want to get to a water hole that might require a hike to get there. You can just load them in a backpack, making no water inaccessible!
Inflatables aren’t going to get scratched up, which will keep them looking nicer, longer.
iSUPs are softer, making them more comfortable for longer adventures on the water. Also, if you fall off your board, you’re less likely to get hurt for colliding with your board.
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