Best Inflatable SUP Boards
iSUPs are fast gaining popularity in the world of outdoor recreation.
Whereas in the past, they may have been brushed aside by many people as a toy for children or beginners, folks are now opting for iSUPs for their numerous advantages over standard SUPs.
Top iSUP Picks: At A Glance
(links take you over to the iSUP on Amazon - more on them below)
But with the increase in popularity comes an increase in choices of brands and styles on the market. With a plethora of options available, it can be hard to differentiate the rubbish from the creme de la creme. So, this article will go through the basics and give you a rundown of the best inflatable SUP boards on the market.
What Is An iSUP And How Do They Work?
An iSUP is an Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board. Standard paddle boards are a hard shell made of rigid material (usually fiberglass) whereas inflatable stand up paddles boards can be inflated or deflated at your leisure.
Although you may not believe it, advancements in technology over the last few years have allowed inflatable SUPs to obtain a similar quality and feel to a rigid paddle board.
The high-end brands use “drop-stitch technology” which basically means that small fibers inside the board are able to interlock as the board is inflated, creating a tough surface for you to stand, kneel or sit on. The outer layer of the board is usually made of durable rubber, similarly to that used for white water rafts and life boats, along with PVC.
The science and technology behind the creation of these boards is quite remarkable and complex so we won’t get too deep into it, but suffice it to say that once inflated, an iSUP functions almost identically to a rigid SUP. However, there are some key differences to consider.
Advantages & Disadvantages Of An Inflatable SUP
Hard board SUPs can be up to 12 feet long and don’t fold or pack down in any way. This makes them hard to transport, particularly if you have a small car or are traveling in a group. Inflatable SUPs don’t just deflate, they can also be squeezed down small enough to fit in a large back-pack. This not only makes it easier to pack in the car, but also easier to pack away at home.
You can also fit an iSUP in your suitcase so you can take it on a plane. Most models weigh around 30lbs, whilst others can be even lighter so can easily fit it in your baggage allowance for an overseas trip. This is great if you’re traveling and want to use your own board rather than rent.
Easier To Carry
As well as being easy to take in transit, iSUPs are also easier to carry to and from the water. This comes in particularly handy if you want to go camping or hiking followed by a bit of paddle boarding.
Unless you fancy dragging a ten-foot board with you on the trail, an inflatable stand up paddles board is the only reasonable option in this scenario.
Without going in to the technicals of it again, the materials used to make iSUPs are both extremely strong and flexible at the same time. This means that when an iSUP comes into contact with a hard surface it is less likely to get scratched or damaged than a rigid SUP (made of fiberglass) would.
So for example, if you want to go white water paddling - an inflatable SUP is going to be less likely to get damaged if you hit some rocks.
They can hold well over 200lbs which makes them great for holding fishing gear or even paddling with a partner.
This ultimately comes down to personal preference and experience, but many paddle boarders find that iSUPs are almost as stable than rigid SUPs. This means they can be great for beginners as well as activities like yoga and fishing as you’re less likely to fall over.
And even if you do fall, they have a softer surface than the rigid shell you’ll find on standard boards, so you won’t hurt yourself.
Better For Dogs
If you’re thinking of taking your dog out with you for a relaxing time on the water, then you might be interested to know that their paws won’t slip on the rubber used to make iSUP like they would on fiberglass.
This means that iSUPs provide better stability for you and your dog while you paddle.
Although they are easier to transport to and from the water, iSUPs do need to be inflated before use. This unfortunately, despite a pump that comes with most models, does take time which can be frustrating. Likewise, at the end of your session, you will also need to deflate your iSUP which again takes time.
Some boards are quicker and easier to inflate and deflate than others however and it depends on the person too of course.
Despite many people finding iSUPs to be more stable than rigid boards, this is not the case for everybody. iSUPs can prove especially hard to handle in strong winds or choppy waters.
Rigid SUPs also tend to perform better when it comes to speed and agility. They are generally built sleeker for better maneuverability in the water. So, if you’re looking to use your board to catch some waves and perform a few tricks, you might want to opt for a rigid SUP.
If you can get the right amount of air into your iSUP (which, as we mentioned earlier can be difficult) they can be extremely rigid and thus able to perform well in the surf. However, at the end of the day, it is still an inflatable and will just not perform quite as well as a fiberglass board in those conditions.
It’s a common misconception that inflatable SUPs are far cheaper than fiberglass boards. In reality, the top of the range inflatable models can cost just as much (and are probably well worth the price when you consider the science and technology that goes into it).
On the other hand, like we mentioned above, you are less likely to damage an inflatable SUP so what you pay for upon purchase, you may well save on repairs and maintenance further down the track.
Flex is a term used to describe a sinking or sagging in the middle of the board. This is a common issue amongst inflatable stand up paddle boarders which limits the performance of both the paddler and the board itself.
This is usually experienced because the board has not been inflated to the proper level. If you take the time (or use a battery powered pump) to inflate your board properly, you shouldn’t experience any flex.
A term that you will encounter frequently when looking at iSUP boards is “PSI”. This stands for “pounds per square inch” and will indicate how much air your board is able to obtain and how much it needs to perform at its best. PSI for iSUPs usually range from 10 to 20.
The higher the PSI, the more rigid your board is able to become. If a board says it has a PSI range of 17-20, you should pump air into it until it reaches 20 as this will be the amount of air required for the board to perform at optimum level.
Best 7 iSUP Boards
1: iRocker Inflatable ALL-AROUND Stand Up Paddle Board
This board is shaped with a wide tail for extra stability whilst still allowing swift movements in the surf. When fully inflated, it has 15 PSI.
It comes with a dual action pump to make inflating your board to the correct level a little easier. You can use the dual action function to put the air in to the board and then switch to single action towards the end. The single action function makes for easier pumping at high pressure so you can make sure you get the appropriate amount of air into your board.
Another handy accessory is the adjustable fiberglass paddle. Unlike your standard aluminum, this paddle is lightweight, durable and suitable for paddle boarding or kayaking. It also breaks down into 3 separate pieces so that it’s easier to carry.
This board also comes with a handy backpack to transport the board and all its accessories. It comes with padded shoulder straps and waist support for comfortable wear and even has room for extra gear. So if you fancy heading out for a hike and a paddle, this board is ideal.
2: Sportstuff 1030 Adventure Stand Up Paddleboard
A handy feature of this board are the anti-skid EVA pads which allow for secure footing. If you are a beginner, this comes in very useful so that you can eliminate ‘not slipping and falling over’ from your list of things to concentrate on.
The board comes complete with a mesh backpack that can carry the adjustable paddle, removable seat, fin, board leash and stainless steel tow rings that come with the board.
It also comes with a high pressure hand pump for inflating the board. The pump comes with a handy pressure gauge so that you can ensure that you inflate your board to the correct level and that it has the correct PSI as you set off.
3: Zray Inflatable Paddle Board Set
This is a very light board which makes for easy transport to and from the water. When deflated, it can be rolled up to the size of a sleeping bag so that it’s easy to store in your car or home. It can also fit inside a backpack so you can take it along with you on hikes or camping trips.
It has max PSI of 15 which allows it to feel and perform similarly to a rigid board. It’s suitable for recreational paddling in flat waters but can also handle river runs and small waves. It also has a military grade outer skin 6 inches thick. This makes the board very resilient so you don't have to worry about scratching or marking the board in or out of the water. The 6 inches of thickness also make for better stability on the water.
This board comes with a removable seat, a pump, an aluminum adjustable paddle, a central fin and a backpack.
4: Atoll Cruise Deluxe Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
At 19lbs (and thanks to its dual layer PVC, ultra light construction), this is another reasonably light board with a rigid exterior when inflated properly. It comes complete with a high pressure dual action pump (which inflates air into your board when you push down AND when you pull up) so that reaching the 15 PSI capacity is easier when setting up your board.
It also comes with an adjustable aluminum alloy paddle which breaks down into 3 pieces for easy transport. A detachable fin is also part of the package (which is comparable with all universal fin boxes) along with a tough 10 inch poly flex leash.
Although extremely durable, it comes with a repair kit just in case along with 14 D-rings on the deck so you can tie down anything you want to keep from moving around. And of course, it comes with a heavy-duty backpack large enough to fit the board, pump, paddle and repair kit so that you can travel easily with it.
5: Goplus Inflatable Cruiser SUP Stand Up Paddle Board
This board inflates and deflates in less than 5 minutes. At 26lbs it’s a little heavier than some of the boards we’ve reviewed so far but like the others, it comes with a handy backpack for easy transportation. It also comes with a nose-mounted handle (a handle built in at the top of your board) for easier transport along the beach or shore once inflated.
The surface of the board has plenty of D rings so that you can securely strap down any gear you have. It also comes with a 4 point mounted bungee system for further storage. This can also serve as something to hold on to in order to steady yourself.
It comes with all the usual accessories - backpack, hand pump (with PSI gauge), repair kit, a fin and a deluxe lightweight paddle.
6: PEAK Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board with Adjustable Paddle
This is another sturdy, rigid and stable board suitable for all skill levels. It comes compete with a paddle, backpack, coil leash and high pressure pump. At 6 inches thick and constructed with military grade PVC, it’s a resilient and durable board that can handle most conditions and collisions.
Like the above-mentioned board, it comes with a handy handle on the deck of the board for dragging or carrying along the shore and at 15 PSI and kitted out with a non-slip grip deck, it ensures a smooth ride, especially for beginners.
7: PathFinder Inflatable SUP Stand Up Paddleboard
A little heavier than the other boards reviewed in this article, this is still a high quality board. At 15 PSI (max), it’s suitable for a range of conditions. Made of PVC and using the multi-layer drop-stitch construction method mentioned previously, it is a very sturdy and durable board.
It comes with a large deck pad (great for stability) with bungees and D-rings to attach any cargo or a leash. Complete with an adjustable aluminum paddle, pump, detachable fin, carry bag and valve wrench, it has everything all the other boards on this list has to offer.
Inflatable stand up paddle boards are fantastic if you’re looking to use your board for a variety of activities on calm waters. They are easy to transport and store so you can take them on hiking and camping trips with relative ease.
The technology behind their construction has improved vastly over the last few years so the quality in many regards is very similar to a rigid, fiberglass board.
There are some key advantages and disadvantages to consider prior to making a purchase. If you don’t have the vehicle or space to transport a 10-foot rigid board, then an iSUP is a great product for you.
However, if your priority is to catch some serious waves and perform all-sorts of impressive tricks with speed and agility (and have ample space in or on top of your car to transport a board) then you may want to stick to a rigid, fiberglass board.
Do you have one of these iSUPs? Is there one on our list that interests you? Perhaps there's one we should have added? Tell us about it below...