What is the difference between inflatable vs rigid sup if they look the same?
The vast majority of rental sup use inflatable boards, so there is a stereotype that the inflatable SUP is more stable (because they can resist beginners). But it’s not about the material here. The stability of the board depends on its width. SUP market in our country is more filled with wide inflatable boards, and from the rigid, we have more narrow sports boards, hence this conclusion. With the same size, both inflatable and rigid boards will be equally stable. Then what’s the difference?
Mobility: inflatable vs rigid sup
Inflatable board deflates into a compact roll, which is easy to fit into the backpack for SUP-travel (almost always comes with a board) and carry it with you in the trunk of the car and unload it into the luggage during air travel. In the same backpack, you can put on a wetsuit and clothes and stay in the standard weight of luggage without paying extra.
The only disadvantage of an inflatable SUP board when traveling is that the board needs to be deflated, dried, and packed after each ride.
The rigid board will not fit in any car and will require the installation of rails on the trunk. There are inflatable car roof racks, but they don’t secure the board and won’t keep you out of trouble at high speed.
Traveling with a rigid board means experiencing additional risks and difficulties. You should check with the airline standards for carrying sports equipment, and on arrival look for your board in the overweight baggage department. And to protect the board during traveling you have to wrap it in several layers of cardboard and film or buy a special travel case with shock protection (do not confuse with the usual single-layer case).
If you have a garage, a place in an underground parking lot, a summer house, an office, a warehouse, you won’t have any problems with storing a hardboard in the off-season. The main thing to keep in mind is that there should be enough space not only to put the board but also to get it out and unfold it comfortably. Most of the chips and scratches on hard boards are acquired not on the water, but in tight spaces. But the process of cutting through the smoothness of the water and the smooth glide is worth it.
The inflatable board can be stored at home in its native backpack, rolled up, pre-drying the board. True, some owners of inflatable SUP complain about the specific rubber smell of the board, which is felt only indoors. But in general, the inflatable board is easier to store than a rigid. And, that’s partly why it’s easier to resell.
On rocky beaches and surrounded by granite embankments, an inflatable board will feel better than a rigid board. Modern inflatable SUP boards have at least two layers of PVC and stiffening ribs. That is, they are not afraid of rocks or sand, or the sharp edges of the pier. The only thing that poses a danger to the inflatable board – is sharp metal elements. But even with a puncture, thanks to transverse stiffening fibers and an extra chamber your SUP will still stay afloat.
Rigid boards don’t like rocks and asphalt. You can get scratches and small dents just by laying the board carelessly on the ground. Rigid SUPs are more fragile than inflatables, but they are certainly not crystal. When used on beaches with sand or lawn and stored carefully in a cover, rigid boards won’t need repairs for long
Efficiency: inflatable vs rigid sup
As you understood from the previous points, inflatable boards win in everything: comfort, lightness, mobility, durability, except paddling efficiency. This is the very moment of slip that the owners of rigid SUP boards like to talk about. The way the nose of the board cuts the water, the way the teil takes it away, is the controllability and responsiveness of the board. For these parameters, of course, the hard SUP boards lead the way. Why is this so?
Inflatable boards, even the most technologically advanced ones, have the same thickness along their entire length. Rigid boards have concave (slip ribs) on the bottom, a raised nose, and sides of different thicknesses where needed. Because of that rigid boards are responsive and easy to pick up speed and they’re just more fun to ride. That’s why most athletes use rigid boards for SUP surfing and sport SUP.
Manufacturers of inflatable SUP-boards year by year are trying more and more to make their inflatable boards rigid. They go for extra cameras, stiffening ribs, and stringers like the new Starboard Airlite and Red Paddle racing models. So if you’re choosing between comfort and rideability, you can find an inflatable board with the characteristics of a stiff board from a premium brand.