Inflatable Paddle Board vs. Regular Hard Paddle Board. What’s The Difference?

Inflatable Paddle Board vs. Regular Hard Paddle Board

New to paddleboarding? Then you’ve heard of two different kinds of paddle boards – inflatable and epoxy. When it comes to these two, it’s hard to decide which one is for you. Each has its pros and cons, but they’re not enough to tell you if one kind is better than the other. You still have to figure that out. 

If you have no idea where to start or how to decide which is good for you, you’ve come to the right spot. Keep reading to know the differences between the two.

Inflatable Paddle Boards vs Hard Paddle Boards What’s the Difference

Before you head on to the pros and cons section, you have to familiarize yourself with what these two boards are. They may look the same but they’re worlds apart when it comes to materials, performance, and durability. 

First up is the inflatable paddle board. Contrary to popular belief, an inflatable paddle board is not easily breakable. It’s not soft (although it’s softer than the hard paddle boards) and it’s definitely not for short-term use. In fact, inflatable paddle boards are often rented out at paddle board rental companies. 

An inflatable paddle board uses a strong PVC plastic material that is filled with air. There’s a maximum PSI for each inflatable board. In other words, there’s a limit to the amount of air that you’re allowed to put. However, inflatable boards have a buffer on their PSIs just in case paddlers go over this limit. 

And then you have the hard paddle boards. Hard paddle boards have a lot of names. It’s sometimes called epoxy, traditional, or fiberglass paddle boards. Regardless of what they’re called, they are all made of the same material – fiberglass. 

This kind of paddle board is a lot heavier than inflatable boards. This is mainly because the inside of a hard paddle board is foam. This kind of foam is not like the foam that’s found in mattresses. Rather, it’s a thick and hard foam that is compact and dense. 

Pros and Cons of Inflatable Paddle Boards

Pros and Cons of Inflatable Paddle Boards

Wondering if the inflatable paddle board is for you? Here are some of its pros and cons. 


  • Easily portable

One of the best advantages of having an inflatable paddle board is that it’s portable. It’s perfect for people who don’t have enough space at home. With this board, all you have to do is deflate it and roll it up. After that, it can fit in any corner of your home. 

  • Affordable

Inflatable paddle boards are also more affordable. If you’re not ready to invest in a high-end paddle board, then this type of board is for you. Not only will you save a few hundred bucks, you’ll also use the paddle board for a long time. It’s like a long-term investment. 

  • Durable

Inflatable boards are more durable than traditional paddle boards. It’s so durable that it barely gets any scratches, dents, or dings. This makes it ideal for beginners because it’s not easily damaged. That way, you won’t get hurt if your board falls or it topples over.

Moreover, this is the main reason why rental companies use inflatable boards. Apart from being a lot more affordable, they’re not prone to damages done by renters. 

  • Comfortable to stand on

If you’ve ever tried standing on an inflatable paddle board and hard paddle board, then you know the difference between the two in terms of comfort. Since the former has air inside it, standing on top of it is a lot more comfortable compared to standing on a traditional paddle board.

  • Can be used for all-around SUP styles

Looking for a paddle board that you can use for SUP yoga, SUP racing, or SUP surfing? The inflatable paddle board is for you. This board is like an all-around board that you can use when you’re trying to figure out which style suits you. If you don’t want to buy boards for all types of styles, you’ll be able to save a lot on this one.


  • Have to be inflated and deflated

The most annoying part of owning an inflatable paddle board is the inconvenience of having to inflate and deflate your board every once in a while. Since paddle boards can be stored as it is, you don’t have to deflate it weekly. However, you still have to depressurize the board so that there’s enough room for the air when it expands during hot temperatures. 

Other than the deflating, the inflating is also very annoying. There’s just too much work and time needed to make sure that the board is hard enough so you can step on it with your full weight. In short, this board isn’t low-maintenance at all. 

  • Not as fast as a hard paddle board

When compared to the speed of an epoxy paddle board, the inflatable paddle board doesn’t stand a chance of winning. In general, an inflatable board is 5% slower than a hard paddle board. This means that this isn’t the ideal board if you want to go SUP racing. 

Pros and Cons of Hard Paddle Boards

Pros and Cons of Hard Paddle Boards

What about traditional paddle boards? Here are its pros and cons.


  • Fast

One of the best features of a hard paddle board is its speed. No wonder it’s being used for SUP racing and surfing. Unlike the inflatable paddle board, the hard paddle board is designed for racing simply because it has a better glide. 

If you’re an advanced paddler who wants to try out SUP racing, then this is the right paddle board for you. 

  • Has a smoother glide

Speaking of glides, an epoxy paddle board has a better glide than an inflatable paddle board. Paddlers who do SUP surfing will find that this board is smooth with turning and gliding. Hence, it’s perfect for catching some waves. 

  • Best for long-distance paddleboarding

Other than surfing and racing, the hard paddle board is also built for long-distance expeditions. Let’s say you’re going to paddle for more than an hour. This is the board you want to use. This is mainly because the material is more durable when on water. 


  • More expensive

The problem with regular hard paddler boards is that they’re expensive. Sometimes it’s even more expensive than your mid-range inflatable paddle board. This is the reason why both beginners and paddle board rentals prefer to buy inflatable boards. 

Moreover, if you’re not keen on using your paddle board a lot, it’s not a wise investment to buy a hard paddle board that’s at least $700. And that’s just the more affordable boards. 

  • Painful when you get hit by it

Have you tried surfing? If so, you probably know what it feels like to be hit by a surfboard. You’ll have the same feeling when you get hit by a hard paddle board. A traditional paddle board doesn’t hit softly. If anything, it might even make you feel dizzy if you’re not used to getting hit by paddle boards or surfboards. 

  • Takes up a lot of space

Lastly, a traditional paddle board is not foldable. Hence, you have to make space in your home for it to fit. You have to take into account the hallways that you will pass by when placing your board back to its storage space. 

You can always leave your paddle board outside but the problem is that it still takes up a lot of space. If you don’t have a garage or a shed to store it in, then you’ll be forced to lean it on a shaded area outside. Even if you’ll be placing it vertically, it’s still such a huge piece of equipment. 

How to Choose Between Inflatable Paddle Boards and Hard Paddle Boards

How to Choose Between Inflatable Paddle Boards and Hard Paddle Boards

Now that you know everything there is to know between these two types of boards, you have to ask yourself – which is better for you?

There are five things you need to consider to answer this question. You have to consider your space, your budget, the board’s portability, durability, and performance. 


For such big equipment such as paddle boards, you have to be realistic and first ask how much storage space you have at home. If you’re staying at an apartment with narrow corridors and a low ceiling, then a hard paddle board is definitely out of the question unless you have separate storage space outside. 

On the other hand, an inflatable paddle board is the best whether you have a large or small space. Since inflatable boards don’t have to be deflated when being stored, you can have this board resting in one of your racks. Alternatively, you can just deflate your board and roll it up. 

Inflatable boards often have a bag with them so if you don’t like any clutter, you’re going to love inflatable paddle boards. 


Apart from being realistic, you also have to be practical. For price-sensitive paddlers, the ideal board type is the inflatable paddle board. You can find an inflatable board for as cheap as $200. There are also some brands emerging that are priced reasonably and with high-quality PVC material. At most, a high-end inflatable paddle board will only be up to $1,100.

The same can’t be said about a hard paddle board. For one thing, fiberglass is a lot more expensive than PVC. Take into account the foam that goes into that fiberglass. Add them all up and you’ll find a board that’s at least $700. That’s way more expensive than your $200 inflatable board. 

Nonetheless, there are also expensive inflatable boards. Both hard and inflatable boards can cost up to $2000. These are the high-end brands and qualities. 


You have to take into account how you’re going to transport your board. Otherwise, it’s going to be a hassle if you have a hard paddle board and have no means of transporting it from your home to the beach. 

There’s no doubt that the epoxy paddle board is out of the question when you don’t have a car to strap it to. Sure, you can always rent a car for that, but do you really want to? Eventually, that’s going to cost a lot. 

If transportation is an issue, then you’re better off with an inflatable paddle board. This way, you won’t have to struggle carrying such a big board. Besides, these kinds of SUP boards have bags that are easy to carry.


Which board do you think is the more durable? This may shock you but it turns out that the inflatable paddle board is the more durable. Before you react, here’s an explanation. 

The traditional paddle board, despite being made of harder material, is not that robust. It’s easily dinged and dented. If it falls on a hard surface, expect to have a scratch or a dent there. On the other hand, an inflatable paddle board will rarely have scratches and dents.

To add to that, when you damage your hard paddle board, you have to repair it immediately. Yes, even if it’s just a minor dent or ding. This is mainly because these small damages can worsen especially when water seeps into the foam. 


Finally, you have performance. There’s no doubt that traditional paddle boards are still the best choice for SUP racing. This is because the material used makes it a lot easier to maneuver. Plus, the hard paddle boards have a better glide in them. 

However, inflatables are not that bad either. They may not be for professional races but they are also pretty fast when it comes to racing, if all of you are using inflatable paddle boards, that is. Otherwise an inflatable paddle board doesn’t stand a chance with the hard paddle boards.


Overall, both paddle boards have their own pros and cons. The hard paddle boards may be more expensive, but it’s best for SUP racing. It’s also faster and smoother when it comes to gliding. As for the inflatable paddle boards, it’s ideal for beginners and all-around paddlers. 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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