Inflatable or rigid paddle boards?

Inflatable or rigid paddle boards?

The short version
Get an inflatable SUP

The long version…….
Inflatable stand up paddle boards  (iSUPs) outsell their rigid cousins by at least two to one, but which is right for you?
In other words, are the advantages of iSUPs overblown, or should you stick rigidly to a fibreglass SUP? Ha!
As well as our excellent website H2O Sports have always been and always will be a bricks and mortar shop too, run by some of the most experienced water sports experts ANYWHERE.  Nothing beats checking out the kit for yourself and it also we can check you out too…!
Your size, weight, experience, aspirations
 Logistic stuff like budget, ways to pay, storage issues
 Choosing the right paddle and other accessories 

We have a huge selection of rigid boards and iSUPs from the world’s leading brands including Red Paddle Co, Fanatic, JP, O’Shea, RRD and F-One to name a few! 

Please note - all our iSUPs are top quality from established manufacturers that have a pedigree in the water sports industry. There is some cheap ‘stuff’ out there that may be OK as a beach toy but little else. Our brands will perform better, last longer, look better and hold their value. And of course the back-up is there from us at H2O Sports 

For most the benefits of an iSUP outweigh the slight performance advantages of a rigid board. Come and look, touch, pick up and smell (if you like..) a modern iSUP and you’ll see what we mean. It’s fun in a bag!

We’ve produced a list of pros and cons to help you to the right decision:

Rigid SUPs
The real benefit of rigid SUPs is performance. Rigid boards outperform ISUP boards – fact! But most of us won’t really need this extra bit of performance or benefit from it unless we’re hard-core racers or searching for the biggest waves around!  Ultimately the 3-D shape (rocker, outline and rail shape) of rigid SUP can be defined more precisely than in an iSUP. This translates to better glide on the race course or grippier carves on the wave-face. But the differences are small, and as iSUPs evolve, getting smaller. Ask us about these technicalities if you want to talk like a dude!

Negatives of rigid SUPs are size and transportation issues, it’s a roof rack or a long wheel base van. Storage at home can be an issue too– you’ll need a decent shed, garage or garden. Travel abroad is near on impossible and very expensive… And leads us on to the next issue, durability The rigid boards are more prone to damage during both travel and use – Hitting against other boards or rocks etc We always recommend either a paddle guard or rail tape on your rigid SUP to protect the sides from continual paddle scraping!  
Price – always more expensive than iSUPs especially in the more exotic construction (carbon)


Pack-up into an oversized ruck sack – perfect for storage, transportation, and travelling with! Be it on a car boot, bus or the train, even an plane. Inflate in minutes and you’re ready to go exploring! Perfect for stowing on a boat as well!  Weight – lighter than all of the rigid board constructions (except the elite carbon models) so easier for the ladies, kids to handle. On and off the water. Durability –way better than the rigid boards! From the thousands we’ve sold here at H20 Sports – returns on the iSUPs is less than 0.25% through damage where it’s a lot higher on rigid board – from being dropped off car roofs, dented, cracked on rocks etc! This also helps with bump and bruises as the boards are slightly softer and more forgiving to the body. 

Many iSUPs come windsurf-ready too! So you really can have 100% fun for the whole family! Windsurf, Surf or paddle your Inflatable Fanatic paddle board – like the Fanatic Premium Air models!
All members of the family can enjoy the
Did you know that there are now completely inflatable windsurfing rigs too? Perfect partner to your new iSUP . Even more fun in a bag! Take a peek here

Negatives of the iSUP
They are more affected by the wind as they sit on top of the water – rather than in it with ballast like a hard board –but like us you’ll quickly come to realise that paddle boarding isn’t much fun in the wind be it on a rigid or inflatable paddle board! If it’s windy try the windsurfing options.
While there are iSUP designs that can surfed and raced to quite a high level, the construction limits the 3-D shape for ultimate performance. There are iSUP categories in some races and the best of the iSUP racers are fully competitive with their rigid counterparts.  And down on the beaches you’ll see plenty of riders having a blast in the waves using the more wave specific iSUPs like the Fanatic Stubby and the Red Paddle Co Whip
The iSUPs that we sell are strong and durable, but care should be taken around sharp objects on and off the water. Of course iSUPs need to be inflated initially, but many owners will leave them inflatable between sessions to save time and effort.
Perhaps you now understand why we’re selling so many iSUPs, they really can do anything! From beginner to racer, for yoga to surfing there is an iSUP for you.

Why are some SUPS more expensive than others? So once you’ve decided on your type of board – you’ll notice a large range of prices! 

With rigid boards, you’re paying for the materials in the board… Cheaper pop out boards like the Bic models are strong but super heavy great for keeping in a beach hut and fun for the family. More bucks gets you lighter, stiffer and more performance, if you need it, or want it!

With Inflatable boards typically again like the rigid models – it’s down to the construction. Although iSUPs all look similar there are hidden differences that make a big difference. Premium brands use stretch-resistant drop-stitch technology, resulting in more rigid and durable boards. Another factor is the layering of the skin, Single skin boards like the Fanatic Air range and the JP LE range are very light weight, perfect for lighter riders – Kids etc – but for most of us 80kg plus these boards do not have the rigity with a single skin to prevent bending in the middle – making the board look like a banana – meaning they just don’t work or go in a straight line!
Thus most brands now glue a second skin on to this single skin and reinforce the rails – the weakest point – meaning the board is now very stiff as they can be inflated to a higher pressure. Models like the O’Shea use these constructions and are great performance boards that don’t break the bank! 

A big step up in performance comes with the premium brand’s top models. Fanatic and Red paddle boards have taken the construction to a new level with durability and performance with pre-bonded light-weight laminates. With these models you’ll also gain better bags – with roller wheels. The Red boards come with the ground breaking Titan pump, which cut your inflation time in half! Higher quality paddles and heavier duty leashes complete the packages. Fanatic premium iSUPs come with a performance glass fin and are all windsurfing compatible while the Red come with three indestructible moulded fins and only certain models like the WindSUP are windsurfing compatible. 

All models discussed here are available with free mainland UK delivery and 0% Finance at the best available on line prices! H20 Sports now offer a whopping 0% Finance over 12 months / 18 months or even 36 months for the big spends! We only work with the best known brands in the business, stocking a huge selection Have any questions while choosing which boards right for you? Or need advice on where to ride? Give us a call and we’ll talk you through the all the options, let us help you choose which sup will be best for your needs. 

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