For all-around leisure paddling, inflatable SUPs are much better overall, due to advantages in durability, portability, weight, versatility, and injury prevention. But if you are buying a board mainly for SUP surfing or racing, certain technical attributes of hardboards make them worthy of consideration.
- DURABLE: Inflatable paddleboards have been proven over time to be more durable. Quality inflatables are made from military grade materials that are not subject to the vulnerabilities of hard boards – dings and holes that require expensive repairs.
- SAFER&EASIER: Inflatable SUPs don't hurt as much when you fall on them. Falling onto a hard board can hurt. An inflatable paddle board is much easier on the body of the rider and anybody else the board might come in contact with.
- COMFORTABLE: A softer deck reduces fatigue. Standing on an inflatable SUP is similar to standing on one of those expensive rubber mats used in commercial settings to reduce fatigue. Your feet will be more comfortable and relaxed due to the reduced contact pressure, and the benefits travel up your body to your knees, back and neck.
- LIGHTER: Inflatables are lighter, and a lighter board gets used more. For a given board size, an inflatable will usually weigh less than an equivalently sized hardboard, making it that much less effort to get it to the water.
- TRAVEL: Blow up boards can be checked in on an airplane for travel. An inflatable SUP can be rolled up to fit in a bag that can be placed in the trunk of a car or checked in on an airplane for travel.
- STORAGE: Hard boards take up a lot of storage space. An inflatable SUP can be stored on a shelf, without requiring a high ceiling or taking up an entire wall of storage space. An entire fleet of inflatable SUP boards can be stored in a small closet when deflated.
- And, Inflatables Perform Better In Varied Settings. Advances in material technology and design have resulted in inflatable SUP boards that have rigidity rivaling a hardboard while also having distinct performance advantages over fiberglass or epoxy boards. The right inflatable board in the performance / enthusiast or all around class board can often be paddled anywhere on flat water, small waves, and even be used in whitewater depending on the model.
Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Better?
Better is relative to what you want to do with your board and the types of water you want to ride in.
For all-around and river specific uses, inflatable boards have significant performance advantages over hard boards that benefit most paddlers. For big wave surfing and competition class SUP racing, hard stand up paddle boards have an edge in performance.