Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step in your journey to experience the world of SUP.
There is a lot of information regarding what is best and what is not.
Here is a guide to help you decide for yourself.
Did you know inflatable paddleboards account for over 90% of all paddleboard sales. That's right, most of the market. The other 10% of board sales are generally made by seasoned paddleboarders who are after a very specialised and specific application. None the less, inflatable paddleboarders offer a superior utility that hard boards can not match.
1.) Lighter Weight
Inflatable paddleboards weigh less than hard boards. In fact they weight significantly less with your average board such as the AirMaverick Stealth weighing in at 4.5kg as compared to an average hard board (fiberglass construction) that weighs in excess of 15kg. This heavily limits user experience, especially when there’s a 300 meter walk from your car to the waters edge and the wind is blowing. Furthermore, it’s generally said that lighter boards get more use.
2.) Greater Stability
Inflatable paddleboards are stable and easier to balance on. This is because inflatable boards are a little thicker than hard boards. Hard board producers face a trade off between weight and thickness, often sacrificing the later. Hence, inflatable boards are generally thicker, which means a greater internal volume. This makes them far more ideal to learn and develop with.
3.) Superior Durability
Inflatable paddleboards last longer. The better quality inflatable paddleboards such as the AirMaverick Stealth are made with an outer layer of military grade PVC. This is much stronger than fiberglass and allows for a greater degree of wear and tear. Inflatable paddleboards can hit rocks, tie alongside yachts, drag along sand and withstand objects such as metal drink bottles drop on top of them. Hard paddleboards will simply crack and ding under the same conditions. Remember, repairs cost money. Therefore, inflatable paddleboards are not only better on the wallet but boast a dramatically longer lifespan.
4.) Transportability (Compact)
Inflatable paddleboards are far easier to travel with and can accompany you in a train, bus, subway or plane. Hard paddleboards can’t. Given that inflatable paddleboards are far more compact they are also much easier to transport in a car and don’t require the use of roof racks. They also take up 1/5 of the space making storage at home easier.
Inflatable paddleboards are said to be more comfortable to stand on. The deck pads on inflatable paddleboards are slightly softer. Some compare the experience to standing on those expensive rubber mats that some companies use for their workers to reduce fatigue. Physiologists suggest that the reduced contact pressure on your feet provides an additional relief for your knees, back and neck. Good news if you plan to paddle for longer than 10 minutes!
Inflatable paddleboards can be used for a greater variety of applications given the above-mentioned features. Their greater stability and softer mat promote a better platform for yoga. They are light and easy to carry, which makes them ideal for pack rafting. They make great yacht tenders given their durability and are ideal to fish off given that they are more stable.
So that is why we suggest you begin with an inflatable paddleboard.
We consider the following factors to be most important:
The length of a companies factory warranty is a direct reflection of how much faith the company has in its product. The industry standard is 1 year, although many companies won’t offer anything at all. Check this first as this is important! At Maverick SUP we’re so confident in the quality of our products for reasons that will be explained below that we offer a 5-year factory warranty. Red Paddle Co is the only other company in the industry that offers this. Other reputable brands that we share our factory with offer 2 years; Starboard, Naish and NSP.
The construction method and materials are also of extreme importance. Not all inflatealbe paddleboards are built equal. In fact there is a huge spectrum between what you might find at Cosco with a 1-year warranty compared to the likes of a leading brand. There are three main construction tyes: single layer drop-stitch, double layer drop-stich and single layer fusion drop-stitch.
Single layer drop-stitch is light and inexpensive to produce. It accounts for most of the lower market entry level boards. These boards tend to be the lightest, however, this comes at the expense of poor rigidity and a high risk of shae deformation over time. The PVC outer layer of these boards also tends to be of a lower grade.
Double layer drop-stitch is the next step up in board quality and accounts for the mid-market. The construction of these boards implements a second outer layer of PVC lining, which means they can be inflated to a greater pressure and boast better rigidity. This comes at the expense of a heavier board.
Single layer fusion drop-stitch is the latest leading edge in inflatable paddleboard technology and represents the top end of the market. It is essentially the same as what Red Paddle refers to as “MSL technology”. Basically, a higher tensile drop stitch fabric is used inside a single layer lining. This means you get the same rigidity of the previously mentioned double layer construction method while achieving a fraction of the weight. Monocoque laminate technology allows for fusion of the drop stitch through heat treatment rather than glue, further reducing the weight of the board. Note, the AirMaverick Stealth employs this method of construction, along with a very limited number of other producers.
Fins are necessary to guide your board in a straight line. Less fin surface area will result in a greater zig-zag motion while paddling and reduced glide. Hence, a greater fin surface area is important. The fin composition of inflatable boards varies dramatically for one producer to another. Some will offer detachable fins while others will offer built in attached fins. Built in fins don’t need to be removed in order to pack your board into a bag. This makes them a little more user friendly. The disadvantage being that they have a lower surface area and perform far worse in the water. We recommend a paddleboard that has at least one removable fin as is the case with the AirMaverick Stealth. This will ensure that you don’t substitute any of your paddle experience in the water.
This may sound like a superficial detail but it is very far from it. Darker colours attract more heat from the sun than ligher colours. Many cheap paddleboard producers and new entrants often overlook this detail. As a result their boards have a tendency to misshape when left in direct sunlight for too long. This is the downside of Starboards designs. Yes blue dark blue looks great on paddleboards but not when the deckpad has delaminated.
BE SURE TO CHECK FOR ALL "4 FACTORS".
First Time Buyers Fallacy
Most inflatable boards that target the all-rounder market will generally come in a standardized size. However, there are limitations to lumping everyone into one board size, and these limitations are often overlooked by first-time buyers.