The beginning of the modern era of stand up paddleboarding can be traced back to 2002 and Laird Hamilton on the cover of Malibu magazine with a photo of him paddling in the surf off Malibu, California.
That was the equivalent of the shot heard round the world for the sport of SUP. Well, at first there were just traditional fiberglass and epoxy based hard boards. This is because the sport is an offshoot of surfing and that’s how most surfboards are manufactured.
When Laird Hamilton landed on the cover of Malibu magazine, inflatable stand up paddle boards had not even been invented yet. You can read more about Laird Hamilton at Surf Wiki: https://www.surfingwiki.com/wiki/Laird_Hamilton
It would take several years after 2002 for the first inflatables to appear on the scene. And after much digging, I have not been able to find any info on who actually invented the first inflatable SUP.
But whomever did, inflatables didn’t start showing up until around 2008 give or take a year or two. Whomever got the bright idea to make the first inflatable SUP, the whole sport owes you a big “Thank You”. This person must have been frustrated with the limitation on a traditional hard sup and thought they could make something better. And this person most likely had some experience with whitewater rafting because these are the materials that are used to manufacture inflatable SUPs.
Inflatable SUPs all use military grade PVC and super strong adhesive glues to keep the boards together. The first few years the inflatables were ok, but even the best ones didn’t have to most reliable quality standards. It took a few years but over time the iSUPs just kept getting better and better.
Now and inflatable SUP is nearly as good as a rigid in every way. The only areas that a rigid outperforms is for hard core performance like surfing bigger waves. You can paddle board surf on waves, but they are just not as good as a hard board.
But very few paddlers are expert surfers. These days inflatable SUPs are so well made that you can’t even tell the difference in rigidity between an inflatable and a hard board.
Benefits of Inflatable Paddle Boards
The technology of inflatable SUPs has improved greatly over the years. Now the gap in performance between traditional SUP and iSUPs is very small. The inflatables are built tough, out of similar materials that make whitewater rafts, so you can bang and bump your iSUP into your car, or a boat dock, or even another paddler, and the board won’t get hurt.
Inflatables are the ultimate travel SUP. Because inflatables can pack down into a back pack, they can be taken virtually anywhere. You don’t have to worry about strapping a large board to the roof of your car, and hoping you secured it properly, as you drive 70 mph down the road to the beach.
With an iSUP you simply throw the backpack into your car and go. Heck you can even throw two or three, enough SUPs for the whole family, and still have room for the rest of your luggage.
Inflatables also let you get to hard to reach spots. You can put on the backpack and hike to a mountain lake or a secluded river, and once you get to the water, have your board setup in five to ten minutes and be out on the water paddling.
You can even take your inflatable SUP with you on a plane. You probably want to check it as a regular piece of luggage because it may be too big to take on as carry on.
Another great thing about inflatable paddle boards is that they usually come as a complete package with everything you need to get on the water. A board will come with the SUP itself, a pump, a paddle, leash, fin, and a backpack to carry it all in. Now, not every single iSUP has all this, but most of them do, it is the industry standard to have everything you need to get on the water once you make the purchase.
That is one of the many reasons why inflatables are such a great choice for someone just getting into SUP.
Inflatables are also great for SUP yoga. This is where people practice yoga on the water on a paddle board. If it sounds difficult, that’s because it is difficult.
Yoga SUP has become very popular and now nearly all SUP manufactures make an inflatable board specifically for yoga. These yoga boards start off like an all-around style board, and they are made a little wider to give the board more stability, the deck pad is usually bigger to give more room for the yoga positions, and the material that the deck is made out of is the same material as a yoga mat.
Inflatable paddle boards are also kid friendly. A child will appreciate the lightness of an inflatable. The weight of a board varies from board to board, but in general, an iSUP will weigh somewhere between 19 – 23 lbs. Most kids can handle something that light. Also, because of the durable nature of a paddleboard (they are made of out the same material as white water rafts), they can handle abuse from kids.
You might be hesitant to let a child use a nice traditional hard SUP because they could ding it and damage it easily, but with an inflatable, there is little damage they could do to the board or themselves. Inflatables are forgiving when you fall. Adults on a SUP will fall and kids on a SUP are guaranteed to fall. Well, if you fall onto an iSUP, it won’t hurt, but if you fall onto a traditional hard SUP, you can hurt yourself.
Another advantage of an inflatable stand up paddleboard is the price. Yes, you can spend a lot of money on an inflatable SUP, there are many that are over $1,000, but there are plenty of SUPs that are in the $500 – $800 range that are of really good quality.
You can even get a SUP in the $200 – $400 range but you need to be careful. If you spend this little amount on an iSUP and you only want to use it on a vacation, that is fine. But don’t buy one for that price if you expect it to last a long time with a lot of use. Like anything you pay for what you get.
Inflatable paddleboards are the best selling SUP on the market for a reason, they are fun, they don’t take up much space and are easy to travel with, they are light, and they are easy on your wallet.