Inflatable vs Hard Paddle Board For Beginners

Are you a beginner and torn between getting an inflatable or a hard paddle board? It is normal to feel stuck between the two boards because each one of them has benefits. Knowing which type of board is suitable for you depends on your lifestyle and needs.

Overall, inflatable paddle boards are better for all-around leisure paddling because of their advantages in weight, portability, durability, injury prevention, and versatility.

However, if you want a paddle board for racing or surfing, hardboards have certain technical attributes that make them considerable.

Here are the key differences between an inflatable and a hard paddle board to guide you in deciding which is the best beginner paddle board.


It is easy to transport an inflatable paddle board. This is because you can deflate and roll up inflatables to the size of a sleeping bag, hence no need for a van, SUV, or a large truck to transport it.

Another great perk for inflatables is that you can take them with you when you go on vacation with your kids. It can easily fit in your travel bag and you can avoid paying the airline surfboard fees that you would have paid if you were carrying a hard paddle board.

You will need car racks or a large car to transport hard paddle boards. Additionally, for a given size board, hard paddle boards weigh more than inflatables, meaning it requires more effort to get it to the water and back.

Note that you will always be required to inflate and deflate your inflatable paddle board before and after paddling. Therefore, a hard paddle board is suitable if you are a load-and-go type of person.


Quality inflatables last longer compared to hard paddle boards because they are made of military-grade material. If your inflatable drops by accident, there will not be any scratch or ding.

However, if your hard paddle board drops, it is likely to be damaged and may need immediate repairing which can be expensive. An inflatable is the best option if you want a carefree board.

Since inflatables last longer, they are perfect for paddling rocky rivers or white-water paddling. They are also used by most rental agencies and SUP schools to reduce board damage if they are handled carelessly by the renters and students.

Storage Space 

As a beginner, you need to consider the amount of storage space you have at home when deciding between a hard paddle board and an inflatable.

If your home does not have a garage or you live in an apartment, an inflatable is for you as you can store it anywhere.

If you choose to purchase a hard paddle board, you need to know where you will be storing it on and off paddling season. You can store it in the garage, but you should have plenty of room and clearance for your board to maneuver in and out of the house.


Hard paddle boards have a higher performance than inflatables in terms of paddle board performance. When SUP paddling, hard paddle boards have better glide, are more agile, and easy to catch the wave.

In other words, if you want a paddle board for SUP racing, SUP surfing, or long-distance expeditions, a hard paddle board is the best option. Also, hard paddle boards are faster than inflatables by around 5%.

However, improvements in the material design and technology make inflatables more rigid. This means that you can paddle it on small waves, flat water, and even white water depending on the board design.

Comparing a hard paddle board and an inflatable with the same footprint, an inflatable has 20% more volume. This allows it to support the weight of both the passenger and the rider, and it is more stable.


Inflatables reduce fatigue as they make your feet feel more relaxed and comfortable because of the reduced contact pressure.

This is because standing on an inflatable paddle board is the same as standing on rubber mats designed to minimize fatigue. This also benefits your neck, back, and knees.

Impact In Case Of A Fall 

It does not hurt as much if you fall on an inflatable paddle board. However, it can hurt if you fall on a hard board. An inflatable paddle board is easier on the rider’s body and anyone who might encounter it.


Inflatable paddle boards are considerably less expensive than hard paddle boards. That is why it is recommended for beginners.

This means that you will not lose more money if you find paddle boarding is not interesting for you.


When designed correctly, hard paddle boards are more efficient than inflatables. When paddle boarding, some energy is absorbed into the board while the rest is used to propel you forward.

When paddling with a hard board, most of your thoughts are in the paddle that pushes you forward.

With inflatables, there is more energy absorbed into the board meaning you can get tired after some distance.

In summary:

An inflatable paddle board is for you if:

  • You are a beginner on a budget.
  • You have less space for storage.
  • You need a long-lasting board for your adventurous paddling.
  • You travel most of the time and like to take your board with you.

A hard paddle board is for you if:

  • You want speed, agility, and optimal performance when paddle boarding.
  • You want to go SUP surfing and catch the waves.
  • You plan to only use the board at local bays, lakes, and beaches.
  • You are a load-and-go paddler.

Final Thoughts 

One of the main differences between a hard paddle board and an inflatable comes down to performance and your preference for convenience.

As stated in this article, inflatable paddle boards are more convenient because they have minimum transportation and storage requirements.

On the other hand, a hard paddle board has a higher performance because of its superior glide and more agility on the water.

Either way, you cannot go wrong by choosing one or the other, but make sure that the choice you make as a beginner is suitable for your needs and preferences.

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