Inflatable SUP vs Hard SUP For Whitewater

I get asked often by new whitewater SUP paddlers whether they should buy an inflatable SUP or hard SUP for whitewater paddling on rivers.

So the question I get is:

“What should I buy? Solid or Inflatable SUP for whitewater paddling?”

One thing to realise is wether going for solid or infalatable SUP’s the quality and performance differs. Generally in both categories you need to go for a respectable brand and don’t try to skimp. Get a decent board that will last a long time.

Construction of the high end solid boards are generally from either Carbon, Aramid (Kevlar) or Glass fibre woven fabric with an Epoxy resin. This outer shell is constructed over a foam core with some support running the length of the board. The foam could be polyurethane or polystyrene foam. A combination of these materials can also be used. Generally carbon or aramid is seen to be stronger, but it does depend on the manufacturing technique used. Lately some rotationally moulded plastic whitewater SUP’s have also come on the market. The idea is to make the strongest yet lightest possible board.

High end inflatable SUP’s are as the name says inflatable boards. Usually made from a PVC or similar material. Stitched, glued or welded construction is possible. Again the quality depends on the manufacturer and their manufacturing techniques used.

Benefits of inflatable SUP’s:

  • Easy to transport
  • Very strong when hitting rocks in whitewater rivers
  • Softer when you fall and you hit the board

Benefits of hard SUP’s:

  • More varied shapes and performance
  • More rigid that helps with performance
  • No hassles with pumps and valves

Disadvantages of inflatable SUP’s:

  • Takes a bit of time to pump up to the high pressures required
  • Not as rigid
  • Shapes are more limited

Disadvantages of hard SUP’s:

  • Susceptible to scratches and cracks
  • Usually a bit heavier than an inflatable SUP
  • Harder to transport

In the end it is a good idea to do some research on the exact boards you are looking at and also check the manufacturers reputation.

I hope this helps.

What do you think? Do you prefer inflatable or rigid?