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How to Choose an Inflatable Paddle Board in 2022

Rear view of compactor red paddleboard
    Have you been going back and forth trying to find the right paddle board for you summer adventures? Whether you are an experienced paddle board tourer looking for speed and efficiency or simply a parent looking for a multi use board for all the family to use this summer. We want to make choosing your first or next paddle board as easy as possible.
          • Firstly, we’ll look at the differences between inflatable and solid paddleboards.
          • Then we’ll look at the different paddle board shapes and which one you need.
          • After that, we’ll make sure you know how to choose the right length board for your needs.
          • Finally, we’ll answer the most common questions that come up from our customers.


          This article is part of our paddle board series;

          Best places to paddle board in Whistler

          4 things you need before paddle boarding this summer

          Who is Red Paddle co


          What is an Inflatable Paddleboard?

          Inflatable paddleboards have come a long way since they first hit the market. Now stiffer and more versatile than ever before, inflatable paddleboards are no longer the compromise they once were when weighing up performance vs portability.

          According to one-speed comparison, there was only a 5% difference in speed between an inflatable and solid board. 

          Pumping up red paddle board on a beach

          What is a Solid Paddleboard?

          Solid boards are sometimes referred to as epoxy, non-inflatable, traditional or fibreglass paddleboards. They don’t need to be inflated or deflated, meaning more time paddling and less time pumping. The rails can also be shaped to allow less drag and more manoeuvrability and are suited to applications such as racing or surfing.


          What to think about when choosing your paddleboard?

          Convenience: Do you have space for an inflated 10-14ft paddleboard?

          One of the biggest benefits to an inflatable paddleboard is storage, you don’t need a garage or a shed to store your SUP. No roof racks are needed! You can even hike to remote locations before inflating your paddleboard, then deflate it for the hike back to the car at the end of the day. And if space is of the utmost importance for you, check out the ULTRA compact paddleboard!

          However, there is a time cost for pumping up your paddleboard but modern pumps allow for fast inflating in around 6 – 10 minutes. There are electronic pump adapters you can buy which take around 10-15 minutes to pump up your paddleboard but require no effort.

          Whether you have an inflatable or solid board and like to ride a bike. Use SUP wheelers to allow easy bike access to the water without having to inflate or awkwardly carry the board.


          Red paddle co compactor board packed up


          Durability: How tough are you on your gear?

          This really comes down to the quality of the board you buy, but in terms of vulnerability to nicks and dings, inflatable boards are less prone to damage when comparing them to solid paddleboards.


          Performance: What do you want to do with your board?

          When we talk about performance we mean speed and agility; like a high-performing carving ski, solid boards are known to be quick to respond and manoeuvre. However, the gap between inflatable and solid paddleboard performance in recent years has largely reduced due to advances in technology that stiffen up the board by up to 50% when compared to other boards of the same size. Speed is largely due to the hull shape and something we will discuss a little further down.


          What paddleboard shape do you need?

          It’s important to buy a board with the right shape for your needs, there are two different types of shaped paddleboards.

          Planing hulls

          They are flat, wide and designed to ride on top of the water. They are also favoured by beginners as they are more stable and perfect for paddling the lake with your dog. (yes, it’s a thing!)


          Displacement Hulls

          They have pointed noses similar to kayaks and canoes. The tapered shape allows the paddleboard to slice through the water, pushing the water at the nose towards the sides of the board. This allows faster and more efficient paddling, but at the cost of stability. Displacement hulls are the favoured shape of advanced paddlers for racing and touring applications.

          How to choose paddle board length?

          Why is paddleboard length important?

          Unlike skis and snowboards, length is not necessarily a function of your height and ability but of the intended application. Paddleboard volume is determined by length, width and thickness. This figure is important as the board needs to support the weight of the rider and any cargo. Too little volume will cause the SUP to ride low in the water making paddling difficult.
          Click here for a rough calculation of your ideal paddleboard volume.

          What are the different lengths of paddleboards?

          Kids – (9 feet or less) are more maneuverable and suitable for surfing or as a kid’s board.

          All-round – (9 to 12 feet) are great for everyday use on calm waters and can be used in the surf.

          RED Paddle Ride 10’6

          RED Paddle Ride 10’8


          Racing & Touring – (12 to 14 feet) are faster more common for racing and/or touring. They also track better in the water, a desirable feature when paddling longer distances.

          RED Paddle Sport 11’3

          RED Paddle Voyager 12’0



          Common questions we get about SUP’s

          What PSI (pounds per square inch) should I inflations my SUP too?

          This varies for each manufacturer but ranges from 16-22PSI. Using a standard pump is impossible to reach those PSI levels so companies have specially designed pumps that make reaching those levels easy!

          What’s the best paddleboard for beginners?

          Ultimately, the best paddleboard for a beginner is one that’s stable. Stability comes from the width of the board. Look for a board with a broad nose as opposed to heavily tapered. Next, look at the thickness of the paddleboard. Inflatable boards are usually around 5 inches thick and have flat edges, as opposed to tapered edges on solid boards. Solid boards do this to save weight but it also reduces stability.
          A beginner should look for a board around 10-11 feet long and a wide nose. Finally, around 5 inches in thickness and can be pumped to 16+ PSI.



          Check out the rest of the Paddle board series;


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