Inflatables vs Hard Paddle Boards: A Speed Comparison

Austin Cox | Informational

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Inflatables vs Hard Paddle Boards: A Speed Comparison

Inflatables vs Epoxy Paddle Boards (Which one is faster?)

With the rising popularity of inflatable paddle boards (SUP), there have been questions about how they match up against a rigid paddle board made out of epoxy in terms of speed. When an inflatable SUP and epoxy SUP are compared side by side in a measured speed test, how close are they to one another? To answer this question, we took the two types of paddle boards out on the water to compare their speeds. Inflatable vs Epoxy paddle board

The paddle boards we tested

For accuracy, we selected ISLE paddle board models similar in size and dimensions for both an inflatable and epoxy construction. Comparison12’6 Inflatable Touring vs. 12’6 Spear Race Board Paddle board speed test ISLE SUP

The speed test between inflatable & hard paddle boards

We tested the two boards on a half mile, flat water bay course at Coronado Bay with minimal winds and no swell. Furthermore, we tested each board at a high intensity stroke rate as well as a casual stroke rate to minimize error. We used the Speed Coach as a heart rate monitor and stroke counter to target a similar cadence & stroke rate for each rider and board model. The riders ended up finishing with almost identical heart rates, stroke counts and intensity levels for each paddle board type. 

Epoxy paddle board

Which type of paddle board is faster

After all the data was averaged out, the epoxy paddle boards were a tad bit faster than the inflatable paddle boards. Speed Comparison
  • At a relaxed stroke pace, the 12’6 inflatable SUP went3.78mph and the 12’6 epoxy SUP went 3.96mph
  • At an intense stroke pace, the 12’6 inflatable SUP went 4.88mph and the 12’6 epoxy SUP went 5.21mph
  • Overall, the epoxy SUP was 6% faster than the inflatable SUP

ISLE epoxy paddle board

Epoxy paddle boards are faster than inflatable paddle boards, but...

Overall, the speed difference between the two standup paddle boards are very minimal. For the recreational paddler, this difference is trivial. At the end of the day, both types of paddle boards are excellent choices because each have their own advantages depending on your riding style. If you’re a serious racer, then a hard board is an excellent choice for the increased speed and glide over long distances. However, when it comes to casual paddling, the inflatables are ideal for budget minded paddlers, those practicing sup yoga, or if storing and transporting a large epoxy board is an issue. Feel free to call us or send an email so we can help guide you through the process of finding the right board for you!


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