If you’ve been on the lake or rivers this summer, then you’ve seen someone gliding through the water on their stand-up paddle board. Due to COVID-19, we are all escaping outside and focusing on fitness. Rather than spending dollars on gym memberships, people are purchasing free weights, kayaks, spin bikes and more. According to the The Denver Post, paddleboarding is exploding in popularity in Colorado due to the pandemic. I believe it’s doing the same in New Hampshire!
I personally joined the paddlesport trend this weekend. My goal was to experience the difference between inflatables and plastic paddle boards before purchasing one. *Note: I am truly referencing a plastic board not an epoxy, traditional or fiberglass paddle board.
(Disclosure: Some of the product links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. This helps keep my blog running!)
THE PADDLE BOARD SPECS
iSUP Vilano Navigator
Features and Specifications:
- Size: 10 feet long, 32 inches wide and 6 inches thick
- Weight: 27 pounds
- Supports: 280 pounds
- Materials: PVC
- Warranty: 1 year
SUP Pelican Flow 106
Features and Specifications:
- Size: 10 feet long, 32 inches wide and 6 inches thick
- Weight: 48 pounds
- Supports: 230 pounds
- Materials: RAM-X impact-resistant material
- Warranty: 2 years
THE PADDLE BOARD TEST DRIVE
Inflatable SUP: PROS
The number one feature of this inflatable board is its lightweight handling and the ability to deflate it. We do not have a roof rack on our Ford Edge so neither of the boards could go there. However, slightly deflated, the iSUP could easily fit in the SUV with the seats down.
Secondly, the inflatable paddleboard comes with a backpack. Living in New England we are fortunate to have lakes and rivers everywhere. Having the ability to transport this with minimal space provides spontaneity and endless adventures.
This paddleboard can be stored fully inflated or deflated in its carrying case. Whether you live in a studio apartment or a 2,000 square foot home, you will be able to store this iSUP board.
Inflatable paddleboards are known for their durability. Everyone at the lake was amazed at the quality of this board. They expected an inner tube-like board and this iSUP blew them away.
Once I gained by “sea legs”, this paddle board gave me a solid, smooth, stable ride. I encountered a few waves from passing boats. As long as I turned the board into the waves, I did not overturn. My husband tried this board as well and flipped it once. He was testing to see how much movement he could make before tipping it. Getting back onto the board was as simple as grabbing the middle strap and the outside of the iSUP coupled with pulling his body onto the board.
Hard SUP: PROS
Lake Home Living:
If you own a lake house or live within walking distance to one, this plastic standup paddleboard might be for you. It’s a great board for storing on the waterfront. If you aren’t lucky enough to own waterfront (I’m certainly not! ha ha!), invest in a SUP cart. This tool will make carrying this heavy, hard paddleboard back and forth to your water source. Plus, it holds two boards! Meaning, you and your fellow paddler are set to go.
impact resistant material:
This board is certainly more durable than it’s inflatable cousin. If the lake or river you paddle has a rocky shoreline, you do not need to worry about scratching this SUP like you would an epoxy board. It feels more rugged and durable. The material feels and looks similar to a kayak.
The plastic stand up board seems more conducive to seated rowing than the inflatable. This gives you an option when you get tired or want to rest and hydrate.
This hardshell SUP is best for “lighter paddlers”. My husband weighs 180 pounds and found the board to be difficult to use and included a longer learning curve.
Waves were certainly an issue earlier in the morning as the water skiers were active. This Pelican Flow stand up paddleboard handled the choppy water well. I dropped to my knees several times to stabilize myself. The plastic paddle board, while anything but elegant, got the job done.
Inflatable SUP: CONS
Due to the fact that this stand up paddleboard is inflatable, it is a little high maintenance. For instance, when you aren’t out paddling, the board should be stored out of the sunlight. The sun can heat the inflatable up, it can expand and pop. That’s certainly the end of a good day on the lake!
On average, an inflatable stand up paddleboard will last about five to ten years. That is with minimal inflating and deflating, proper maintenance, avoidance of sharp objects and the normal wear and tear. The hard paddleboard has a much longer life cycle.
Inflating & Deflating:
No one wants extra work when it’s time to play. If you don’t live near a water source, this iSUP will always need to be inflated or deflated. If you use the pump included with the package, it will take forever to blow up this board.
To deal with this problem, I suggest having a SUP electric pump handy. The compressor I linked, can inflate and deflate your paddle board. It is battery operated and can plug into the cigarette lighter in your car.
Upgrade the Paddle:
As a novice to the paddlesport trend, I’ve only tried two paddles. After reading several reviews, this Vilano Navigator stand up paddleboard package includes a sub par paddle. Paddlers recommended upgrading for better results. You don’t want to be in the middle of the lake when your paddle breaks! According to Outdoor Gear Lab, this SUP paddle made the top 5 Best Adjustable SUP Paddles of 2020.
Hard SUP: CONS
Lack of Portability:
I give this plastic paddleboard a huge thumbs down for portability due it’s weight. 48 pounds might not sound like much except it’s ten feet in length. My husband struggled to carry this up the steep stairs from the lake all by himself. Therefore, there is no way I could ever transport this paddle board. Meaning, no paddling alone.
Secondly, this has to go on a roof rack or the back of a truck. We rented our board and transported it in the cab of my father’s truck. Lifting the Pelican Flow stand up paddleboard into the truck and carrying it to the EKAL Activity Center by Church Landing at Mill Falls, where we rented it, took two men! (*Note: If you are vacationing in Meredith, New Hampshire, the EKAL Activity Center only carries plastic stand up paddleboards.)
I took a 3 hour paddle around Lake Waukewan, Center Harbor, on this plastic paddleboard. It took me 30 minutes before I could stand up. Initially, kneeling was the most stable position.
Unfortunately, my knees did not care for this hard board. Eventually, I was forced to stand due to the pain. The anti-slip cushioned deck pad does nothing to hide the firmness of this board.
My husband and I both tested these boards extensively and came to the same conclusion. The hardshell, Pelican Flow board was tipsier than the Vilano inflatable board. After spending three hours on this board and switching back to the iSUP, I immediately noticed the difference. My entire body relaxed once I was back on the inflatable.
My review of the inflatable and hard board was done over two days. It was my first time using a SUP board. The first day, I tested the iSUP. The second day was the plastic paddle board. My learning curve for the hard board should have been much easier seeing as I had practice the day before. Unfortunately, it took me longer to gain my balance and to feel comfortable on this board.
No Ankle Leash:
It seems like an obvious safety feature, but this Pelican Hardshell Stand-Up Paddleboard did not include an ankle leash. If we were to fall off, the board would continue floating away and we would have to swim after it.
THE PADDLE BOARD WINNER
Inflatable vs Hard Paddle Board Conclusion
Two days of trial runs by three individuals testing the inflatable and the hard stand up paddle board concluded in a unanimous vote for the inflatable standup board! All-around it had the best features, portability and performance.
Unfortunately, the Vilano Navigator is no longer available. However, there are other inflatables out there with wonderful reviews. Such as, the Roc Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board. My husband already called dibs on this one. This iSUP package currently has a 5 star rating on Amazon and over 2,000 reviews!
Stand Up Paddle Board Accessories
A few other items you need to have when paddling are a life jacket, waterproof storage and water source. Here is a great women’s life jacket for all your lake life needs (whitewater, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing)! I’ve also included a waterproof fanny pack by YETI so you can bring your camera along. Lastly, staying hydrated while paddling is super important. A reusable water bottle that can be attached to your board with a carabiner is key to the success of your paddling trip.