Choosing a Rigid versus Inflatable Paddle Board

Hey there, how's it going? Let's get straight to it. I bet you’re looking for some adventure on the water. Maybe with your loyal fur-buddy by your side, or maybe just with some biodegradable sunblock. Let's dive into the epic face-off between choosing a rigid versus inflatable paddle board.  Oh boy, are you in for a ride!

are all paddle boards inflatable elyse john rigid board monterey bayJohn keeping the board stable while Elyse learns how to paddle. We rented rigid paddle boards early on in Monterey Bay, CA.

Now when you think of stable, secure and nostalgic board designs, the rigid paddle board, a.k.a the non-inflatable or hard paddle board, comes to mind. They are like that old trusty backpack that's gone everywhere with you and only has that slight tear in the side.

However, let’s not dismiss the young, dynamic contender - the inflatable paddle board. These ones have defied gravity, they're the magician's bag of the paddle board world, and boy oh boy, are they convenient!

The rigid paddle board is typically made from materials like wood, fiberglass or foam. They have years of polishing, crafting, and cursing from throwing them into storage - oh boy, storing these beasts can be a challenge. You can't just deflate them and stash them away!

But herein comes our knight in shining armor - the inflatable paddle board. Made from industrial grade PVC, they can be deflated and packed in your backpack, ready to be re-inflated at your next destination. Talk about easy to transport and store!

Now don't get us wrong. Rigid paddle boards have their share of glory when it comes to wave shredding competitions or racing. That's where they are the Usain Bolt of the wave world. The hard structure provides greater speed and maneuverability crafted for the serious competitors among us.

But what if you want to just soak up the sun and get a tan with your dog? Enter the "inflatable paddle board with dog" - secure, durable and fun all at once! Inflatables, with their wider size and more volume, offer a stable and secure platform for you and your furry friend.


Transporting a rigid paddle board can be a real pain, especially if you prefer spontaneity. It takes up space, requires a rack, and I hope you remember your roof straps when you venture out!

In contrast, the inflatable paddle board is like a Transformer toy, just adult sized and more practical. Just deflate, roll it up, and pop it in its carry bag; before you know it, you've got a paddle board in a backpack!

Should you drop your paddle board, the rigid ones have the potential to receive some bruises, scratches, or even cracks. They're not exactly what you’d call 'resilient'.

But fear not! The inflatable paddle boards are the bouncy castles of the water world. Even if you drop them, they can absorb the shock without getting damaged because of their resilient and durable nature.


When it comes to rigid versus inflatable paddle board performance in windy conditions and choppy waters, don’t be fooled here - both types have their pros and cons.

In strong winds, the rigid board's lower profile allows it to cut through the wind with relative ease. It's like a samurai sword cutting through a watermelon, while the inflatable one is a tad more like trying to slice it with a spoon.

But when those waters get too choppy, inflatable paddle boards are the durable choice due to their increased volume.

We find we get the best performance in windy conditions and choppy waters on our inflatable paddle boards because we use folding chairs.  When the wind picks up, we fold out our trusty chair, sit down comfortably and paddle up wind rapidly past everyone silly enough to still be standing.  

Rigid paddle board for competition

Choosing between rigid and inflatable comes down to your paddling needs, storage space, and adventure goals. Serious competitors gravitate towards rigid boards for their speed and precision.  Paddle board racing and paddle board surfing competitions are a great way to stay in shape, exercise your competitive spirit and a ton of fun.  For cutting edge performance that result in the lowest times and best surfing, having a competition rigid paddle board is key.

If speedy maneuvers and hairpin turns quench your thirst for adventure, then the rigid paddle board might be your companion for father Time!  This is especially true if you have some disposable income, no kids, a big garage and van or large-ish SUV with a roof rack capable of handling a 10-12-foot paddle board.  

Inflatable paddle board for adventure

Adventurers who crave convenience, fun and the company of their four-legged friends, choose the inflatable paddle boards. They're not just boards; they're a way of life!  Inflatable paddle boards come in a variety of bundles and sizes that can meet virtually any budget.  As a family, we are always looking to maximize our fun at a minimal cost. Our inflatable paddle boards meet both of these goals.  

We love to hike into remote mountain lakes with our inflatable paddle boards to enjoy a day exploring on the water and finding the best fishing spots.  We also have four kids so transporting 6 rigid paddle boards, especially while we are on a camping vacation, would be impossible with rigid boards.  However, we routinely go camping both in our van and our RV with six big paddle boards, six floaties and six mountain bikes!

So next time you're out and about, don't be surprised if you see an entire family strutting by with backpacks that contain large, durable, inflatable paddle boards.

If convenience, easy transport and storage, durability, and the ability to share your ride with your furry friend have you nodding in agreement, then join the army of the inflatable paddle board enthusiasts. We promise a hell of a ride!

How do you decide between a rigid and inflatable paddle board?

So folks, in the tussle between rigid versus inflatable paddle board, there isn’t a clear winner. They both have unique benefits and drawbacks. The deciding factor is your personal needs and skill level. The winner is really based on what floats your boat, or in this case, what paddles your board. All around us, adventurers are making the best choice for their unique needs.

If you need to dash to the finish line of a competition or perform tricky maneuvers, rigid boards will likely be your best choice.  Specifically if your priorities are:

  • Competitive paddle board surfing
  • Competitive paddle board racing

And if you have the following at your disposal:

  • Extra money to invest in a nice board
  • Large garage or storage area to store a 10-12 foot paddle board
  • Large van or SUV with roof rack capable of transporting a 10-12 foot paddle board
  • Ability to park near where you plan to paddle board or have a wheeled cart for transporting your rigid board.

But if convenience, durability and the ability to inflate your adventure are more your style, then the inflatable paddle board is waiting for your leap of faith.  Especially if your priorities are:

  • Buying something while sticking to a tight budget
  • Exploring lakes and rivers both on and off the beaten path
  • Family fun, including the family dog(s)
  • The flexibility to switch between standing, sitting, and having a nap on a comfortable platform
  • Ease of transportation in a back seat or trunk
  • Fun with friends
  • Increased ability to be flexible and spontaneous in your adventures

Paddle boarding is not just about the board you choose, but the experiences you accumulate. So whichever you choose between rigid versus inflatable paddle board - make sure it brings you barrels of fun and oceans of unforgettable moments.

As they say, life is better when you're paddle boarding! So get out there, do your thing, and remember, no matter the type of board, the waves are always ready for you, and so is the adventure. Catch you on the flip side!

We hope to see you out on the water!

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