Do Inflatable Paddle Boards Lose Air?

Although inflatable stand-up paddle boards have become very popular for families and water sports lovers, a common concern is that they can lose air and deflate. Since safety is important to consider in purchasing a paddle board, I decided to do some digging on whether inflatable paddle boards can lose air. 

Inflatable paddle boards do lose air. There are several incidents that can occur that would cause your inflatable SUP to lose air – a broken seam, puncture, loose valve, or general wear over time. However, that does not mean that inflatable paddle boards are not safe or the right option for you. 

If you already understand that paddle boards can slowly lose air over time, consider grabbing an inexpensive portable electric compressor like the SereneLife Premium portable. And if you’re ready to get started paddle boarding but don’t want to jump into the deep end financially, the Fbsport Premium 10’ comes in a variety of colors and gets top spot on Amazon. This is why it sells out quickly. The O’Brien Rio from Overton’s is a good alternative when the Fbsport board is out of stock.

Before purchasing an inflatable paddle board, it is important to consider all possible circumstances as well as your own lifestyle and preferences. Here I’ve provided an in-depth analysis of inflatable paddle boards so that you can make a more informed decision before your next trip to the beach. 

What Could Cause an Inflatable Paddle Board to Lose Air?

Leaking Valve

Sometimes the air valve that you would use to inflate your SUP can become loose or they are not 100% tightened by the factory before being sold. You’ll usually notice there is an issue if you feel air leaking from outside your valve. 

Manufacturers normally include a repair kit with your purchase that comes with a valve wrench. Fit it to the valve and tighten it by turning clockwise. This should fix the leak. 

Broken Seam

Inflatable paddle boards are typically made by PVC layers with drop-stitch construction (source) from top to bottom and then glued together at the side rail seam. Seam issues seem to be a common trend with inflatable paddle boards – across all manufacturers. Despite advancements in technology and construction, there is always a probability that a number of inflatable paddle boards issued out will have a faulty seam.

Beyond just a fluke in construction, general wear and tear can also cause seam issues. Extreme heat can weaken the glue holding the seams together. Leaving your SUP inflated for prolonged periods of time can also increase the oxidative reaction rate of the glue and the PVC material, lessening the glue’s ability to hold. 

General Loss of Air Pressure

No matter how you spin it, air escapes. Even if the valve is tight, even if the board is made out of the strongest materials, over time the air will escape from the board. This is less of an issue if you’re only inflating it to use for a day, but it becomes more of an issue if you choose to leave your board inflated for a prolonged period of time. As heat levels rise and fall, this can affect the air pressure in your inflatable SUP, and air will slowly leak out. 

Punctures

Although newer inflatable SUPs are pretty durable, there is still a higher likelihood of a tear than a rigid stand-up paddle board. 

If your inflatable SUP comes into contact with sharp objects, such as rocks or coral, in the water, there is a chance that it will cause a tear and your SUP will deflate. This is especially true for older, cheaper models of paddle boards that have fewer PVC layers. That can be a scary thought if you’ve paddled very far from shore and suddenly your floating device starts losing air rapidly.

So does this mean that you should label inflatable stand-up paddle boards as death-traps and give up on them altogether?  Not necessarily. 

The truth is that even with all these potential concerns, modern inflatable stand-up paddle boards are more durable than you think and can stand up to a lot of abuse. For example, if you drop a well-made inflatable SUP from a tall building, it will bounce back easily and will show minimal dings. The same can’t be said for a hard paddle board – it would likely need repair from a fall like that. Some companies have even driven over inflatable boards with cars to test their durability.

Inflatable paddle boards offer a lot of benefits that a rigid paddle board cannot offer. Depending upon your lifestyle needs, an inflatable paddle board could be well-suited for you. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Owning an Inflatable Paddle Board?

Pros

Easy to Transport

Inflatable SUPs are extremely easy to carry around because they deflate and roll up into the size of a sleeping bag. This is super convenient if you travel often by plane and want to be able to pack away your SUP without worrying about airline fees and restrictions

Easy to Store

You have far more storage options with an inflatable SUP than you do with a rigid board. Hard paddle boards can range from 9 to 12 feet long making it difficult to store if you don’t have a large SUV or a home with a large garage. Inflatable SUPs can be stored in practically any vehicle or home. 

More Affordable 

In general, it is easier to find inflatable SUPs for a cheaper price point than it is to find a hard paddle board. This can be enticing if you’re just starting out with owning a paddle board or you’re on a budget. 

Cons

Inflation 

One pro of having a rigid paddle board is that, as soon as you hit the beach, they are ready to go. Inflatable SUPs require you to take time and inflate them before you are water-bound. Depending on if you have a hand pump or electric pump, how strong you are, and the recommended PSI for your board, this can take from 5 – 15 minutes. 

Performance

If you’re looking for a paddle board that will perform better under extreme conditions, hard paddle boards are the way to go. In choppy waters, a soft paddle board can bend more which makes it less sturdy. Rigid paddle boards are generally more aerodynamic, agile in the water, and hold up better in activities such as SUP surfing, racing, or long-distance paddling. 

How To Take Care of Your Inflatable Paddle Board

If you do decide that the inflatable SUP is the best option for you and purchase one for yourself, it is important that you practice the proper care techniques so that it will last you for a long time. 

  • Rinse your board after using it. This is especially true if you’ve been paddling in saltwater. Salt can corrode your board and make it more susceptible to tears or broken seams. Dirt and debris can also wear down the material over time, so it’s important to keep it clean. 
  • Dry your board before rolling it up. This prevents mold from growing on your board. You can either let it air dry or use a towel to wipe it up.
  • Roll up your board “loosely”. If you roll up your SUP too tightly, you put stress on the seams and materials. 
  • Don’t store in direct sunlight or high heat. As mentioned before, excessive heat can weaken the glue in the seams of your SUP. It can also affect the air pressure in an inflated SUP. 
  • Don’t drag your SUP on the ground. Dragging your SUP on the ground runs the risk of it getting punctured by rocks or debris.

ISUPWorld has a great guide with more detailed information on how to care for your board.

Inflatable SUP Recommendations 

Now that you’re informed and ready to purchase your first inflatable SUP, here are a few great options to get your started. 

Roc Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

Roc’s board is a fan favorite with a 5-star rating and it’s no secret why. This board is made out of military grade PVC material and is 20% lighter than most competitors – making it extremely easy to carry around. People love the sturdiness and stability of this board, as well is the quality of the dry storage bag and backpack. 

O’Brien Rio from Overton’s

O’Brien has been in the water sports business for a long time. They now have entered the iSUP market with a couple of entries. This 10’ 6” board is recommended for riders up to 180 lbs if new and 215 lbs with some experience.

Isle AquaPlus 10’6″ Inflatable SUP

AquaPlus’ board is the most affordable of the bunch and also has great reviews. The board is constructed with an additional PVC layer for extra durability and comes with stainless steel D-rings for hand-held carrying. It also holds a capacity of up to 330lbs, higher than the capacity of the other two boards. 


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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