How to Inflate an iSUP: 6 Things You Need to Know

Inflating a standup paddle board (SUP) isn’t as easy as you would initially think, and there are things you need to know before just pumping your SUP up and taking it into the water.

You can inflate your iSUP manually or with an electric compressor. Some compressors have rechargeable batteries for use when in remote areas. Manual inflation will be more work than electric methods.

You can actually destroy your board if you’re not careful, so it’s important to follow these 6 tips. Make sure to check out each tip thoroughly and read your paddle board manual instead of winging it whenever you’re ready to paddle board.

Know Your SUP’s PSI      

PSI stands for pound per square inch, and you might have come across this measurement when you’re inflating your car tires. This is the unit of measurement in the United States of America that you’ll also need to pay attention to when you’re inflating your SUP.

Every paddle board has a optimum pressure for best use, so you’ll need to check your manual or other instructions to see what your iSUP should be inflated to. Most of the time, this is 12 psi. However, be sure to double check that your board doesn’t need anything specific, and it’ll probably fall in between 10 PSI and 20 PSI.

If you overinflate your SUP, then you run the risk of it popping or letting air out through the stitches. You wouldn’t even know until you’re out on the water, and that’s not safe or fun to deal with.

On the flip side, if you don’t inflate your paddle board enough, then you’ll have a hard time getting on it, staying on it, and navigating the water in general. If you’re new to paddle boarding, you might not necessarily notice the difference right away. If you’re new, then make sure you’re really paying attention to your SUP’s recommenced pressure.

How Much Should A Paddle Board Inflate?

The PSI of your SUP will tell you exactly how much your paddle board should inflate. While some people go above or below the PSI of the board, it’s not recommended to do so. If you’re just starting out, then it’s vital that you follow the PSI of the board or else you can cause yourself more problems.

You will also occasionally need to add air to your paddle board after inflation. As we’ve posted before, they do gradually lose air pressure.

Check The Valve Pin

Every iSUP has a valve pin that’s a crucial part to proper inflation, and you need to check that it’s in the upright position. Most valve pins are yellow, and you’ll be able to tell where this is pretty easily when you go to inflate your board. To better see what an upright valve pin looks like, check out this YouTube video (note: the valve pin in this video is gray, not yellow).

This valve pin makes it so that the air you pump into your board will stay there instead of coming right back out the minute you stop pumping. See how it’s handy? Manual inflation of your board is going to be a lot of work, and you don’t want it to go to waste. 

Your valve pin can twist to move up in a lock position and down in an open position. This is an important thing to know for deflating your paddle board, too!

Choose What Kind of Pump You’ll Use: Manual or Electric

When inflating your iSUP, you have two choices. You can go with the inexpensive and often included portable hand pump or you can go with the faster, easier electric pump. There are pros and cons to each choice.

A hand pump is the common choice for most people that have just started paddle boarding. You can inflate your SUP anywhere, which makes it really convenient. However, what most people don’t expect is how tired it can actually make you. 

Paddle boarding requires the most strength from your arms, and that’s exactly what you’ll be wearing out when you’re pumping up your board. Even if you’re only trying to get to 10 PSI, you’ll be pumping at least 100 times.

On the other hand, an electric pump won’t require much energy compared to a manual pump. You’ll simply have to hook it up, plug it in, and monitor the PSI gauge. Some compressors will let you set an automatic shut off pressure. 

The tricky part here is having somewhere to plug your pump in. Oftentimes, paddle boarders use the 12V plug in their car to power the pump, but it’s crucial that you have a good battery in your car and that you unplug everything before you leave. Otherwise, you could end up with a half-inflated SUP and a dead car battery. Leave the car running for a few minutes if you need to. Some car and boat battery jump boxes have 12V output you can use, as well.

I recommend the Outdoor Master Shark for boards up to 20 psi and for people with 12V access. I also like the SereneLife Digital Compressor rechargeable pump for boards up to 16 psi when 12V access isn’t available. Many paddle board companies are buying these exact compressors and then rebranding them under their own name, usually at a slightly higher price markup. Just buy the pump separately on Amazon and save a few dollars.

Be Careful Putting the Hose for Your Pump In the Valve

iSUP valves are known for breaking, and you’ll want to be very careful inflating your board because of it. One of the most common ways to break it is actually trying to inflate it by trying to put those hose on.

Make sure that the hose is perfectly straight before you push down in any way. You don’t want to insert the hose at any kind of angle, and you don’t want to push the hose in as soon as you insert it either.

While you’re doing this, go ahead and make sure that the hose is attached securely and tight. This will save you a lot of air if it happens to be even a little loose. If you’re using a hand pump, then you’ll be happy you did this.

Inflate Your SUP on a Flat Surface

When you first inflate your paddle board, you might try doing it in a number of places, but keep in mind that some places are much easier to inflate your board up than others.

Look for somewhere flat. There should be somewhere by the water that’s relatively flat, even if it’s not perfect. While you’re looking for a good flat space, make sure that you’re not blowing it up on rocks or anything. This shouldn’t really matter because SUPs are made of pretty thick material, but you never know what could happen, and if you happen to step on your board while it’s blowing up and you’re on sharper surfaces, then you could puncture it.

If you’re using a manual pump, then you can actually save yourself a lot of time by finding a flat surface. It’ll help you actually pump the air quicker and with less effort, which saves you from exerting yourself as much.

Give Yourself Enough Time to Inflate Your iSUP

If you’re trying to plan a trip to go paddle boarding, make sure you put in time for unpacking, inflating the board, and carrying it to the water. This can easily take 30 minutes, and if you use a manual pump, you may want to wait a few minutes before hopping into the water and paddling away with arms that feel like jelly. 

If you’re going with kids or with other people in general, it’s important to make sure this is known. People can start getting antsy or frustrated waiting, but letting them know ahead of time can alleviate this situation before it even begins.

Carlo also wrote a step by step guide about inflating paddle boards with each step further explained.

How Long Does It Take to Inflate an SUP?

This really depends on what kind of pump you use, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping for your paddle board inflation pump. 

If you’re looking at using a manual pump, be prepared to pump anywhere between 100 and 175 times to reach the most common PSI. Doing this can take anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes depending on how physically in shape you are. The more inflated your board is, the harder it is to pump. This, in turn, affects how quickly you can pump.

An electric pump can get the job in 10 minutes or less, depending on how you power it. If you’re someone who hates waiting or you tend to have tight schedules, then an electric pump is more suited for you.

Final thoughts

Regardless of how you choose to inflate you paddle board, take time to learn how everything fits together, and be sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations. Not only your board brand steps,,but also understand the pump’s operation and limitations.

Now that you know how to inflate your board, get out there, stay safe and have fun.


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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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