Maintaining & Caring for an Inflatable Paddle Board: Ultimate Guide

If you own an inflatable stand up paddle board (iSUP) or are considering purchasing one, then you might be wondering what exactly goes into maintaining and caring for it to ensure that it stays in good shape for years to come.

If this is the case, then you’re in the right place! We’ve done extensive research on and have come up with the ultimate guide for caring and maintaining inflatable paddle boards.

So, what is required for you to maintain and care for an inflatable paddle board, and can it be stored outside in the winter?

If you want to keep your inflatable paddle board in good condition, then you should:

  • Carry it; don’t drag or throw it
  • Be mindful of where you place it and store it
  • Clean it often
  • Protect it against UV rays
  • Check the pressure and pressure valve
  • Don’t stack things on top of it
  • Make sure the inside remains dry
  • Fold it, don’t roll it
  • Store it properly in the winter – iSUPs should not be kept outside in the winter

By following these 9 guidelines, you’ll be able to get the most out of your inflatable paddle board. Read on to learn more in-depth information and specifics for how you can put these principles into practice.

Carry, Don’t Drag or Throw

While it might be tempting in many instances to drag or throw your inflatable paddle board, you should always make a conscious effort to remind yourself to carry it to wherever you intend to take it.

Risks of Dragging an Inflatable Paddle Board

If you drag your iSUP, whether it be across light, smooth sand or fresh cut grass, you will be wearing down the polish and materials which could lead to wear and tear over time.

The biggest risk of dragging your iSUP is that you might drag it across a rock or sharp object that is hidden from view and rip or damage it entirely.

Risks of Throwing an Inflatable Paddle Board

While it might be a fun idea to scream “Hey, Catch!” and throw your inflatable paddle board to someone else, or to throw it into the water before getting in and using it, it would be safer to avoid doing this.

If the iSUP lands on a rough surface or sharp object, the board can simply crack on impact. Alternatively, even if it doesn’t crack, some connections within its construction could become loose and portions of the iSUP could collapse inwards at a later time once enough pressure is applied.

Even the smallest hole caused by the board being dragged or dropped can lead to deterioration as water can get inside and cause problems.

Pay Attention to Where You Leave or Store Your Paddle Board

Never leave your iSUP out in direct sunlight.

After a fun day on the water, you probably won’t be paying too much attention to where you leave your inflatable paddle board once you’re done using it. This, however, is a mistake that could negatively impact the lifespan of your paddleboard.

  • Firstly, be sure to never leave your iSUP out in direct sunlight (more on this below), as the UV rays can cause significant damage to the board.
  • Secondly, try to avoid placing your iSUP in a humid environment, as bacteria can begin to grow inside your iSUP. Also, iSUPs built with lower quality adhesives where certain pieces attach can lose their effectiveness and come loose in humid environments.
  • Thirdly, never place your board upright and lean it against something without securing it. This is to avoid the risk of the board falling over or being taken by a gust of wind and getting damaged with a cut or gash.

Best practice would be to always set the board down flat on the ground with the bottom facing up. This will help protect the fin, which can easily get damaged from the weight of the board pushing down on it when it is set fin-side down.

Since the bottom of the board is the part that comes in contact with the water and is, therefore, the most important, it is worth risking slight imperfections in the aesthetic of the top of the board to ensure the bottom remains free of any gashes or damage to the fin.

Transporting an Inflatable Paddle Board

If you are travelling from one location to another and want to bring your inflatable paddle board with you, there are some things to keep in mind regarding a placement that will help ensure your iSUP reaches its destination unscathed.

If you have to place your iSUP on top of your car, place it with the fin facing up and towards the front. This will help catch the board if it begins sliding if the straps come loose. When securing your iSUP with straps, be sure not to tighten the straps too much, as tightening the straps too much can create uneven distributions of pressure or lead to cracks in the edge. There are more tips and a few mounting solutions in this post.

In other cases, it might be best to simply deflate the iSUP, make sure it is fully dry, roll it up and then transport it that way. If you do this, just be sure to not damage the rolled-up iSUP during transport.

Storing an Inflatable Paddle Board During the Summer

If you just got done using your inflatable paddle board and know you don’t plan on using it for the next several days, storing it properly is essential to ensuring that it will be ready to use the next time you want to.

Firstly, as long as you have the space for it, you could simply keep the inflatable paddle board fully inflated and store it flat, bottom-facing up, somewhere like a garage or shed.

Try to store it in a location that will not experience sharp fluctuations in temperature, such as becoming extremely hot or extremely cold. If you know the place you’re storing the inflatable paddle board has a risk of becoming extremely hot, simply let a bit of air out of the iSUP before storing to ensure that the heat won’t cause the iSUP to expand and burst.

If you don’t have the space to keep the iSUP fully inflated for storing it, then simply deflate the iSUP and store it anywhere that is protected from the elements.

Regardless of how or where you are storing your iSUP, always be sure to dry it fully before leaving it somewhere. Moisture and humidity can lead to bacteria growth and weaken the adhesives holding together pieces of your iSUP.

We go over tips for storing your iSUP at the end of this article. A cover is worth the investment for summer and winter storage.

This VAMO cover comes in many sizes on Amazon

Keep it Clean

Even though keeping your inflatable paddle board clean is not very fun for you, it is the most important for keeping maintaining the quality and integrity of your paddle board.

Here are some best practices to follow to keep your inflatable paddle board clean and pristine:

Hose it Down

Hosing down your board with fresh water after every time you use it is the easiest and most essential step to follow for keeping it clean. This is especially important after you have been out on saltwater, since the salt itself can get absorbed into the outer PVC layer of your board, forming a crust and making it brittle, which can lead to a breakdown of the material over time.

If you don’t hose down your board, any bacteria that got onto it during your outdoor adventures, such as microbes or mildew, can start growing and eating away at the PVC exterior as well.

As long as it is done in a timely fashion, stains on your iSUP caused by stuff like seaweed or body oils can be rinsed off before becoming an ugly, permanent scar on your iSUP.

Rinsing the metal parts of your iSUP with water is most essential, as water left on stainless steel can eventually lead to rusting. The parts of your iSUP that will most likely have stainless steel are the tie-down points, fin hardware, leash joints, and leash plugs.

If your iSUP has an adjustable paddle, then be sure to rinse the buckle lock for it as well, and pop the buckle lockout so that it can air dry without touching the paddle. This would help prevent the buckle itself from rusting onto the paddle.

Cleaning with Soap

In instances where your iSUP has an accumulation of dirt, grime, oils, or scum, you might need to do a more thorough cleaning using soap as well.

In cases like this, simply hose down the iSUP with fresh water and wash it with either mild dish soap or inflatable boat cleaner (which is made specifically for cleaning PVC) and a sponge.

Even if you remember to hose off your iSUP after each use, a deep clean like this is recommended every couple months or so, and even more often if you use your iSUP and accumulate dirt and grime more frequently.

Be sure to fully dry the iSUP after each rinse-off or deep clean before storing it. Leaving residual water in warm environments can harbour the growth and spread of bacteria, degrade certain components of the board, and cause the stainless steel elements to rust.

Read more at How to Clean a Paddle Board Properly: A Practical Guide

Protect Against UV Rays

While you might enjoy basking in the sun on a hot summer day, your inflatable paddle board’s lifespan is largely based on how often it is exposed to UV rays. While UV rays can incur a lot of damage on your iSUP, there are several precautions you can take to help protect it.

Damage Caused by UV Rays

When things get hot, they expand. This means that when exposed to the sun, the molecules that make up the materials (such as the EPS foam core) inside of the paddle board will expand and potentially burst or start peeling (delaminating) through the covering.

Delamination is a big problem because it creates air pockets between the foam core and epoxy shell of the iSUP, which causes major wear and tear on the board. While some iSUPs have built-in air vents to help eliminate these air pockets, these are not effective enough if the iSUP is extremely hot. Once a board starts delaminating, it’s pretty much game over.

Even though the PVC that makes up the outside of the paddle board is UV resistant, it isn’t fully UV-proof. If exposed to the sun long enough, the PVC material will start to break down as well. Over time, the finish on the board will be damaged, and you can expect the colours to start fading as well.

One of the biggest risks of leaving your iSUP out directly in the sun is that if the air pressure of the iSUP is on the high side, the high heat could cause the air pressure to increase and possibly pass the maximum air pressure, leading to the iSUP exploding. Therefore, always try to keep the air pressure in the iSUP slightly below the maximum to leave some wiggle room.

Precautions to Take

So now that you know all of the major risks involved with leaving your inflatable paddle board exposed to the sun, let’s go over several precautions you can take to help protect it and prevent any of these damages from occurring.

The simplest and most effective way to protect your iSUP from UV rays is to leave it in locations that offer coverage against the sun. For example, once you’re done using it, you can store your iSUP in your garage, a three-season room, sunroom, shed, under the shade of a tree, or inside your house.

Many iSUPs also come with reflective board bags with built-in air vents (these can also be purchased separately). So if you have to leave your iSUP outside, be sure to place it in one of these board bags with the air vent open.

Additionally, it can never hurt to apply UV blocking protectant to the board itself. At least a couple times per year – or once a month if you use the board more often – you should apply a PVC UV Protecting Spray like 303 Aerospace Protectant.

To apply, simply make sure the paddle board is completely dry, place it outside of direct sunlight, spray the entirety of the surface of your board with whichever product you choose, and wipe it dry with a soft, non-abrasive clean cloth.

Check the Pressure and Pressure Valve

While checking the pressure and pressure valve of your inflatable paddle board is something that can easily be forgotten or overlooked, it is important in extending the lifespan of your iSUP.

Inflating Your iSUP

The pressure levels of your iSUP are directly related to how over or under-inflated it is. When inflating your board, be sure to inflate it to the recommended PSI for that particular board.

Overinflating can cause deformities and a risk of bursting, while underinflating could make a board be unable to withstand the elements or support your weight and thus cause damage to its internal structure.

In extremely hot temperatures, air expands, which would cause the pressure inside of your iSUP to increase. To prevent the pressure from rising too high, be sure to release some air from time to time if you know the pressure might rise past its limit.

In extremely cold temperatures, the opposite will occur. However, you most likely won’t be paddle boarding in extremely cold temperatures, so this shouldn’t matter. (If you are, then simply add air to the iSUP to increase the pressure as needed).

When inflating your iSUP, be careful in ensuring that you are inserting and removing the valve correctly. Before trying to inflate the iSUP, make sure the hose of the pump you are using is correctly inserted into the valve on the iSUP. If you damage this valve, you’ll have a nightmare trying to maintain the correct pressure of the iSUP, so be careful and take as much time as needed to do it right.

OutdoorMaster SUP Air Pump The Shark (Amazon)

Tighten the Pressure Valve and Vent Plugs

It’s important to check and make sure that the pressure valve is tightened all the way, as a loose pressure valve can cause air pressure to be released and also allow foreign substances to enter the iSUP. To tighten the pressure valve, simply twist the valve wrench clockwise.

Vent plugs help regulate an iSUP’s internal pressure based on changes in elevation or temperature. Most vent plugs are watertight, but it would never hurt to double-check and make sure that the o-ring on the plug is tightened as securely as possible.

Cleaning the Pressure Valve

The goal of keeping the pressure valve clean is to prevent malfunctioning caused by debris blocking the lock mechanisms of the valve, which can cause air leakage.

Debris can usually be dislodged by a burst of air which you can create by pressing down on the valve stem while the board is fully inflated.

Alternatively, you can remove debris from the valve’s seal using spoofs, a vacuum, canned air, or moist warm clothing. If you try this and there is still leakage, then hold the valve open and clean the interior surfaces with a cotton swab soaked with 303 Protectant.

Don’t Stack Things on Top of it

Since an inflatable paddle board provides a fairly flat, large surface, it might be tempting to stack other objects on top of it when it is not being used. This, however, should be avoided if you want to maintain the integrity of your iSUP.

When other objects are placed on top of an iSUP, the iSUP develops what is called pressure dings. A pressure ding is a crease or a bump on the surface of your iSUP. If the surface is uneven, the water flow passing over the paddle board will not be balanced, and therefore your ride will be slower and shakier.

These deformations become weak points that, over time, can compromise the inflatable paddle board’s integrity as a whole.

So to keep your iSUP in optimal riding condition, be sure to never stack other objects on top of it – even very light objects – wherever you decide to store it.

Keep the Inside Dry

While we’ve already gone over steps you should take to keep the exterior of your iSUP and its pressure valve clean, there is one last region to consider: the inside.

As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind”. Therefore, keeping the inside of your inflatable paddle board clean and dry is probably going to be the most difficult and easiest to forget, since it isn’t always easy to tell if there is sand, dirt, or moisture inside of the iSUP.

The easiest way to keep the inside of your inflatable paddle board dry is by keeping the pressure valve on as tight as possible at all times. This would prevent anything from getting inside of your iSUP in the first place.

Problems Caused by Foreign Substances Inside Board

If moisture does get inside of the board, mildew and bacteria can start to grow and breed, wearing out the board from the inside.

Since you might be taking your paddle board to beaches where there is a lot of sand present, you might end up with sand inside of your board as well. This is dangerous because sand can start to chip away at the materials that make up the inflatable paddle board.

Cleaning Out and Drying the Inside

If you do end up with water or any other foreign substances inside of your inflatable paddle board, you want to get it removed, cleaned, and dried as soon as possible.

To do this, lock the valve open and then blow dry air into the iSUP, using either a pump or vacuum exhaust, until the inside is dry. Once dry, simply flip the iSUP over to allow any remaining debris or sand to fall out.

Once this is done, simply re-inflate until you get to the proper PSI recommended by the manufacturer of that particular iSUP, tighten the air pressure valve, and try to avoid ever letting anything else sneak into the inside of the iSUP again.

The Master Blaster is great at drying everything (Amazon)

Fold it, Don’t Roll it

Whenever you’re ready to deflate and store your iSUP somewhere for a while, you might be tempted to let all the air out and roll it up as tight as possible to fit it inside a storage bag or box. This, however, is not advised.

Rather than rolling up your iSUP, which can weaken the board’s seams and lead to holes that are costly to repair and reduce your board’s value, you should fold it.

Optimally, each fold should be approximately one foot long, or about the length of the board’s fin box. You might need to adjust the length of each fold to ensure it fits properly, and it might take a few minutes, but this is going to be the best approach to storing it in a more confined space properly.

Can Paddle Boards be Stored Outside in the Winter?

So, you’ve been enjoying your inflatable paddle board all summer long and have followed the above recommendations for proper maintenance. Now the question becomes: what should I do once winter hits? You could grab a wetsuit and continue to ride in colder weather. If not, you may wonder if you can store your paddle board outside in the winter?

While you can store your iSUP outside in the winter, you shouldn’t. Extreme fluctuations in temperature, along with the risk of snow freezing on top of and cracking your inflatable paddle board can create irreparable damage to your inflatable paddle board.

Plus, if you leave your inflatable paddle board outside, UV rays from the sun can still cause extensive damage to the board, even if it is cold outside. We provide more detailed answers for this question and the next one in our 6 paddle board storage tips post.

Proper Storage Protocol in the Winter

Once you determine for sure that you will no longer be paddle boarding this season, it’s important to follow the right steps in storing your iSUP for the winter to ensure that the next time you’re ready to use it, it’s still in perfect condition.

  • First, thoroughly clean and dry the inflatable paddle board. Start by making sure there is no debris inside of the inflatable paddle board. If there is, follow the instructions in the “Keep the Inside Dry” section of this article. Then, clean the outside of the board. For instructions on how to perform a deep cleaning, follow the instructions under the “Keep it Clean” section of this article.
  • Next, fully dry the inflatable paddle board. Make sure there is no residual water or moisture, as you don’t want to risk having mildew or bacteria growing inside or on your board during the winter. You can fully dry out the inside of the iSUP by air blowing it with a pump or vacuum exhaust, and dry the outside using a non-abrasive towel.
  • Next, determine where you are going to store the iSUP. This should be somewhere clean that is not exposed to direct sunlight, moisture, or the elements and will not experience extreme fluctuations in temperature. Some options include your garage, a shed, an attic, a large deck box, or somewhere inside your house.
  • Wherever you decide to store the iSUP, be sure to lay it flat, bottom-side up, and do not stack anything else on top of it. You can store it either inflated or deflated. If you decide to deflate the iSUP to take up less space, be sure to fold it, not roll it.

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Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

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