What PSI Should a Paddle Board Be?

You’re quite a fan of inflatable paddle boards. You love how easy it is to deflate and stash them anywhere or how you can keep them inflated all the time if you so choose. One matter you always have trouble with is the PSI. You’re never sure if you overinflated or underinflated your paddle board.

Just how much air pressure does your inflatable paddle board need? The recommended PSI for an inflatable paddle board is 10 to 15 PSI, with the highest recommended pressure being 25 PSI. The average inflatable paddle board rider will inflate their board to only 12 PSI, sometimes more.

Do you not know much about PSI? Are you concerned about your saggy paddle board? Don’t worry, as we’re going to cover those points and more in this article. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know exactly how much air pressure is right for your inflatable paddle board.

Understanding PSI: What Is It?

As an inflatable paddle board owner, you must familiarize yourself with PSI. In case you don’t know, PSI means pounds per square inch. It informs you of how much air to add to your paddle board. You want a board that’s fully inflated and safe to use on the water, but not one that’s so overfilled that it risks popping if you put too much pressure on it with your feet.

That’s why paddle boarders follow a recommended PSI limit. Let’s talk more about this now.

What PSI Should a Paddle Board Be?

As we mentioned in the intro, the norm for filling inflatable paddle boards is 10 to 15 PSI. Some boarders may go as high as 20 PSI, but that’s only for the case of a seriously saggy board. We’ll talk about that more later, so keep reading!   

How do you know how much air pressure your inflatable paddle board needs? You go by the firmness of the board or lack thereof. For example, you may begin inflating your board at a rate of 10 PSI, but it doesn’t feel that firm to you. You decide to increase the pressure to 15 PSI until the board gets nice, full, and firm.

Inflating your board to just the right air pressure matters quite a bit. Here are several factors that are all dictated by the PSI you choose for your paddle board.

How Much Weight It Can Support

For the sake of this example, let’s imagine you’re standing on a floor made of inflatable material. If the material isn’t inflated to the right air pressure and you step on it, what do you think will happen? Well, an underinflated floor will feel wobbly, while one that’s overinflated will be too hard and unyielding. Either way, the inflatable material cannot hold your weight well.

Now imagine that inflatable floor is your paddle board. The same premise applies here, as you’re still standing on it. If it can’t support your weight because it’s inflated too little or too much, you’re not going to feel safe on the water. You can’t trust what’s beneath your feet, which puts you at a higher risk of falling off your board.

Whether It’s Straight Across or Has a Middle Flex

Sometimes, it can seem like you inflated your paddle board just right…except in the middle. There, it has a flex that you can’t get rid of no matter what. The two ends of the board are firm, but the middle feels kind of mushy. That’s no good.

Like we just said, riding on a wobbly inflatable paddle board can lead to a lot of topples into the water. It’s not fun and can even be dangerous.

Its Stability

An inflatable paddle board is a viable alternative to one made of epoxy fiberglass, thermoplastic, and other materials. With those boards, you never have to worry about stability, and the same should be true of inflatable boards. However, it’s only when you fill your board to the right PSI that you can enjoy reliable stability.

Its Performance

Not only does an unstable inflatable paddle board make for an uncomfortable, even dangerous riding experience, but your performance suffers as well. The board lacks the firmness to glide through the water as effortlessly as it should.

Think about an underinflated inner tube in a swimming pool. If you sit on the tube, it just kind of puddles around you since it’s lacking so much air. You can’t use it for much. The same is true of an inflatable paddle board at the wrong PSI. You won’t beat any speed records with it.

What’s the Max PSI You Inflate Your Paddle Board to?

What if you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum and you accidentally inflate your paddle board too much? What’s the limit you should stick to?

As we mentioned in the intro, the highest you should ever inflate a paddle board is 25 PSI. That’s quite a lot of air pressure, though. Given the size of inflatable paddle boards and how many of them fill up in minutes, you shouldn’t ever get close to 25 PSI. There’s no reason for it.

Why not? Well, one of two things can happen with that much pressure. For one, as we’ve mentioned, your board is at risk of popping or exploding. Like with anything inflatable, it’s possible to overdo it. Too much air puts pressure on the walls of the inflatable, causing them to pop when you step on for a ride.  

Let’s say you overfilled your inflatable paddle board but it didn’t explode. The other problem with inflating your board to 25 PSI is that many inflatable paddle board manufacturers rarely test their product beyond that pressure. If something goes wrong, it’s a matter even the manufacturers couldn’t assist with.

If you’re the type who likes to fill up your paddle board with a hand pump, you’ll also find that doing so gets really tough once you push past 15 PSI. That’s yet another reason to avoid a higher PSI.

Use a 12V powered pump for easier inflation (Amazon)

My Inflatable Paddle Board Is Saggy: What to Do?

Alright, so you know the PSI range for inflating your paddle board by now. The problem is, when you do fill up the board, it’s all saggy. Sometimes this is just in the center and other times, it’s overall. When you go to stand on your inflatable paddle board, it sinks in the middle like an old mattress.

What are your options in such a situation? Well, for one, you can use the Rocker Stiffening System or RSS from Red Paddle Co. These battens improve the stiffness of your inflatable paddle board by a rate of 40 percent in some cases.

Green Water Sports wrote a great article on how the firmness of their inflatable paddle board changed with and without using RSS battens. They themselves had a Red Paddle Co. inflatable paddle board for this experiment. They were able to determine that, with the battens, increasing your pressure to 15 PSI saw a stiffness increase of 26 percent compared to inflating at 10 PSI.

If you went up to 20 PSI, you had 30 percent more stiffness than inflating at 15 PSI and 48 percent more stiffness than inflating at 10 PSI. Should you have ventured into 25 PSI territory, you get 10 percent more stiffness than inflating at 20 PSI, 37 percent more stiffness than inflating at 15 PSI, and 53 percent more stiffness than inflating at 10 PSI.

Green Water Sports concludes that a board inflated at 10 PSI sees an overall 35-percent boost in stiffness by adding RSS battens. One inflated at 15 PSI has a stiffness increase of 24 percent and 20 PSI boards at 23 percent.

If you can’t use RSS battens for any reason, then our other solution for a saggy inflatable paddle board is to increase the pressure. Per the article from Green Water Sports, they note that you get 37 percent more stiffness by upping air pressure from 10 to 15 PSI. If you go from 15 to 20 PSI, stiffness increases by 31 percent. Inflatable paddle boards at 20 PSI also had 56 percent more stiffness than inflating at 10 PSI.

While we don’t really recommend it, by inflating to 25 PSI, your board has 32 percent more stiffness than one inflated at 20 PSI, 53 percent more stiffness than a board inflated at 15 PSI, and 70 percent more stiffness than a board inflated at 10 PSI.

Related Questions

How can you tell what PSI your inflatable paddle board is at?

Your paddle board will tell you.

To keep your inflatable paddle board within the recommended PSI range, you have to know the pressure the board is inflating at, right? How do you do that? Well, many pumps include a built-in PSI gauge. This way, you can see exactly when your board is at risk of overfilling. You can even buy pumps that let you set the PSI you want to inflate to. These pumps will turn themselves off when they reach that pressure.

Should you store an inflated paddle board inside or outside?

We discuss thoroughly in our 6 tips on storing a paddle board, but it’s always best to keep your paddle board indoors if you intend to leave it inflated. You want to avoid temperature extremes, especially heat. Make sure you also choose a space that doesn’t get a lot of moisture or humidity so mildew and mould can’t develop. Finally, keep the board out of direct sun. A basement or garage makes an ideal place for keeping your paddle board, but watch out for hard surfaces that can pop the inflatable!


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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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