Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Safe?

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They becoming more and more popular, but are inflatable paddle boards safe? Are inflatable paddle boards any good? Some people seem to think that they are dangerous because they feel more unsteady. However, if you learn how to use them correctly, and learn the right conditions to paddle in. They can be just as safe as a traditional paddle board. 

In fact, inflatable paddle boards are often preferred because they are lighter, can be stored in a car or apartment and are more convenient to travel with. So, if you’re thinking of buying an inflatable paddle board, don’t let the safety concerns stop you and educate yourself!

In this post we go through and bust some myths about inflatable paddle board safety as well as teach tips on how to be safe. I’ve been paddle boarding for years now in oceans, rivers, and lakes. I have had my fair share of experiences battling wind, waves, boats, and currents.

So in this article we will be accumulating both what experts say and what I have learned over the years

Ready to learn? Let’s dig in. 

Note- If you are interested in taking the plunge check out our How to Paddle Board Article!

Me paddle boarding by White Rock B.C. Canada

How Safe Are inflatable Paddle Boards?

If you are thinking that inflatable paddle boards are made of similar materials as pool toys you need to stop right there. Most inflatable paddle boards are made of at least one layer of tough military-grade PVC and are reinforced with drop stitch material. 

Better inflatable paddle board brands are made of dual-layer, triple layer or fusion layered PVC material. These brands are usually at about the $600 and above range. Check out our Best Inflatable Brands that we personally recommend here. 

Do Inflatable Paddle Boards Puncture Easily?

Inflatable paddle boards are much less likely to be punctured than you may originally think. If you get a decent make of board, they can even be dropped and stepped on without causing any damage. However, this doesn’t mean it is impossible to puncture an inflatable paddle board. In the very unlikely event that this does happen we have a Paddle Board Repair Guide to help you out.

Sometimes things like sharp objects below, overexposed sun use, improper care, or in rare cases, manufacturing defects can eventually lead to a puncture.

How Can You Avoid Paddling over Rocks?

If there are sharp objects under the surface of your water, such as rocks or broken glass, or hidden sharp sticks, keep an extra observant eye on the water while paddling. 

That was close!

If it is murky, there’s a higher chance that there could be objects in your way.

Pro Tip: If you see ripples in the water just ahead, then it means there’s a slight current that’s causing them. Which could be caused by uneven ground or rocks under the surface.

Inflatable Paddle Board Safety Tips

Here are some safety tips to think of before heading out.

Learn to fall and get back onto your Paddle Board

The falling part is fairly simple. When you feel unsteady, commit to it by falling away from your board. Believe me, falling onto an inflatable paddle board can give your knees a few unwanted bruises!

To fall in a manner that will allow you to get back on your board with ease, follow these steps:

  1. Swim to your board and put your hand on the board handle (located in the middle of most paddle boards)
  2. Use momentum by kicking your feet to reach the other side of your board with your free hand. Grab the other side of the rail
  3. Let your legs float to the surface and use a kicking motion to haul yourself onto the board. Much like those seals do to hauling points on National Geographic (I swear this is not a fat joke) 
  4. Shuffle your arms and legs to be fully on the board
  5. Use your arms to and knees to bring you back to a kneeled position
  6. Decide whether to kneel or stand!

Always Wear a Life Vest/ PFD

This is crucial especially if you are not the strongest swimmer. A life jacket can help keep you safe. In fact in the 2019 USCG report, 86% of boating fatalities could have been prevented with a PFD.

When you are using your inflatable paddleboard, try and stay in an area where there are other people around. This will help to ensure that you are visible and can be seen by others if you do fall off.

You can use a Belt PFD or a Life vest for paddle boarding. I personally like the Onyx MoveVent PFD from Amazon as it allows a greater range of movement for your arms, has pockets and includes a whistle so that you don’t have to buy or carry one separately. 

Never go out in large waves or strong currents

Even if you are a strong swimmer, there are a lot of things that can happen if you are caught in a strong current or large waves. I learned this lesson by trying out my Nixy board for the first time. 

We decided to go paddle boarding in early march on a very windy and wavy day. I fell off trying to stand and got dumped into the freezing cold water. While I was okay, I did end up getting a cold later in the week because of it. The paddle back felt like I was in that Castaway scene when Tom Hanks was on the raft with Wilson!

See story above!

Inflatable SUPs cannot withstand powerful currents as well as traditional ones can. Be sure that before trying out your new inflatable paddle board for the first time, you are aware of the weather and sea conditions so that you know what they look like when they are safe. 

Being able to identify potential danger is the key to keeping both yourself and your board safe. 

Use a SUP leash 

SUP leashes can feel a bit annoying to wear at first but if you fall in there is a much higher chance of you being able to retrieve your board. The good news is most inflatable paddle boards come with one.

For calm water conditions I recommend coiled SUP leashes but for surfing conditions, a straight leash is recommended. 

The only time I do not recommend SUP Leashes is if you are white water paddle boarding. But if this was the case you probably would not be reading this article!

Paddle Board in Minimal Boat Traffic

Boats can be dangerous to people on inflatable boards because they don’t see you right away. So make sure to take caution when paddling around all the different watercrafts present in your area.

Don’t be afraid to tell people on boats that you’re out there and cross paths with them so they can see you well in advance. Or if it gets too crowded, go ahead and get off the water. You can always come back another day when the waterways aren’t so busy.

Paddle by the Shore 

Paddling by the shore is a low-risk way of learning how to paddle board.

The open lake and sea waters can be dangerous and unpredictable, but paddling by the shore is easy and safe. If you get tired, it is only a short paddle back to the shoreline where you can rest up and drink some water. 

Even in calm water conditions I generally don’t like to stray too far away from land. 

Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Safe?

The short answer: yes. If used correctly, inflatable paddle boards are completely safe provided you follow the proper precautions.:

  1. Learn to properly fall and get back onto your board
  2. Make sure you always wear a proper fitting Life Vest/ PFD
  3. Never paddle in conditions you are unfamiliar with
  4. Always have your SUP Leash on
  5. Make sure you paddle with little oncoming boat traffic
  6. When starting out paddle by the shoreline

Be sure to follow all the safety tips that are given above, do some research into what weather conditions are best for paddle boarding in your area, and know your limits! 

Inflatable paddle boards are as safe as the precautions you take! 

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Hey, My name is Derek Lenze and I'm the owner of Inflatable SUP Authority. I've had over 20 years experience with watersports and over 10 years of various paddle boarding experience. My new-found passion is bringing my stand up paddle boaring knowledge in an explainable and actionable way all the while giving you my unbiased takes.

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