One of the popular reasons for buying a quality inflatable paddle board is its durability. Paddleboarders, both new and veteran, just can’t stop naming the benefits of investing in a good board. But really: how durable are inflatable paddle boards (iSUPs)?
The short answer is, iSUPs will generally survive regular use for about five years. But if you’re reading this article, the odds are you don’t want general answers. Good! Because the truth is that iSUP lifespans depend on a lot of factors. Many factors you can control yourself.
At Inflatable SUP authority, we have been testing and reviewing inflatable stand up paddle boards for over 10 years. We’ve spent hundreds of hours in Ontario and British Columbia testing hundreds of iSUP models. Stand-up paddle boarding is more than a hobby to us–it’s a way of life.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
- Features and materials that set quality iSUPs above subpar models
- What to look out for in good brands and warranties
- Tips for prolonging your iSUP’s lifespan
Now without further ado, let’s get started! By the end of this article, you’ll have the answers you need to the question, “how long do inflatable paddle boards last?”. We will also teach you HOW to make your board last as long as possible!
The Difference Between Good And Bad Quality ISUPS
Inflatable stand-up paddle board companies have a funny reputation for showing off their boards’ durability. They drive cars over iSUPs, expose them to extreme weather–basically anything that proves they last long. But our review is going to be a bit more methodical.
All The Details Are In Construction
The starting point for dividing the boards that are good from the bad (and the ugly!) is in the construction. To the eye, most iSUPS share a general oval outline. Many weigh similar weights as well. These similarities can make it hard to pick a quality board at your local outdoor shop. You have to look deeper, at materials and layering, to truly pick out good boards.
We can help with that! Infact we go full depth into what paddle boards are made of here!
Ok, you might be thinking: “what part of an iSUP’s construction is most important?” The first thing to look out for is the number of layers it has. There are three major types of layering.
iSUP Construction 101: How Are They Made?
Inflatable paddle boards come in a HUGE variety of prices, builds, and materials. But all iSUPs share the same basic construction principle: drop stitching. The board combines parallel sheets of fabric stitched together with thousands of threads.
The main difference between good and bad iSUPS comes down to the number and type of fabric. There are single-layer boards, dual layers, and fusion layers.
Entry-level iSUPs use a single-ply sheet of fabric at the top and bottom of the board. A sealant layer of flexible PVC plastic then covers the entire build.
Single-layer iSUPS are usually 6 inches thick–you don’t want a board any thicker, or you lose rigidity. They’re bouncy, rock in the water more, and are easier to puncture. They aren’t bad iSUPs, but they tend to lose shape and leak more quickly over time than thicker boards.
Upgrading to iSUPs with a dual-layer of fabric comes at an increased price tag and a big boost in durability. Dual-layer boards add an extra sheet of the drop stitch and PVC coating.
These paddle boards are much more rigid, rock less in the water, and weigh three to four pounds more than thinner boards. These boards in the long run will usually be worth the price tag.
Fusion layer constructions are technically dual-layered too, but the double-ply fabric is permanently bonded (“fused”) together before receiving the PVC coating. The fusion process makes it easier for manufacturers to produce at low costs.
Yet, fused constructions give you the same rigidity and longer lifespan as dual-layer designs. Fused boards cost somewhere between the two above, and they’re an excellent mid-range option.
Manufacturers who use this include Nixy.
The Clues Are In The Warranty
Get to know the warranty of the company that makes your iSUP of choice. Make sure they offer at least a 1-year return policy. You’ll also get much more information about the materials that went into your paddle board’s design if you call or email them.
If in doubt, contact the manufacturer for details on the board fabric, plastic PVC coating, and bonding process. Customers can avoid MANY repairs (or total losses) by simply verifying the warranty’s stance on defects and damages.
Good Trusted Brands
If the talk about fabric layering isn’t your thing and all you want is to get out on the water ASAP, no problem. Several brands have been making top-quality iSUPs for years. P.S. Check out our comprehensive list of reviews for insider tips on great iSUP brands.
The best and most trusted inflatable SUP brands today include:
Tips To Prolong The Life Of Your Inflatable Paddle Board
So, you’ve picked out an inflatable paddle board with the construction, warranty, and brand name you trust. Or perhaps you already purchased a favorite iSUP a while ago. What can you do to ENSURE your paddle board stays strong as long as possible?
You’d be surprised how long you can extend the life of an iSUP with proper maintenance. If you’re diligent, cleaning, drying, and handling your board is a surefire way to keep your board working well for five to eight years.
Side Note: I recently sold my friend one of my old boards I’ve had for almost 4 years. It’s still going strong thanks to the tips below that I’ve implemented!
Below, we’ll touch on the most effective ways to prolong your inflatable paddle board’s life.
Cleaning Your Paddle Board
We established that not all iSUPs are the same when you get under the hood (so to speak) and check out the construction. But even a starter board under $500 can outperform a $1,000 dual-layer beauty if you keep it clean CONSISTENTLY!
- Gather your cleaning materials. All you need is a hose with a high-pressure spray, soapy water, a scrub brush with soft bristles, and a towel.
- Go outside or in a location where you can wet the floor.
- Flip the paddle board underside-up.
- Apply the high-pressure spray to the underside and rail.
- Flip the paddle board with the deck pad up, repeat the spray.
- Let the entire board dry for 20 minutes out of direct sunlight
- Apply the soft bristle brush to soapy water and clean both sides, rinse, dry.
- For stubborn stains or marks, reapply the brush or use a toothbrush to buff it out.
Tip: Don’t use industry non-abrasive PVC cleaning solutions to any graphics or colored areas of the board. They will likely bleach the color or remove it entirely. Stick with soapy water.
Dry It Off
Cleaning your board with mild solutions like soap and water prevents premature discoloration and damage to the PVC layer. But drying off your board is just as important–if you do it the right way.
Think of your paddle board as a living organism. You wouldn’t want to stow away an animal that’s dripping wet. Its skin will develop mold and mildew–not a good thing!
After every cleaning session, make sure to let the paddle board dry. If left damp for long periods, the plastic coating can develop creases and even deformities. Mildew will also grow on wet boards, permanently weakening the PVC’s rigidity.
Dry your iSUP in a moderately shaded location. You want to avoid direct sunlight. It can discolor your board, permanently altering surface graphics. Run your hand over the PVC to check if the board is 100% dry before storing it away.
Follow Proper Folding Instructions
Inflatable SUPs have made converts of outdoor people overnight thanks to their space-saving convenience. Hence why we made a website about Inflatable Paddle Boards!
But it’s key to follow proper folding instructions as well. Here are a few tips for folding iSUPs properly:
- Remove all the air with your pump deflator or by hand.
- Connect the retention strap under the nose before folding.
- Fold from the fin box up toward the nose. Don’t fold too tightly.
- Boards with fixed fins: be gentle as you secure the cushions.
- Cinch the retention strap around the circumference of the board.
- Pack it away in a backpack. You’re done!
Reminder: never stand the folded paddle board with its end on hard surfaces. Concrete can be especially damaging to the exposed rolled ends of the PVC.
Be Wary Of The Sun
No matter how sophisticated your PVC coating and drop stitches are, all inflatable stand-up paddle boards are vulnerable to UV light. Of course, iSUPs with triple or quad-layer designs will stand up to strong sunlight better than single-layer boards. Still, you can extend the lifetime of your board by keeping it out of the direct sun.
The sun doesn’t only damage the color of your iSUP. It can compromise the paddle board’s rigidity and weaken the outer layer of plastic.
Sure, you want to enjoy your paddle board investment in the great outdoors as long as possible. When you’re finished with your recreational activity, it’s always best to pack it away in a dark dry place ASAP.
Deflate It Every Once And A While
If you have storage space, it’s not always necessary to completely deflate your paddle board. In fact, keeping your paddle board inflated in storage is a good way to prevent early creases from forming in the plastic coating.
Personal Note: I do not have such storage space so I usually have to deflate it after each use.
Storing an inflatable stand-up paddle board fully inflated still requires some attention. If you don’t plan to use your board for months, deflate it every once in a while. A tightly inflated paddle board will develop signs of aging, just like folded boards.
Deflate your board every few weeks in storage. That way, you relieve the stitched or fused bladder from tightness. Overinflated paddle boards can stretch the fabric mesh and plastic too much.
Don’t Drag It!
This tip almost goes without saying. Still, we all get a little exhausted after a long paddling day in the sun, and it’s easy to forget proper handling.
You’ll extend the lifespan of your iSUP by years if you stay attentive and never drag the paddle board on abrasive surfaces.
Look for lightweight boards if this is you.
Check For Scratches, Micro Punctures, And Surface Grime
It’s a good idea to establish a basic checklist of things to do before you store away your inflatable stand-up paddle board. Perform regular exams on your board. Some things to keep in mind to ensure good upkeep for your board are:
- Examine air valves for dirt, sand, and other grimy buildups. Also, check that the valves are dry. Many people report that their paddle board first got damaged because valves developed mildew and lost function.
- Check the entire paddle board for scratches. Depending on your outdoor activity of choice, you’re more likely to scratch up surfaces (whitewater paddling especially.) Many scratches are fixable with at-home repair kits, but larger scratches may need some professional attention.
- Check for punctures. The best time to do this is when the paddle board is inflated. Wave your hand over suspect punctures. Or listen for the tell-tale hissing sound of punctures.
- Remove all dirt and grime before storing the paddle board.
If you find a puncture check out our handy dandy Paddle Board Repair Guide!
So, how long do inflatable paddle boards last? As many as eight years! Most iSUPs today come with high-tech multi-layer fabrics and superstrong PVC coating. They are built to last. In just ten years, the industry really picked up its game. Now they make boards with almost as many features as a canoe or raft. But users still need to practice proper handling.
Folding, cleaning, drying, and storing your inflatable paddle board is worth the extra time. And why not treat your board with the attention it deserves? Some four-figure models are big investments that pay for themselves in fun and recreation many times over. A few extra minutes before and after every paddling adventure is all it takes to ensure long use out of your SUP.