What is the perfect paddle board PSI for my SUP? What should I be mindful of? Does the PSI really make that much of a difference?
Below we go through all of these common questions and more in this ultimate paddle board PSI guide. For those who want to skim…
The Average PSI rating that most boards will allow is 15 PSI. But this is dependent on the type of board you get and the quality of the materials. For best PSI recommendations take a look at the manufacturer’s instructions. Manufacturers will always have the recommended rating in their instructions manual or website.
Want a more detailed answer? Follow along as we deconstruct the “explosive” topic of paddle board psi. (Don’t worry your board won’t explode) 😉 .
Why Paddle Board PSI Matters
All the good things that paddle board manufacturers say about their boards are utterly useless if you don’t put the proper PSI in their boards.
A common problem that many newbies have is that they use the manual pumps that they are given and pump it up to about 6 or 7 PSI, they feel the boards and say, “meh good enough”. The board may feel okay to kneel on but when it comes time to stand on it properly they have a hard time and plop! Into the drink, they go!
While you may be wary of your paddle board “poping” (after well over 100 paddle board uses this has never happened to me). You shouldn’t be. These boards are made to be pumped up to 12 -25 PSI depending on the quality of the board you choose.
Below we will explain some factors about paddle board psi ratings and why they are important.
Probably the most important factor that impacts paddle board stability is the PSI that the board is rated. The difference between trying to stand on a board that has 6 psi vs the same board that is properly pumped to 15 is like night and day.
You see, the less PSI the board has, the more likely the board will “sag” in the middle. This sagging makes the board more bouncy and less stiff. Which makes standing on it a bit of an adventure in itself! This also leads to a loss in….
A paddle board that sags in the middle is not only less stable but it’s also slower to paddle. Sometimes on my paddling excursions, I see people have the board at not even 1 PSI. The paddle board literally turns into a banana in the water and I think to myself, really how much fun is that thing to paddle?
The less PSI = less weight the board can support
This sagging/ banana shape leaves the on-water performance on the table. As you get up in the PSI rating the less difference it will make to the performance of your board. Especially if you are just doing a casual day paddle.
People who use racing paddle boards opt to put their board to a higher PSI range (usually around 20 PSI). In racing, you do every little thing (no matter how minuscule) to gain that extra tiny bit of performance against your competitors.
The more load you put on your paddle board the higher you will have to set the PSI. To begin with, if you plan on having multiple passengers or extra gear onboard, you should be looking at a board that has a high maximum capacity. Boards such as the Atoll 11 or iRocker 11 All Around boards are good for this.
From the regular point, it may be ideal to add an extra PSI or two. But always make sure you are below the maximum range of the manufacturer’s recommendations!
Paddle Board PSI and Manufacturers Recommendations
Below is a list of SUP Companies that we compiled in our Review Ratings.
|Brand||PSI Recommendation||Budget Level|
|Bluefin||15- 18 PSI Recommendation|
28 PSI Max
|Bote||10 – 15 PSI Recommendation||$$ and $$$|
|Gili Sports||15 PSI Recommendation||$$|
|Hala||12- 18 PSI||$$$|
|iRocker||15 PSI Recommendation|
23 PSI Max
|Isle Surf and SUP||15 PSI Recommendation||$$|
|Naish||15 -21 PSI||$$$|
|NRS||15 PSI for Older Boards|
20 PSI for Newer Boards
|Red Paddle||15-22 PSI||$$$|
|ROC||12- 15 PSI||$|
|Sea Eagle||15 PSI||$$|
|Serenelife||20 PSI Max||$|
25 PSI Max
As obvious of a statement this is, I have to get it out of the way. Follow your Paddle Board Manufacturers PSI rating for proper inflation.
The manufacturer has tested the boards in a wide variety of scenarios so they know what PSI ranges their boards respond to. Some will even give you a maximum tested PSI range as well.
On a whole, most inflatable paddle boards will be able to hold at least 12 PSI. If they can’t or they don’t have a PSI range anywhere on their website or instructions. It’s best not to buy it!
Materials to Look for In Boards
So what should you be looking for in a paddle board to make sure that it will hold up? I have a full article on Paddle Board Materials here but I’ll briefly summarise it.
There are a few factors that influence how a board will handle in the water.
- Shape of the Board
- Materials Used
The materials used in a paddle board will determine how long the board will last and what PSI it can be pumped up to. Below I have categorized 5 different construction layers
SIngle Layer PVC Construction: This is the cheapest construction for paddle boards. As a result, they tend to have the shortest life span. Typically many Amazon and big box stores carry this kind of SUP
Dual Layer PVC Construction: These boards feature two layers of PVC coatings which makes them more water/ air tight. They tend to be heavier than single layer or fusion layer boards though.
Triple/ Quadruple PVC Construction: This construction is 3 to 4 PVC layers over the drop stitch fabric. These boards feature more PVC coverage which reduces the risks of leaks, but they are also heavier and require more glue in the manufacturing process. iRocker uses this for their flagship boards.
Fusion Layer PVC Construction: This is the sweet spot for SUP construction. These boards are durable, lightweight, and require less glue. This is quickly becoming the standard for mid-tier budget range paddle boards.
Custom Layer PVC Construction: These are boards that are designed in-house and are usually the innovators of the SUP industry. Companies like Red Paddle and Starboard come up with unique construction like Red Paddle’s MSL Fusion construction. While this is usually the gold standard for SUP materials these boards also cost significantly more because of the in-house design.
Another design practice that is quickly sweeping into the SUP industry is Woven drop stitch materials which is a woven thread design that makes the board stretch less when inflated to make it more rigid in the water.
The Role of Carbon/ RSS Strips and Stringers
Another thing that makes a big difference in how a paddle board handles is stiffening agents like carbon rails, RSS strips and Stringers.
Carbon rails are strips of carbon that are put into the sides of the board. Oftentimes they are manufactured into the board. At the very least, they provide an extra layer of protection. Although there is a degree of argument as to how effective they are in stiffening the board.
RSS Strips (or battens) are hard carbon strips that slide into the rails of the board through a pocket. This adds a layer of rigidity as well as an extra layer of protection against bumps and bruises that may occur to the SUP.
As you get more into performance inflatable paddle boards you will find more of them have carbon stringers to increase the rigidity of the board and decrease its bend. Naish has a really good video explaining their stringer system here.
Outside Conditions and How They Affect PSI
Unfortunately the PSI does not always stay the same after you inflated the board. Fluctuations in altitude and temperature can increase or decrease the PSI of your board.
However, in my experience, this is usually not as big of a deal for casual paddling. As long as you are within the manufacturer’s PSI rating there should be no problems to be had.
Still, it’s good to know how these outside forces can affect the PSI of your paddle board.
Altitude and PSI
Altitude does make a difference when it comes to PSI. How Stuff Works explains how as you get higher up from sea level the PSI pressure decreases.
To be honest the vast majority of the places you paddle will not really be affected by this but it is something to keep in mind if you are paddling boarding on the pristine lakes located in the mountains.
This will also only really come into play if you are traveling with a paddle board fully inflated on the rooftop and you drive all the way up to a high-altitude destination.
Hot Conditions and PSI
This will be a more common phenomenon with SUP paddlers. There will always be changes to the PSI of your board as the temperature increases.
“I can recall when I went paddling in the morning at 9 am I inflated my Nixy Newport board to 15 PSI. The day started to get hotter and as we returned I did a reading on the board as I was deflating it and the gauge read 16.3 PSI!”– Editors Note
So the moral of the story here is if you are going out on a hot day, consider setting the PSI to a few degrees less than it normally would so that you give the board time to expand to its recommended PSI zone.
Cold Conditions and PSI
Living in Canada I get the extremes of the cold weather in the winter and the hot weather in the summer. An interesting study done by Tire Rack made some interesting observations about PSI changes. Much of this logic can be applied to inflatable paddle boards as well.
“ The rule of thumb is for every 10° Fahrenheit change in air temperature, tire pressures will change about 2% (up with higher temperatures and down with lower).”
So in this case you would do the opposite of hot weather paddling. You would inflate the paddle board to say 17 PSI and as the day went on the temperature would decrease the PSI amount to 15.
My Advice on Pumps
Pumps are the lifeblood of your paddle board. Without them, you would have a sagging paddle board carcass that would have little to no buoyancy.
“I’ve been pumping SUPs for a number of years now and I’ve found the more often you go paddle boarding the more of a pain it feel to pump up your board with a manual single chamber pump. Some people like the extra workout and hey, power to them but if you are planning to use your SUP quite a bit do you and your back a favor and get an electric pump.”– Editors Note
There are some manual pumps that I have found that arn’t too bad such as the double chamber Nixy Typhoon pump. However, in my experience, it’s still a manual pump and it still takes a good amount of effort.
I find manual pumps that come with SUPs don’t really account for taller people who are over 6’. So as a result you are awkwardly bending over while pumping, which is really not that great for your back.
I decided after my back injury in November 2021 that I was going to get an electric pump. A few months after the fact, boy am I glad I did!
Electric pumps may take a little bit longer to pump but it requires hardly any effort from your perspective. As a result, you can use this pumping time to set up your fins, paddle, and accessories for your board.
Below are some common questions that folks ask me about PSI-related paddle board questions and concerns.
Can I Leave My Paddle Board Inflated?
Yes you can, leave your paddle board inflated for a few days between use. The longer periods of time that you leave a board inflated, the more strain that it puts on the board’s materials which can decrease its lifetime.
What’s the Maximum PSI that I Can Inflate my Board With?
This will depend on the brand of paddle board you get and the materials that are put into the board. It’s best not to go over 25 PSI for most brands of paddle boards unless it says otherwise in the instruction manuals.
Can Inflatable Paddle Boards Pop if Overinflated?
The answer to this question is yes, however you have to be pretty negligent with the PSI range to achieve this. Even then, most electric pumps have an auto-shutoff set to 20 PSI. To even get to 20 PSI while manually pumping is a chore all on its own!
What is the Life Expectancy of an Inflatable Paddle Board?
The life expectancy of an inflatable paddle board will be between 3 to 10+ years depending on the brand, the board’s materials, and how well you take care of them.
Things such as the lack of quality materials, overexposure to the sun and a lack of regular cleaning can all decrease the lifespan of a SUP.
What Did We Learn About Paddle Board PSI?
The PSI that you put into a SUP will ultimately be dependent on the materials that the board is made with, the outside conditions, and most importantly the manufacturer-recommended PSI range.
In most cases, 15 PSI is usually the universal pressure to set an inflatable stand-up paddle board. But to be on the safe side you can also set it to 10-12 PSI without seeing too much of a performance drop-off.
What do you set your paddle boards PSI to? Let us know on our Facebook page!