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Inflatable paddle surf boards

tablas-paddle-surf-hinchables

Stand Up Paddle, SUP or paddle surf, are different ways of referring to the same water sport: sailing standing up on a board propelled with a paddle

Its origin dates back to the 60s, on the beaches of Waikiki, Hawaii, when some surf instructors stood on their boards to give instructions or take pictures to their students.

It was not until the 21st century that this sport became popular when it was adopted by famous surfers when it was introduced into their training routines

The big difference with traditional surfing is that when pushing the board with the paddle, the presence of wind or waves is not necessary for its practice. Thus, it can be experienced in calm waters or even in inland waters such as rivers and lakes.

This variety of media has developed different ways of practicing this sport. In addition, the introduction of inflatable boards in the last decade increased their popularity further, as we will see below.

The best inflatable paddle surf boards

For beginners: ECD Makani

The ideal to start in this sport will be an all round or multipurpose board

It will give us good stability to familiarize ourselves with the necessary technique, they are suitable for short and medium distance crossings (between 4 and 8 km), but they also have sufficient performance for racing.

Among the best-selling models, the Makani, from ECD Germany, stands out. It is a table of medium sizes, and perfect for getting started in paddle surfing both for its benefits and for its price. It is true that the accessories are of poor quality (backpack not very resistant, and both the leash and the inflator are very simple), but it is still an excellent gateway to discover this sport without spending a lot of money.

  • Measurements (length x width x thickness): 320x82x15
  • Weight: 8.6 kg
  • Maximum weight: 150 kg
  • Material: PVC and EVA coating
  • Inflation pressure: 12 psi
  • Included accessories: carry backpack, pump, leash, three-piece adjustable paddle, repair kit

Pros: price; very complete and affordable kit.

Cons: quality of accessories; somewhat poor finishes.

For touring: Bestway Kahawai

If we are looking for a stable, comfortable and well-built board, those of the Bestway brand are one of the most common options

This is perfect for long cruises in calm waters. It even includes rubber bands to hold the luggage that we can take with us.

The board is very stable and resistant, and the accessories are of average quality. However, it is somewhat heavy. Although it includes several handles to facilitate its handling, it is likely that two people will have to carry it once inflated. It should be noted that the fins are all fixed, and that can make folding difficult, especially due to the size of the central keel.

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  • Measurements (length x width x thickness): 310x86x15
  • Weight: 14.7 kg
  • Maximum weight: 140 kg
  • Material: PVC and non-slip base
  • Inflation pressure: 16 psi
  • Accessories included: carry backpack, inflator, leash, extendable aluminum paddle, repair kit

Pros: value for money, stability, resistance.

Cons: inflator quality, fixed center keel, weight.

Versatile and convertible into a kayak: Bluefin Cruise

If budget is no problem and we prefer a versatile board, Bluefin’s Cruise series is one to consider without a doubt

It is available in two lengths: 10.8 ‘(325 cm) and 12’ (366 cm), and also in a junior size of 8 ‘(245x74x13 cm).

On the one hand, it is a touring board that includes rubber bands to hold luggage but with a width and a trimmed tail that makes it all-round. And it is also convertible into a kayak by including a seat and a dual-use paddle for paddle surfing and kayaking.

The brand also offers a five-year warranty, which gives an idea of ​​the confidence placed in the quality of the product.

The included accessories are of good quality. The backpack includes padded straps for a more comfortable transport and the inflator is double action with a pressure gauge. The fins are made of polyurethane and the central uses the US Box system. In the bow it incorporates a support for an action camera like the GoPro.

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  • Measurements (length x width x thickness): 10.8 ’325x83x16 / 12’ 366x83x16 / junior 245x74x13
  • Weight: 12kg / 15.5kg / 10kg
  • Maximum weight: 150kg / 175kg / 120kg
  • Material: PVC and anti-slip base with UV protection; fused PVC double layer side bands
  • Inflation pressure: 15-18 psi (maximum 28 psi)
  • Included accessories: carry backpack, double action inflator, leash with spiral cable, two-piece extendable carbon fiber paddle, repair kit, waterproof smartphone bag

Pros: quality materials and accessories.

Cons: slightly higher than average weight.

One of the best: Bluefin Cruise Carbon

The above board is an inexpensive version of the excellent Cruise Carbon. The main difference is that it contains two air chambers: a central one inserted in turn in the main air chamber

Only with the central inflated does it provide enough flotation, which is a good additional safety measure. With the entire board inflated, the central chamber provides exceptional stiffness and buoyancy that makes the difference with cheaper boards.

Like its younger sister, the Cruise Carbon is available in two lengths: 10.8 “(325 cm) and 12” (366 cm), and also includes the kayak conversion kit. Due to its measurements, it is a touring board but its width and the slightly trimmed tail brings it closer to the race ones, being an excellent all-round board.

It contains the accessories that the Cruise has: backpack with padded straps, the double-action inflator with pressure gauge, polyurethane fins (the central one anchored by the US Box system), support for an action camera and rubber bands to hold luggage.

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  • Measurements (length x width x thickness): 10.8 ’325x83x15 / 12’ 362x82x16
  • Weight: 16kg / 16kg
  • Maximum weight: 150kg / 175kg
  • Material: PVC and anti-slip base with UV protection; fused PVC double layer side bands
  • Inflation pressure: 15-18 psi (maximum 28 psi)
  • Included accessories: carry backpack, double action inflator, leash with spiral cable, two-piece extendable carbon fiber paddle, repair kit, waterproof smartphone bag

Pros: quality materials and accessories.

Cons: price; slightly higher than average weight.

To fly on water: Aquamarine Race

If we already have a certain level in paddle surfing and we want to try the sensation of sliding at full speed on the water, but with a contained price, a good option to start racing

It is this Aquamarine model built in two sizes: 12’6 ”and 14 ‘. Without being a highly competitive model (whose prices are in the order of thousands of euros) it does offer benefits close to traditional rigid boards.

It is made of double-layer PVC with special reinforcement on the edges. Includes four stringers (two on each face of the board) to increase rigidity. It has a single fin to guarantee a good grip on the upwind without penalizing speed. It is the slide-in type, which is not used by many brands, and sometimes it can be difficult to get a replacement in case it breaks.

It mounts some rubber bands to hold cargo (for when we train) and despite its size it has the lightness expected of a racing board. We must bear in mind that it does not include a paddle, we must purchase it separately, or a repair kit.

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  • Measurements (length x width x thickness): 12’6 ”381x69x15 / 14’ 427x69x15
  • Weight: 10.2 kg / 12 kg
  • Maximum weight: 150kg / 160kg
  • Material: double layer PVC and quad stringer and EVA base
  • Inflation pressure: 18 psi
  • Included Accessories: Carrying Backpack, Dual Action Inflator, Coil Cord Leash

Pros: excellent quality material, value for money.

Cons: does not include rowing; slide-in keel.

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Why buy an inflatable paddle surf board

The first paddle surf boards were essentially the same as traditional surfing, with the addition of paddling. These boards often exceed 3 m in length, require adequate storage space and are not easy to transport. We all have the typical image of surfers going to the beach in a van loaded with boards to spend the day surfing.

The inflatable boards are made of different materials that provide the same rigidity and a similar experience to the rigid boards, but that deflated allow storage taking up very little space. And most importantly: they can be transported in a (large) backpack, without needing a vehicle specially prepared for the transport of long loads. They also allow them to be carried more easily to the beach, making it easier for people of little strength or stature to carry their own board.

With the boom in nautical tourism, boats are another place where saving space is appreciated. Thus, we can take our table and inflate it at the time we are going to use it. Another great advantage is being able to transport our board on the plane and take it with us on vacation. This way we save the cost of having to rent one when we want to practice our favorite sport in our holiday destination.

Types

The types of paddle surf boards depend mainly on the intended use, which mainly translates into a greater or lesser length of the board, but also affects the thickness and shape of the nose or tail.

Surf or wave board

They are the most similar to typical surfboards, and therefore to the first used for paddle surfing. They are the shortest, up to 3 m in length, with a pointed nose, between 70 and 90 cm wide, and highly varied tails. They are ideal for riding waves, as their name suggests.

Race table

They are between 3 and 4.2 m long, are narrow to reduce the contact surface (between 65 and 75 cm), and have a very pointed nose and docked tail. They are designed to obtain maximum speed in calm waters and require a good command on the part of the surfer.

Tour table (touring or exploring)

They are designed for quiet and long journeys. They measure between 3.3 and 4.5 in length and between 75 and 85 cm in width. They are noticeably thicker than the rest of the boards, and can be slightly narrower in the middle to facilitate paddling.

Hybrid table (all round)

These multi-purpose boards combine racing and touring features and are the most suitable for beginners. The length can range from 2.8 to 3.8 m, the nose is rounded (as in touring ones), and the widths range between 75 and 90 cm.

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Materials

Inflatable paddle surf boards are manufactured using the Drop Stitch technique: at least two layers of PVC joined by thousands of nylon threads that create a structure that once inflated acquires great rigidity. Depending on the number of layers and the combination of materials used, we will obtain different qualities for our table.

Single layer or monolayer

They are two layers of PVC, an upper one (which forms the deck or cover) and a lower one (bottom) joined by nylon threads, and with the edge covered with an additional PVC band. They are the cheapest and lightest, but also the ones that offer the least rigidity. The simplest ones have a certain inflatable mattress effect.

Monolayer with stringer

Like the previous ones, but an additional layer of PVC is added (a stringer) that runs through the central strip of the top layer. It provides greater rigidity, avoiding the inflatable mattress effect, and offers very good value for money. However, they are usually limited to not very large surfers (up to 90 kg in weight).

Double layer glued

These boards start from a single layer board to which a second layer of PVC is glued on all sides: deck, bottom and edge. Thus, much greater rigidity is obtained than with monolayer boards. As drawbacks, we must highlight the increase in weight due to the additional layers of PVC and glue, and a greater difficulty in folding them. In the lower quality the gluing can be irregular, presenting wrinkles and bubbles.

Double layer fused

These boards also have two layers of PVC, but instead of being glued they are heat fused. With this construction technique introduced a few years ago, boards of extraordinary rigidity (30% higher than double-bonded layers) are obtained with less weight (20% lighter as they do not contain glue), and without irregularities or microbubbles.

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Accessories

Keels

This kind of fins under the board, near the tail, are what will give us stability and grip, and will allow us to do certain types of maneuvers. There are different types of fin-to-board anchors. The most common in inflatable boards is the iFINS system, whereby the keel (made of plastic material) is glued to the board. They can be bent if the board is pressed against the ground or left folded in its cover for a long time, but with a little heat they can be straightened again. They are very resistant, but if in spite of everything it breaks it is very easy to find spare parts. The US (or US Box) system is very common for the central keel, which is the most widely used for conventional boards.

Bag

Inflatable paddle surf boards weigh around 10-12 kg, so it is convenient to have a resistant and at the same time comfortable backpack to facilitate the transport of the board. It may be advisable to opt for a wheeled backpack, trolley type, to carry our board.

Inflator

Once we have reached the beach with our board we have to inflate it. We should always opt for a double chamber inflator, which will save us a lot of time and effort when inflating the board. In addition, it facilitates inflation up to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer.

Rowing

Many kits include a paddle with the board. The choice of paddle surf paddle deserves a separate chapter, but to accompany an inflatable board, the most recommended is an adjustable three-piece that can be stored next to the board.

Strap (leash)

We have reached the beach, we have inflated our board and we have started to row. Especially at the beginning it will be very common for us to fall off the table. If we want to save ourselves having to swim after our inflatable board, or better yet, increase our safety by avoiding getting away from the board, it is best to have a leash. It is a cable that on the one hand we will attach to an ankle or knee, and that on the other side is attached to the table.

Hydration packs

Especially if we prefer cross-country paddle surfing, we will be in the water for a long time, exposed to the sun and far from the shore. It is essential to be well hydrated, and the best way is to have some type of hydration bag. These can be from a water bag to attach to the life jacket, to a complete vest that includes the water bag.

Tips for choosing

  • When choosing a paddle surf board, the first thing to consider is the weight of the surfer. Not all boards offer the same buoyancy, and that depends on their volume. A simple calculation is to multiply our weight by 2, and that will be the minimum recommended volume for the table. If we weigh 80 kg we should choose one of at least 160 l. And if we are very new, multiply by 2.2. Following the example, we would choose a table of at least 176 l. Frequently we will not have to do these calculations because the manufacturer will indicate the maximum weight that the table supports.
  • Next, we must consider what kind of paddle surfing we are going to practice. For touring, the ideal is a wide board that provides a lot of stability, but assuming that the speed will be limited. When we start we can tend to choose a board that is too wide, about 90 cm but with a little practice one of 80 cm will be enough.
  • If we are going to practice racing, the better the narrower the table, but it requires much more skill. And if we are going to use it in a wave area, the ideal will be a board of medium width and short length, which allows maneuvering on the waves.
  • Regarding the material, it will depend on the budget and how long we hope to enjoy our table. Ideally, it will be a fused double layer, which is still stiff, light and durable, but is the most expensive. If we are only going to use it occasionally, a monolayer may be enough, and in case of damage there are repair kits. And as a compromise solution, we have the double-layer glued ones: resistant, not very expensive, but with the excess weight of the gluing and the possible presence of bubbles or wrinkles.

 

Enjoy the beach!!

Calas in Mallorca where you can brand new your paddle surf board