You may have realized by now that I’m kind of into paddleboarding. The obsession happened almost overnight and it took everyone, myself included, by surprise.
It took all of one trip out on the water to make me realize that I absolutely needed a board of my own. I spent days researching boards, dreaming about blissful outings on the lake, and thinking about all the cool things I’d be able to do from a board of my own (take pictures! take the dog and kid out! take a nap! … you get the idea).
There was just one problem: we had very limited space in or on the car for another piece of equipment.
If you’re the type of person that is reading this blog, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re in the exact same boat. A Yakima roof box pretty much lives on top of our SUV and a hitch mounted bike rack is always on the back. The inside, especially if we’re going anywhere overnight, is crammed with a kid and dogs and camping/biking/hiking/photography gear. If I was going to get a board, it would need to be highly portable.
Enter the inflatable paddleboard.
I will admit that I was a skeptic at first. I mean, how could an inflatable board possibly be sturdy enough to do all the things that I wanted to do? I called up our local paddle shop and asked if I could demo some inflatable boards and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. So much so, that I walked out the door with a board of my own.
The inflatable board gets a lot of attention whenever I take it out of the water and a lot of people have questions about it. They hear the rush of air that comes when I open the nozzle and are shocked to find out that I was literally standing on air. And then the questions begin.
The question that I get asked the most is how do you like that inflatable board? And my answer, without fail, is always something like OH MY GOD I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. Because I do. This is why:
I can take it anywhere. No seriously, anywhere! My board rolls up and fits into what is essentially an oversized backpack. I can easily throw it into the back of the car, walk with it up the trail, or even check it on a plane just like regular luggage. When I bought my board the guy at the guide shop told me that one of his employees had actually taken it to Fiji! How cool is that?! The fact that no extra racks are required to transport this thing is probably it’s biggest benefit.
It’s super stable. I have paddled a ton of boards now and I can tell you that a good inflatable feels just as stable as a traditional hard board. When it’s properly inflated (this is key!) my board is pretty much bombproof. I regularly paddle with a kid or dog on board and even in those more tippy situations, I have yet to fall in. Part of this is because I purposely got a board that is wide and stable so I could take my kid, but it just goes to show that an inflatable SUP can be super freaking solid.
It’s soft. Despite what I just said about how hard the board gets when it’s properly inflated, the deck of it is also nice and soft. This matters when you’re paddling with a squirmy three year old who tends to flop down unexpectedly. He has yet to hit his head on the board but I take comfort in the fact that, if he does, it won’t hurt nearly as bad as hitting something that isn’t filled with air.
It’s bombproof. Running into rocks? 60-pound dog tiptoeing around on the board? No problem. My inflatable board is damn near indestructible. Not having to worry about doing any damage to it allows me to focus on what I’m doing and enjoy the moment more.
It’s easy to inflate. People always ask how long it takes to inflate the board and my answer is “well, it depends”. I started out with the hand pump that it came with and, let me tell you, that didn’t last long. Pumping the board up by hand is work. After a couple weeks I got wise and picked up an electric pump that attaches to the car battery. Now I just pop the hood, hook up the pump, and within the 5-10 minutes it takes to get everything else ready, the board is inflated and I can head out on the water. And deflating it and putting it away takes approximately 1 minute.
So yeah, I love the thing.
If you’re curious about my gear, this is what I use:
Board: The board that I use the most is a Naish Mana Air. I picked it up for a song from a local guide company. It’s several years old now but I have no complaints about it! I also looked at boards by NRS and Hala which were really nice (especially the Hala!) but I couldn’t turn down the deal I got on the Naish.
Paddle: This isn’t the paddle I started with (that one got ran over by a car … long story!) but my current paddle is the Kialoa Insanity. I found that, as far as quality and price go, this is a winner. It’s also super comfortable in my hand.
PFD: Most of the reservoirs around here require you to have a PFD on the board with you (it doesn’t need to be on you). I have an inflatable PFD (like this one). I love that I can wear it around my waist and not even know it’s there.
Pump: I thought an electric pump would be optional but, yeah, not optional. We have this one, which we bought from a friend. It has made life so much easier, you guys!
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