Inflatable Paddleboards Are Fun With a Catch

We talked about the joys of going out on the water and explored the world of inflatable kayaks (great for kids or casual boating, but not for serious kayakers). Now it’s time to check out the jet ski that is quickly becoming the most popular on my local lake: the inflatable surfboard.

A standing surfboard (also called a SUP) looks like a surfboard. That’s pretty much it. You stand on top and move using what looks like an elongated canoe paddle. Despite the name, you can sit on them or kneel down if you like.

Inflatable paddle boards are as durable as regular paddles.

The most shocking thing about an inflatable surfboard is that it works . I would never have thought about buying an inflatable boat until I heard from a friend who tried it. At that time we were on the lake, rented ordinary (not inflatable) boards in the same place where kayaks are rented. She told me that the inflatable boat she tried was as tough and durable as the ones we were on now. HM.

Fast forward a few years and prices finally dropped to a few hundred; Surfboards, like kayaks, are expensive and you can easily spend over $ 1000 on the best model of any of them. But where inflatable kayaks are cheap and fragile, so are inflatable kayaks. I got the cheapest board I could find and in a box with a paddle and hand pump, it cost about $ 200.

The catch is how to inflate it.

The reason inflatable paddleboards are much stronger than inflatable kayaks is because they are inflated to a much higher pressure.

When I inflate the kayak, as soon as it feels firm to the touch, it’s good to go. A few minutes of hand pumping is all it takes, and I even let my 5-year-old daughter blow it up myself.

On the other hand, my surfboard was equipped with a pump with a pressure gauge. You should fill it to at least 10 pounds per square inch, with a sweet spot of about 12 and a warning not to exceed 15 pounds (your surfboard may vary, but these are typical numbers). In other words, a SUP requires about twenty times more air than a kayak of the same size.

Doing it with a hand pump is a hell of a drill. It took about ten minutes straight, and the next day all the muscles in my upper body ached. (And I’m a person who lifts weights on a regular basis, so good luck to all of you.) One time the deflation valve was misaligned, which resulted in a few seconds pssssssshshshh when I disconnected the pump. I went back to the 0.5 mark and had to start over.

Why you need an electric surfboard pump

“Nothing special,” I thought, “I’ll buy a pump for an air mattress in the store.” So I did, and I attached it, and I just … sat there. For a while. And googled “electric paddle pump” to see what you should actually be using.

It turns out that the right paddle pump is one that can:

  1. inflate to high pressure (the inflatable mattress pumps will not cut it)
  2. inflate at least one paddle board in a reasonable amount of time
  3. shut off when it reaches a certain PSI (so you don’t blow up the paddle board if distracted)

It turns out that a pump that meets these requirements is n’t cheap. Anything under $ 100 had real sketchy reviews. I spent $ 150 on a pump that has all of the above features, plus a battery, so it doesn’t need to be plugged into your car’s power outlet while it’s pumping.

It takes a good pump 6 minutes to pump my board to 10 psi and 2.5 minutes to deflate it. (Yes, as a bonus, the pump can suck all the air out of the board when you’re done.) It’s convenient, which means I can use the board more often and have more fun with it. I’m just pissed that my $ 200 surfboard turned out to be a $ 350 investment.

How does it feel to take a paddle board into the water?

Okay now for the fun part! I love the simplicity of a surfboard compared to a canoe or kayak: you just flop it into the water, flop on top of it, and off you go.

I wear flip-flops to get down to the water, then take them off and tuck them under the elastic waistband at the bow of the boat. You want to be barefoot so your feet can hold onto the board and help you balance (although I’ve seen people wearing water shoes if that’s your preference).

I have a leash so the board stays on my ankle even if I tip over. And not to be a pessimist, but: it will surely capsize. There is a reason paddleboarders usually wear swimwear.

I also wear a belt PFD (it inflates when pulled on the cord) rather than a regular life jacket. I never needed to inflate it since I can swim. If I fall, I just climb back onto the board.

Rowing is a little more difficult than kayaking and it took me several trips to get comfortable. If you are doing everything right, you do not need to change sides every few strokes; you simply control by changing the stroke of the paddle. Here’s a video demo :

Once you get the hang of it, rowing becomes quite simple and you can enjoy your time on the lake. I gravitate towards my kayak when I want to move and grab the paddle board when I want to relax more. You can lie on a paddle board in the middle of the lake to sunbathe or meditate, or whatever purposeful name you want to give to just mess around (drop a fishing anchor if you want to be sure you don’t float away).

Paddleboard yoga is also very popular . However, I would not recommend this to you the first time; Just getting up is difficult enough if you are not used to it.


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