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When I first heard about inflatable stand up paddle boards (SUPs) recently, it totally piqued my interest! Paddle boarding is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It looks like something I’d really enjoy on an occasional hot weekend (I don’t think I would be able to do it as a regular activity since I only live near water for half the year). But, there are two primary things that have been in my way when it comes to buying a paddle board in the past: 1) space to store my SUP (there just isn’t any space in my home), and 2) a way to transport the SUP to the water (I have a car the size of a very large pumpkin. Okay, the size of a REALLY REALLY large pumpkin. Basically, too small to cart around a board).
As most people who have experience with paddleboards already know, the traditional hard shell SUPs have hulls which are typically either foam (with fiberglass and epoxy), hollow core, or polyurethane foam. They are long, wide, and cumbersome for travel. Of course, if you’re heading to the beach for a weekend, there are rental companies that have sprung up to rent out equipment like paddle boards and kayaks to individuals, couples, groups, and families who – like me – just don’t have room in or on the vehicles for large items like these or who find their prices prohibitive.
Or, maybe kayaks made the cut but paddle boards had to stay home. Enter the inflatable version which at least answers the first concern: lack of room. Now, some people say that the price of an inflatable SUP is a lot lower than a hard shell model, but that is debatable because I’ve seen some hard shells less than $1,000 (not many though), and while I haven’t (yet) seen an inflatable over $1,000, some have run pretty close. I’m thinking that most of the time the inflatable is probably a little lower, but I don’t think that the price point is the primary concern here. In fact, when it comes to the topic of “stand up paddle board – inflatable vs rigid,” really the only differences appear to be material. The general weight of either one is similar (if an inflatable SUP (or ISUP) is about 30 pounds, plus or minus, you’ll find that the rigid SUPs are close.
And, like I said, I’ve seen plenty of rigid boards way over $1,500 (and if you’re REALLY into it, you can spend over $3,000 too!) – but I’ve also seen them under $1,000 (which is where most of the ISUPs seem to fall when it comes to the price of paddle boards in the inflatable category).
The primary concerns, as I voiced earlier is the storage, transportation, and space issue. That’s the bigget reason for considering an inflatable stand up paddle board, as far as I’m concerned. Plus, I could actually ship it somewhere far more easily than I could ship a rigid board if I needed to.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s compare 3 ISUPs that caught my eye. The first one I loved – I’m trying not to be biased, but it’s the first one I liked – is the Atoll Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board. Then, I saw the Vilano and then the ISLE Touring Paddle Board. So this seemed like a good place to start my comparisons.
How does the Atoll Inflatable SUP stack up against the competition? We’ll compare it to the pair of other ISUP boards that I mentinoed, one cheaper and smaller, the other slightly larger. These are, of course, the Vilano and an ISLE Touring Paddleboard.
First things first. We’ll start with the Atoll.
Inflatable SUP by Atoll
Starting out as a small package, this Atoll product inflates to 6 inches thickness, 11 feet in length, and 32 inches wide with the use of a pump. This high-pressure tool gets the job done quickly so that, in just minutes… boom! We are staring down at a full-sized paddleboard that’s ready for the water – and all for $749.99.
Bungee straps are located back and front so you can go out for hours with your board and not lack anything you want or need such as food and water. Store items securely within their elasticated bounds. A number of D-rings enable you to attach items more securely.
A second layer over the board adds greater durability to the EVA foam and prevents slipping so you stay on top of your board. The Atoll ISUP comes with a repair kit, a pump, a detachable fin, and a rebuildable three-part paddle with a nylon blade which is also designed for portability.
ISLE Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
Many of the same features of the Atoll paddle board are also present here in the ISLE Airtech. The Airtech comes in 2 lengths, 10, and 12.6 feet but maintains the same dimensions otherwise and can be deflated to a mobile size as well. The build is touted for its lightness but incredible durability. Of course, the company does not recommend abusing your product, but states that you could do almost anything to it and the ISLE ISUP will stand up to the abuse while remaining viable as a safe and effective piece of equipment. Bungee cords at both ends and D-rings let you strap on a waterproof camera, extra clothes, a picnic, or whatever you desire. The paddle comes apart for additional portability and you get all of this for a little less than $850 for the 12.6 foot version, and about $695 for the 10 footer.
Vilano Stand Up Paddle Board, $429 (for the 10-foot Vilano Navigator)
Another durable option is the Vilano inflatable board, an economical alternative. It’s shorter at 10 feet when fully inflated but that’s still too long for most vehicles, especially those already crowded with gear. But if you can take the pump with you to the beach, no problem (it does come with a pump). Durable PVC facilitates many months and years of fun on the local lake and a 3-piece paddle can be stowed away in the trunk. Although this Vilano Navigator is touted as durable, it is also affordable ($429). The Vilano Voyager, at 11-feet, is a little more expensive ($499), but it does have a few higher reviews.
Price and Durability
Each of these boards is promoted for its durability, but none of them is as heavily promoted for this feature as the longer, more expensive ISLE. The makers insist you could drive a car over it and the board will be alright. With inflatable items, the risk of tears is always a concern, especially when you are going camping. Rocks become jagged. Well-meaning participants are sometimes rough when unpacking, enthusiastic to get started. People really do drive their cars and trucks over sporting equipment in their haste to get to the beach or drive home with fractious children. But how durable does a board need to be to satisfy this criterion?
All of these items receive some good reviews, though the first of them seems best where reviews are concerned. Customers could buy any of these and enjoy at least a few summers on top of the waves; perhaps more summers with the first two than the last.
There is just one set of bungee straps on the Vilano but most people wouldn’t use all of the front and back capacity of the other two. A shorter length makes this a potentially excellent starter board for younger, smaller boarders. It is also less cumbersome, but some might say that additional length increases stability. Still, it’s hard to argue with the price difference.
If you had a family and wanted to paddle in pairs, note that the Vilano is just over half the price of an ISLE inflatable stand up paddleboard. The Atoll version is not quite as expensive as the ISLE and makes a good compromise if a $100 difference means you can afford to buy other accessories or enjoy more fun activities on your holiday.
Each of these products, however, shares a common convenience factor. They represent the freedom to take stand up paddle boarding anywhere. Repair gear is included plus a bag for carrying everything neatly and safely to prevent punctures. The paddle is part of this deal, not a separate $100 purchase as could easily have been the case.
Anyway, I hope that after reading this inflatable stand up paddle board review, you agree that getting an ISUP might just be the perfect water toy for you and your family! Thanks for reading!