Inflatable SUPs

Folks are always asking me about inflatable SUPs. I've only tried two, and have either heard or seen others. Adam of Leavenworth Mountain Sports in WA State who runs the Wenatchee River daily tells me he loves the C4 Inflatable board for it's high PSI (stiffness).

Updated 9/16 - Popular inflatables are available from Imagine Surf, HolaGear, NRS, Uli, Red Co, etc.

A good friend has a 10' Uli (pictured) which is also stiff which he enjoys surfing and paddling flat water on. He even completed the first 13 mile Round the Rock Race on this board in 2009. I had the opportunity to try the NRS Big Earl which was a great board as well, and unlike the above boards, has 3 removable fins, so you can choose your fin arrangement. Both the Uli and C4 have plastic fins which are part of the board.

PSI - Some boards brag of being able to hold 25 PSI, while others max out at 15 PSI.  Both are constructed differently and are equally stiff just have different PSI ratings.

Pros of inflatables:
- Great for boney (rocks) rivers whereas many expoxy boards will get dinged.
- Smart idea for travelling with your board on a plane or similar. Many pack down small.
- Light to carry. Unlike most SUPS, inflatables are super light.
- All the above inflatables have a tough exterior skin, so no worries about punctures.
- All the above can surf, run rivers and drops, do expeditions, etc.

Cons:
- Slower than an epoxy board but not by much. The engine (paddler) sometimes makes the difference between slow or fast.
- Some such as the Uli have a fixed fin arrangement only, (3 fin). Others allow for any fins to be attached such as those by Imagine Surf.






Any questions give me a holler: salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com / 206.465.7167
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Comments

Nathan said…
Rob,
Scott Dickerson with Surfalaska.net let me and my friend Matt demo the boardworks SHUBU inflatable SUPs. We were surprised at how rigid and tough the boards were. We both "ran" the Anchor River near Homer, Ak and both hit rocks and trees and the boards do not show wear.
They have the three fins that you mention but the center is removable.

Thanks for your insight into this sport.
Nathan
nathan,
great to hear of the board! i'll check it out. fun to hear you're getting on the water in a lot of ways up there, so many resources! if you have pics send them and i'll post them on the blog. thanks!
pHarlan said…
Rob,
I am trying to decide between the Big Earl and Shubu. I am leaning towards the Big Earl because it has a better warranty (3 yrs vs 3 months) but there are more reveiws on the Shubu which might mean it sells more. Have you had any problems with your Big Earl and are you still a happy camper with it?
Thanks
Preston
reno said…
Rob- I wondered if you still planned to write a review on the big earl, after your Idaho trip. The idea of removeable fins sounds good, especially to do a surf session and then go to flexible fins for the river. I was interested to know how you like an inflatable SUP for an entire river trip. thx. steve
for me, i'm a big dude at 6-5 230lbs and most inflatables are 10' long, and don't float me well despite their specs saying they do. for the average sized person these boards may be fine.

i found the big earl to feel bouncy and a bit unstable, and with a slight 'v' in the deck where i stood. maybe i didn' get the PSI high enough which is a common issue. i only had it for one week in May, so didn't have time to further test it.

dan gavere tells me it's a good board for rivers, but then he's probably 5-6 ish and in good shape. and pretty damn good on the river. :)