Choosing the right paddle board has long been a tricky decision. Of the options available, perhaps two of the most contrasting come from the hard board vs inflatable board debate.

Here to help is a range of information that will hopefully shed some light on the decision and have you choosing the right board for the job.

Hard BoardiSUP
PerformanceGreater responsiveness out on the water and user experience. Generally faster. Unsurpassed in wave riding performance. Able to cope with in a wider range of conditions. Lower water line makes a hard board less affected by wind. Broader range of construction to balance budget and performance needs.  iSUPs have near hard board performance in flat water – for high quality leading brands only.   Quite good performance but not the same as hard boards.   If water conditions not perfect, or become rougher- board feels sluggish. Wind – harder to control with potential to lift up board out of water  
FinsFins are removable (eg for overseas transport). Fin box systems can be fiddly to put fins into and easy to lose fin box plates and screws. Able to change fins for performance needs  Can be attached or have removeable set up options. 
WeightWeight ranges dictated by personal performance requirements and budget. Less expensive can be heavier; lighter boards will be more expensive. e.g.  10ft 6’ board can weigh about 10.5 kgs (or between 10 to 12 kgs) or 14ft carbon can weigh the same or less          Lighter e.g. a 10ft 6 board can weight about 9.9 kgs   As more material tech becomes available at an affordable price, iSUP’s are becoming lighter and lighter and are often lighter than lower end composite boards.  
CostRange of prices. Lighter boards are more expensive.  Good quality is expensive. Poor quality and potentially unsafe boards are cheap.  
ConstructionDurable, rarely break (snap / crease).   Usually Solid foam core (EPS core being Expanded Polystryene) and coated with fibreglass, carbon fibre or epoxy resin.  The number of coatings will affect the durability and weight.  Various construction types from poor to high quality.   Welded seam and double chamber is safest and best but potentially more expensive.   Other constructions can deflate due to tears, leaks in valves.  Have been known to explode in warmer weather (burst seams).  
Set UpNo set up time.Board takes time to inflate and deflate – before and after paddling session.  Pump is also needed – electronic or manual.  
TransportTransporting the boards, you will need to be able to get this onto a roof rack of a car.  Not easy to transport overseas.  Easy, deflate and pack up in a backpack. Can be put inside a car.  Easy to travel by plane. 
StorageYou will need storage space such as a garage at home to store it.Once packed up, doesn’t need more space. To save time inflatables can be stored inflated. In this case, you will also need garage or space to store the board.  
SafetyCan hurt self if fall onto hard board.   No risk of deflation.  Even if board breaks, it will still float.  Can stay on board in emergency situation.  Softer if fall onto board.   Potentially dangerous situation if deflation occurs out on the water.  
ResaleGood re sale value if looked after.  More wear resistant, better resale.  
Second hand marketGenerally unlimited.Good in UK & Europe.  May not be in other countries.
DamageDamage can occur easily and usually off the water, getting the board out of storage to the water.   Quite often composite boards have external sprays which chip over time, not great for the environment and makes the board look tired.   If left untreated damaged boards can become heavier over time and look weary and battle worn with multiple repairs.  Damage resistant.  Most kit is damaged getting it out of storage and to the water, rather than while paddling.   iSUP’s provide a significant advantage in this area when they are bumped and dragged when moving them about.

RepairsDamaged boards can be repaired quickly at home with limited knowledge. Can be much easier to find a ding repair shop to get it done properly.  Difficult to find a reputable dealer to fix. Most cases, have to send iSUP away to be fixed.