Do Inflatable SUPs Pop?

One fear keeping new folks away from the sport of paddleboarding is that their inflatable paddleboard could pop while they’re on it, potentially stranding them. However, this is not a common occurrence and is statistically highly unlikely to occur. From a popping perspective, there’s really nothing to worry about! Let’s dive into why. 

According to paddlecamp.com,Inflatable paddle boards are made by “drop stitching” 2 layers of polyester fabric and thousands of polyester threads. Then an air-tight coating goes over the outside surfaces of both sides of the material. The SUP sidewall material is made of polyester fabric coated on both sides. Finally, wide seam tape is glued over each seam to make an air-tight board.”

An inflatable SUP is made from the same material as whitewater rafting boats, designed for rugged use, and is therefore highly durable. It barely resembles the flimsy flotation devices you buy from the hardware store to toss in your pool. Inflatable SUPs are preferred in whitewater conditions over rigid paddleboards due to their greater stability and resilience. 

If these boards are designed to easily bounce off of sharp river boulders, the impact from your shoes, gear, or pup passenger is negligible. However- what about punctures? Sure, if you deliberately stab your pressurized board with a sharp knife, chances are that it will indeed become punctured and lose air quickly. However, aside from that specific situation, they are designed to withstand pricks or jabs from rocks, trees, and whatever else may be in the water. 

Remember- folks travel down the Colorado river for weeks in a raft with no puncture issues! If your paddleboard is made of the same stuff, a comfortable paddle in the waters around St. Augustine, FL for example, poses no threat to the board’s structural integrity. 

What about too much weight or pressure? While inflatable SUPs may sit a little lower in the water and have slightly diminished performance with excessive weight, it would take a LOT of pressure to pop one. On youtube, there’s a video where an 8000 lb truck drives over an inflatable paddleboard without popping it! 

However, if you inflate the board far past the manufacturer's recommendation, that could potentially cause it to pop- though it would certainly take excessive over-inflating. More likely, the internal pressure would cause the air valve to fail and pop off or break before the board itself would burst. 

General transportation and average wear and tear put inflatable SUPs in a more favorable spot than rigid boards as well. For example, consider if you were to drop your iSUP off the roof of your car onto the pavement- it would just bounce! Or imagine tripping over a root while carrying your board to the water’s edge, and falling on top of it while the underside was unsupported. If this was a rigid board, it could snap, dent, or crack, whereas an inflatable SUP just absorbs the impact.

Since folks really like to test these claims, some have even thrown an iSUP off of a roof to see what damage it sustained. Spoiler alert: It was still fine to take out onto the water afterward! 

Overall, any fears about your board popping with you on it are just that- fears. The science, rigorous testing, and engineering that go into the construction of these fun vessels ensure your safety. So float on, friends!