Why the inflatable SUP board deserves a little more credit

inflatable sup board

The Airhead Cruise 1030 iSUP takes just five minutes and a little muscle to fill. Photo: Courtesy of Johnie Gall

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Nope, sorry, there's a wind advisory for all of Long Beach today. You can't go out to the ocean,” said the attendant who'd rented me a stand-up paddle with a shrug.

Windy would have been an understatement for the conditions in Los Angeles that day — which was about to make my job very difficult. That job? Testing out the Airhead Cruise 1030 iSUP, an inflatable stand-up paddleboard, an inflatable SUP board I assumed I'd be doing battle with, wielding an air pump like a weapon as I tried to keep the board from flying down the beach before I could inflate it.

inflatable sup board

The Airhead Cruise board comes with a hand pump, hose, pressure valve, repair kit, three fins and traction pad — and it all fits in this small mesh bag. Photo: Courtesy of Johnie Gall

Here's the thing: I went into this review with a bit of a bias. Having had only used lightweight, handcrafted, foam-and-epoxy SUP boards, using a board you deflate when you're done with it seemed to me a downgrade. A bulky, slow and inefficient downgrade.

Ten minutes later, and I was a convert.

When fully inflated, the Airhead Cruise 1030 iSUP weighs just 25 pounds and stretches to 10'6,” with a classic “woody” style and a five-inch nose rocker. A hand pump and pressure gauge lets you quickly and easily pump up your cruiser — though you'll need a little muscle to get the needle to the 15 per square inch mark.

inflatable sup board

The three removable fins can be screwed in by hand. Photo: Courtesy of Johnie Gall

Then, all that was left was to hand screw the three removable fins and go. Set up is intuitive enough that you won't even need to try and read the instruction manual wildly whipping around in the wind.

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OK, set up is a breeze. But can this board provide a stable enough platform for the waves? A resounding yes, and while I couldn't tell if my slow pace was due to the wind trying desperately to put me back on the shore or the board itself, I'm inclined to believe this board would glide effortlessly through most flat-water conditions.

As I zigzagged through the channels, the board was incredibly stable and comfortable to stand on, the material as rigid as plastic and easy to steer. A bonus? When I accidentally hit the edge of a dock, the SUP board bounced right off with no scuffs or dents.

inflatable sup board

Stable, rigid and virtually scuff-proof — what’s not to love? Photo: Courtesy of Johnie Gall

When I landed back on the beach, all I had to do was release the pressure valve, squeeze out the extra air and roll up the empty board until it looked like a hi-tech burrito. It slipped easily back into the mesh bag and fit right in my trunk. Ah, I thought, I could totally take this home in my suitcase.

People with small apartments or cars without roof racks; people who travel and want to bring their own boards; people who like to hike back to a remote lake to SUP; people (like me) who tend to inevitably nick and ding their boards trying to store them in the garage; people who would prefer something easier and lighter, a board they can roll up and carry on their backs, my verdict is this: An inflatable SUP may not be for everyone, but it definitely has something for everyone.

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