ISUP stands for Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard and these are now regularly seen at most paddling locations around the world for good reason. ISUPs are practical, robust and meet most general paddlers needs.

The first ISUPs in the world arrived in 2001 from a brand called Uli based and sold in the USA. Red Paddle Co, a UK brand then followed in 2008. ISUP sales now account for 65% of worldwide board sales showing how popular they have become.

Here at the Water Skills Academy we are avid users of ISUPs and believe they are fantastic boards for beginners and teaching, as well as perfect for SUP Adventure trips. We also love hard boards and it is for each paddler to assess the risk V benefit when deciding which type of craft to use.

The Water Skill Academy Pros and Cons to ISUPs

It can be assured that the ISUPs themselves are not unsafe if you know how to work with them properly. Getting into the sport should be approached with an experienced SUP instructor or someone who is competent. However, even though the boards are very safe, there are definitely pros and cons.


NO Baggage Fees

These boards are designed to make travelling easy, as once deflated the boards can be packed down in to a compact bag. You can check them onto an airplane generally with no extra fees as they don’t weigh very much, often less than 14kg bagged with pump. Modern ISUP bags have some clever design features including wheels which allow them to be transported around just as easy as a modern day suitcase. The addition of straps also turns most sup bags in to an instant back pack which allows for easy carrying.


Despite these boards being inflatable they are surprisingly durable and aren’t as easy to burst as one may think. They are actually very well suited to rocky shores, because unlike fibreglass boards they will not get dinged and instead bounce right off. The drop stitch design features and general construction allow for most boards to be inflated to anywhere between 15 – 25psi making a rigid platform suitable for all paddlers.

Safety Cushion

Another pro to the ISUPs is that they have a much softer surface to cushion your fall. ISUP boards are used for teaching beginners in a lot of SUP schools and reduce the risk of impact injuries from falling.


ISUPs are also very versatile and can be used for various SUPing activities such as: racing, fishing, surfing, adventuring and cruising. This is achievable because of the various ISUP designs available with new designs and features appearing annually.



This can be sometimes tricky with the ISUPs compared to carbon/fibreglass boards which are generally sleeker and shaped for a faster response. Traditional hard sup boards are also better suited for racing and most definitely for SUP surfing. It is worth noting however that the skillset of the paddler must be taken in to account as a highly skilled paddler using an ISUP will be able to out perform most, if not all average paddlers using traditional hardboards for racing.


Some ISUP boards can be as expensive as some cheaper hardboards due to design features and the construction quality. However there has been a recent flood of cheap ISUP boards to the market place. That being said if the end user generally just wants to potter around and have fun then these boards are often appropriate. Resale values however will be very low.


The biggest complaint about the ISUPs however is the flex. This is the sinking of the middle of the board, which can be unsafe for users. However, flex commonly occurs when the board has not been inflated properly which can be down to the end user. You must always pay attention to the manufacturers recommended inflation pressures to ensure that your board in suitable to use and avoid flex.

Why ISUPs aren’t Dangerous

As illustrated in the pros section of this blog, ISUPs are high-quality made products that anyone can use safely when SUPing, no matter your ability. Of course there are risks, like with all sports. However, if you take the safety elements seriously and learn how to use the equipment properly and efficiently, you cannot go wrong with ISUPs and soon you will fall in love with them just as much as we have at the Water Skills Academy. They suit all abilities and can be used in all environment with ease of transportation and travel, which makes it the perfect all-rounder SUP board for you to use.

WSA is offering a new SUP Safe course which is designed to provide some great safety tips and information for safe paddling and all this entails. Contact us for more details here.