Pool Party

How to Choose a Stand Up Paddleboard

Weighing the pros and cons of a hard shell versus an inflatable stand-up paddleboard.

By Melissa Fields June 18, 2018 Published in the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of Park City Magazine

Trent Hickman knows a thing or two about stand-up paddleboarding. He’s raced and toured on SUPs all over the world and owns Park City SUP, responsible for the beachy vibe at the Deer Valley snowmaking ponds where he offers instruction, demos, sales, kids camps, and SUP fitness classes. Considering Hickman’s wealth of SUP savvy, we asked him to help us address a question that every aspiring paddler eventually asks him- or herself: hard shell or inflatable?

Hard Shell


  • Slice the water better, allowing the paddler to travel about 20 to 25 percent faster
  • Require less energy to move around on flat water

  • Hold their line better on the face of a wave

  • Just throw in the water and go—no pumping necessary


  • Large space requirements for both storage and transport

  • The epoxy shell can become damaged, causing the board to waterlog

  • Increased possibility of injuries in falls due to the harder deck or if you catch an edge (called a rail on a SUP) when going down

  • More expensive, ranging in price from $1,000 for an entry-level touring board to $4,800 for a carbon fiber SUP, not including the paddle






  • A more durable choice for families with kids and dogs and for river SUPing

  • Most inflatable SUPs come with a storage bag with backpack straps, making them convenient to store and transport

  • A good-quality inflatable SUP—with pump, paddle, fin, leash, and storage sack—begins at about $500


  • Not as reactive or as efficient as a hardboard

  • Requires inflating and deflating every time you use it

  • Has parts, like the valve where the pump is inserted, that are susceptible to damage

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