The inflatable paddleboard, or actually any blow-up/air-filled platform has one major weakness that also happens to be its biggest advantage.
Due to the fact that stand up paddleboards made of PVC plastic can fold into a large backpack, and inflated up to 10’6″ x 32″ x 6″ on average at 15PSI – they are always at risk of losing their pressurized air. When it happens on land – no problem, you can fix it, but once when the board starts to hiss out on the sea – you better be prepared for some action!
Luckily, the inflatable paddleboard industry has always been on the rise during the past decade, and the quality of inflatable SUPs hasn’t been declining either. In order to prevent the worst from happening – we have put together a list of precautions on staying safe on the sea.
One of easiest reasons why paddleboards lose air is that the valve might have come undone, or it hasn’t been shut correctly in the first place.
Before inflating the board, make sure that the valve, valve cap and threads on the board are in good shape. If you see cracks on any of the previous – repair or replace the parts needed. Also, after you’ve inflated the board – make sure that the valve is shut correctly and the cap is closed. When there’s minimal leakeage from the valve – you can use a layer of thread tape before your new valve arrives. Such tapes are used for high-pressure filters in large pools, and in plumbing, something that wouldn’t cost you more than $3 a roll.
To check if any air escapes from the board – duck the inflated board in the water and check if any bubbles appear near the valve. Whether the board is brand new or used for a good few seasons, checking the valve is the least you can do to predict failure out on the water.
- Check the valve, plug and threads periodically
- Avoid overtightening the valve
Poorly maintained board
The only care that the paddleboard needs is a rinse, wipe-down and the occasional pat on the shoulder after each ride. Even when you paddle in fresh waters only – ground particles, sand and tiny rocks might find their way between the seams. Rinsig off the board clears the dryed up residue and prevents any particles from scratching the PVC surface. Make sure that the water doesn’t get inside the board when washing without the cap.
Also, keep your paddleboard out of direct sunlight when not in use. UV rays damage the surface of the board slowly, but surely. With rising temperatures under the sun – the board might swell and damage the seams. On hotter days – keep the pressure 20% lower of what’s recommended.
- Dry up the board when you store it away for longer periods
- Keep it away from the sunlight
- Wash it
Having too little air inside the paddleboard results in poor efficency and understeering. Not only does it feel sluggish, but running pressure way below recommendations, the board can crease completely under weight. Something that’s called tacoing.
Putting too much air inside the paddleboard, way above what’s recommended increases the risk of stretched seams and parting glue. Also, hitting something sharp isn’t going to end well.
Make sure that the gauge on your pump is in tune. Also, make sure you don’t mix up the BAR, PSI and kPa!
When you use an electric pump (an excuse to skip a good warm-up!), make sure that the pump has the limiter set. If not, do not leave the pump unattended once the board until it has reached its maximum pressure.
Tree branches, metal sticks, scissors, fish hooks, barnacles, plyers, dragging the board on rocks – basically everything that’s not in clear and in liquid form can show some risk to the board. Make sure to stay away from anything solid when out on the water.
The main reason why paddleboard seams start to tear is usually the combination of rough use, hot water use for cleaning, or storing the board under the hot sun for hours on end. Overinflation and exceeding the maximum capacity can do plenty of harm to the seams as well.
Cracks & punctures
Some punctures appear out of nowhere, while others are somewhat predictable. This applies for both types of paddleboards – inflatable and solid. All inflatable paddleboards come with a repair kit. Whenever you are about to patch the paddleboard, make sure to clean it, and dry it up as well. Let the glue sit for as long as its recommended.
For solid boards – talk to your closest surf shop or watch some DIY videos online. A lot can be done with basic home tools.
Let’s dive deeper and look at some of the most frequently asked questions.
Why paddleboards lose air?
Even the strongest and most durable inflatable paddleboards aren’t totally protected from sharp punctures. Everything that’s being used, or moved – will need need some maintenance every now and then. The main reasons why iSUPs lose air is a loose or cracked valve, or teared seams which lead to weakened glue. Dragging the board is reduces the expected lifespan of the PVC as well.
Should you deflate paddleboard after each use?
Depending on where you live – there’s no need to deflate the board after each session only when you have a proper storage for the board. A cool & shaded spot works well with some ventilation. If stored in a dark, cold and moist environment – watch out for mould!
If you go paddling only by car, make sure to wipe the board dry before putting it away. After you paddled in salt water, make sure to rinse it later at home!
How to store inflatable paddleboard for the winter?
Whenever you are going to store your iSUP away for a longer periods of time – the best practice is to take it out of the bag and lay it flat so there would be no creases.
Is is the better to have more than less air than recommended?
In cold weather and cold water – use the maximum recommended pressure. In hot climates and warm waters and sunny days – you should keep the recommended pressure 20% lower of what’s recommended. From 15 PSI to 12PSI is fine if its a hot day outside.
Read also – Inflatable vs Solid SUP
I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.