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Solid vs. Inflatable Paddle Boards

Gatorshell (Solid) vs. Aero (Inflatable) Paddle Boards

Are you the type of person who reads hundreds of reviews, watches at least a handful of YouTube videos, and searches by hashtag on Instagram for social reinforcement before making a purchase? If you feel seen, you’re not alone. We get that buying your first paddle board is kind of a big deal and we want to help you make the best decision for your lifestyle.

Choosing between solid and inflatable BOTE paddle boards can be particularly tricky because the options are many. Both styles offer a range of colorways that speak to your personal style, innovative compatibility features to maximize use of the space, and unique construction you can only find at BOTE. While we continue to expand our product line to provide more choices and bad ass designs, we understand the selection process can be overwhelming if you’re new to the stand up paddle board game.

When buying a paddle board for the first time, we recommend evaluating your top few SUPs based on the following criteria

Solid vs. Inflatable SUP Comparison

Performance

When it comes to performance, you have to get familiar with hull design. Performance can mean a lot of different things based on your lifestyle, which should play a key role in your hull design choice. For instance, if you’re all about fishing, you want a displacement hull on a solid paddle board, like the HD or Rackham, to help displace the water and keep your board moving efficiently while loaded down with fishing gear. And for long-distance paddling the displacement hull paired with the long, narrow body of the Traveller is built for cruising. But if you’re planning to spend most of your time practicing SUP yoga or in the surf, the planing hull (or a surf-style hull) you’ll find on the Flood series provides a highly versatile flat, wide surface.

The complementary inflatable styles for each paddle board series—Flood, HD, Rackham, and Traveller—offer entry rockers with a flat bottom that sit higher in the water, making each Aero paddle board feel more stable to newer paddlers but require a little extra power to get going than their solid SUP counterparts.

Looking for speed and efficiency and an overall smoother ride?

Winner: Solid Paddle Boards

Winner: Solid Paddle Boards

Portability and Storage

Although solid boards can make for a beautiful wall decoration or dress up an otherwise cluttered garage, traveling long distances with a 10′ to 14′ paddle board isn’t for the faint of heart. Even if you’re a pro at vehicle mounting your solid paddle board, there’s a clear winner when it comes to portability and storage, and it’s not a solid paddle board.

Aero SUPs win hands down due to their lightweight construction and ability to be rolled up into a bag. With the 11′ Flood Aero Inflatable Paddle Board weighing in at 28 lbs fully inflated (up to 10 lbs less than it’s solid SUP counterpart) and 42 lbs in a fully loaded bag, inflatable SUPs take the cake.

Winner: Inflatable Paddle Boards

Winner: Inflatable Paddle Boards

“The Aero boards are my all-time favorite do-all boards. They have so many applications and you can take them anywhere. Whether I’m rolling them up and throwing them on a plane to the tropics to chase bonefish or stashing one on my skiff to slip up on accessible reds, they do the trick every time.”
– Lacey Kelly, BOTE Ambassador

Accessories

You may have heard a lot of chatter about the accessory compatibility options for our solid SUPs. But what you may not have realized is that you can accessorize the hell out of every BOTE board, and that includes our inflatable paddle boards.

This includes everything from the essential Travelink™ and rac systems including Tackle Racs, Bucket Racs, Grab Racs, and Wheel Racs. Rackhams and Bug Slinger™ HD boards (solid and inflatable) are also compatible with the Sandspear and Power-Pole Micro.


Winner: Both

Durability

Our Gatorshell is 6x tougher than traditional epoxy, and that durability shows when you compare the abuse it can take to other solid boards on the market. But don’t take our word for it.

“I live in Southern California and this board performs well in the ocean. Better than my old ocean kayak trident. Lighter, sturdier, well made, easier to transport and store, built tough, and a lot more stable. I wanted something that was going to last and meet all my needs when it comes to spearfishing, fitness, fishing, and fun. Worth the money.”
– Direk, BOTE HD Stand Up Paddle Board customer

But our inflatables can take a pretty heavy beating, too. The AeroBOTE construction can withstand being tossed around, banged, bumped, and scraped with lower risk of leaving a permanent blemish. This makes our inflatable SUPs a great option for people looking for a family board that can handle rowdy kids, or newer paddlers who aren’t quite adapted to maneuvering something as large as a paddle board.

While we can’t discount the durability of the Gatorshell finish, the AeroBOTE wins this durability category simply because it’s a hell of a lot tougher than most people think.

Winner: Inflatable Paddle Boards

Winner: Inflatable Paddle Boards

Style

BOTE boards are designed to stand out. That’s why we offer eye-catching designs across every category, with new colorways and patterns released every year. Whether you’re deciding between an inflatable or solid SUP, our iconic patterns can be found on both types of platforms.

Winner: Both

Winner: Both

Variety

When it comes to paddle boards, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. This is why we’re constantly working on new, innovative products.

We prototype every solid paddle board in the Dark Room and it’s our largest category by design. Our solid paddle board line up includes a wide range of board styles to ensure there’s something out there for everyone.

Because our inflatable SUPs all share a flat bottom hull and entry rocker design, choosing the best inflatable for you is heavily influenced by your capacity and accessory needs. Alternatively, our solid boards are built with enhanced benefits such as varying lengths, hull styles, and weight capacities, allowing us to accommodate individual needs in a nuanced way that can’t be replicated in our inflatable category.

Winner: Solid Paddle Boards

Winner: Solid Paddle Boards

Quality

Are you in camp who think inflatable means cheap? Think again. While our inflatable paddle boards are moderately priced, they’re also made with high quality materials and close attention to detail. On the same token, our Gatorshell solid boards have been designed to be some of the best and toughest options available in the solid paddle board space.

Winner: Both

Both options are made with the highest quality standards in mind, they simply use different construction materials to get the job done.



Okay, okay. So it’s a tie. (Did you see that coming?)

As you can see, there are advantages to both solid paddle boards and inflatable SUPs, and at the end of the day the “right board” comes down to your personal priorities.


SUP Comparison Chart

We want to do our part and provide you with the tools you need to make the best possible decision. If you feel like you need a little bit more guidance, it’s always a good idea to get familiar with product specifications.

We put together a SUP comparison chart focusing on our best selling solid and inflatable paddle boards to help guide your decision-making process. For instance, people who are taller and/or carry extra weight (either on your person or with a lot of gear) should eliminate boards under 11’ due to weight capacity; you’ll be able to move more nimbly on a longer board. Or for someone who plans to have some extra fun in the surf, you probably want to focus on a planing hull.

← Scroll To View Entire Chart →

Compare

Flood Series

HD Series

  Not your average entry-level SUP. Stability, speed, and maximum versatility.
  11′ Flood Aero 10′6″ Flood 12′ Flood 11′6″ HD Aero 10′6″ HD 12′ HD
Price $799 $1,099 $1,299 $999 $1,299 $1,499
Technical Specs
Dimensions 11′L × 32″W × 6″D 10′6″L × 30″W × 4.5″D 2′L × 32″ W × 5″ D 11′6″L × 34″W × 6″D 10′6″L × 30″W × 4.5″D 12′L × 32″W × 5″D
Avg. Weight (lbs) 28 35 38 30 38 45
Capacity (lbs) 275 230 300 315 240 315
Construction AeroBOTE Gatorshell Gatorshell AeroBOTE Gatorshell Gatorshell
Travel Bag Dimensions 36″L × 18″W × 11″D 39″L × 19″W × 12″D
Loaded Bag Weight (lbs) 42 48
Hull Design
  Flat Bottom Hull with Entry Rocker Planing Hull Planing Hull Flat Bottom Hull with Entry Rocker Displacement Hull Displacement Hull
Compatibility
FCSII Fin System Compatible
Travelink Compatible
Tackle Rac Compatible
Bucket Rac Compatible
Grab Rac Compatible
Wheel Rac Compatible
Sandspear Compatible
Bug Slinger™ Only

Bug Slinger™ Only
Power Pole Micro Compatible
Bug Slinger™ Only

Bug Slinger™ Only
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