For many of us that don’t have a ton of space in either our car or our house, an inflatable paddleboard is a great alternative to hard boards that take up a ton of space.
Many paddleboards are also a fraction of the price of a hard board, making them accessible to a wider range of users.
If you’ve already made the investment into an inflatable paddleboard, you may now be wondering how to go about putting air into your new piece of equipment.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to properly inflate a paddleboard and give you some tips and tricks that will make inflating your SUP easy and problem free.
💡 Note: We’ve written another post covering how to fully deflate a paddleboard correctly. Give it a read!
Should you use a manual or electric pump when inflating your paddleboard?
When it comes to inflating your paddleboard, there are two options out there: the manual pump and the electric pump. We can’t say that one or the other is better, both have pros and cons. Here’s what you need to know.
Pros and cons of using a manual pump
The manual or hand pump is your first option, and many inflatable paddleboards come with a manual pump that you can use initially when you are just getting started using your inflatable SUP.
Hand/manual pumps are a great option. They’re easy to use, easy to get set up, and you don’t have to look for an outlet or bring a load of batteries. Most manual pumps come with a hose, pressure gauge and washer that are used to connect the pump to your board.
- Easy to use
- Easy to connect to your board
- No electricity or battery required
- Can be used anywhere
- Most inflatable SUPs come with their own hand pump
- Lightweight and portable
- You get a little workout inflating your board
- Takes a long time to fill your paddleboard
- As pressures in the board go higher it may become more difficult to work the pump
- You have 2 options that both have pros and cons to them
- You get a workout before you ever get on your board
So, if you don’t love the idea of the manual pump, or if you’ve been there, and did the hand pumping thing and would rather save your arms for the paddling, then there’s the electric pump.
Pros and cons of using an electric pump
Your other option for inflating your paddleboard is to use an electric pump. Once you go electric, few SUP lovers ever return to their hand pumping days of yore. With an electric pump, you get the pump itself, a PSI gauge, a hose, and a washer. You connect everything pretty much the same way you would with a hand pump.
The nice thing about electric pumps is that you don’t have to learn a new way to inflate your pump. Most electric pumps attach to your SUP the same way the manual pump does. However, this is the end of the ways that a manual pump is the same as an electric pump.
Many people invest in an electric pump for that one time that they needed to inflate their SUP quickly. And then they refuse to go back to manual pumping. While you can buy larger pumps that need to be plugged into a standard house outlet, many SUP riders invest in smaller pumps that are equally effective but plug into the power outlet in your car, SUV or truck.
- Easy to use
- No physical labor to inflate your SUP
- Easy to inflate to the perfect PSI
- Much faster to inflate your SUP than with a manual pump
- Electric pumps can be noisy
- Not all pumps use a carport, so you’ll need to find an outlet
- Electric pumps can drain your car battery
How to inflate an inflatable paddleboard using a hand pump
You’re not going to be inflating your paddleboard with good old lung power, so the most basic way to inflate your SUP is using a hand pump. Hand pumps generally come with your inflatable SUP, so it’s your first option.
It may seem like a simple process, but if you don’t inflate your SUP correctly, you can damage it, so before you jump into inflating your SUP for the first time, you’ll want to consider these steps for properly inflating your paddleboard with a manual or hand pump:
- Remove your SUP from its packaging or carrying bag. Completely unfold it and place it on a flat surface.
- Look for the inflation valve. It should have a yellow pin inside the valve. You’ll want to make sure that this pin is upright. If it’s not, you’ll need to adjust it.
- Connect the hose that was included with your hand pump. You’ll want to attach one end to the pump and PSI gauge and the other end to the board. It’s important that you leave the PSI gauge on your pump. This will ensure that you’ve put in enough or not too much air in your SUP.
- Before you start to pump, double check that all of the connection points are tight and secure. If these spots leak, you’ll be working extra hard.
- Extend the pump, straight out from the board, making sure that the hose is straight, and is free of kinks or bends.
- It’s time to pump. Grab the pump handle and pull up on the handlebar, until it stops. Then depress the handle until it stops. Congratulations, you’ve added air to your board.
- Now, repeat, step 6 until your pressure gauge reads the proper volume as recommended by the board manufacturer. Depending on your board, you’re looking at making between 100 and 200 pump cycles.
- When your board has reached the ideal PSI, remove the hose from your hand pump.
- Then disconnect the hose from your board. Pack up your pump and any other gear, and now you’re ready to hit the water.
Remember! Over or under inflating your SUP can cause issues or damage, so make sure that you follow all of the recommendations that are provided by the SUP manufacturer.
How to inflate an inflatable paddleboard using an electric pump
So, you’re not a fan of your hand pump, or maybe you like your hand pump just fine, but want something a little quicker. No matter your reason, an electric pump is a great tool for your SUP.
But like with your hand pump, you’ll want to follow proper inflating procedures when you’re pumping up your SUP with an electric pump:
- Start with the same process as you did with the hand pump. Remove your SUP from its packaging or carrying bag, unfold, and lay out on a flat surface.
- Look for the valve pin. Remember, it’s yellow, and you need to make sure that it is in the upright position. If it’s not, set it in the proper position.
- Attach the hose for the pump to the inflation valve on your board (not the deflation valve). Then attach the other end to the pump.
- Make sure all connections are tight and secure, so they don’t leak while your pump is running.
- If possible, set your pump to the PSI value that is recommended for your particular board. If you can’t do this step, make sure that your electric pump also has a PSI gauge.
- Turn on the pump and let it fill your SUP. You’ll want to watch your board while it fills, paying particularly close attention to the PSI gauge. Some pumps tend to over fill even when set to a particular PSI. This can damage your board so don’t walk away when your SUP is filling.
- The pump will work at a fairly quick pace, filling your SUP. You may think that it’s filling really fast, but this will slow down when the pressure inside the SUP reaches around 10 PSI.
- Once the pressure reaches the recommended PSI for your board, turn off the power or unplug your pump from the car charger or wall outlet.
- Disconnect the hose from the pump, and then disconnect the other end from the board. If you feel like a bit of air was lost while disconnecting, use your hand pump to add just a little more.
- If you’re using your car, turn off your car, unplug your pump and make sure that there are no other items that could pull on your battery and make your car die.
- Pack up your pump and any gear you’re done with, and head for the water.
Tips on inflating a paddleboard
Now that you know the proper steps for inflating a paddleboard using an electric or hand pump, here are some additional tips and tricks that will make inflating your paddleboard a little easier, and the process a bit more efficient.
- Always find the flattest, softest spot possible to lay out your SUP for inflating. You may see people trying to inflate their boards in all sorts of spots. Remember, smooth flat surfaces will make this process easier, and will protect your board from damage.
- When you’re inflating your board, the valve stem should be set to the “CLOSED” position. This seems backwards, but in this position, air can push into the valve, but it can’t push back out. So even if you stop pumping, you won’t lose air in your SUP.
- If you’re having a hard time getting your board to inflate, check the connections with the pump. Improperly connecting the pump to the board is the number one reason SUPs won’t inflate.
- If you’re getting tired of pumping your hand pump, switch the process between your arms and your legs. Your legs have larger muscles that can make pumping up your board easier.
- Don’t love hand pumps, try a foot pump instead. These are the same idea as manual hand pumps, but instead of using your hands and arms to inflate your board, you’ll use your feet and legs.
- When it starts to get difficult to pump with your hand pump, you’ll know that you’re close to the right PSI for your board.
How long does it take to inflate a paddleboard?
The speed in which your paddleboard will inflate is directly dependent on the method you are using for pumping up your board. Manual or hand pumps take longer than electric pumps, which is pretty obvious.
In general, using a manual pump (hand or foot powered) you can expect it to take as long as 10-minutes to pump up your SUP. This can take longer depending on how efficient you are with your pumping technique.
Electric pumps take less time to inflate your board to the proper PSI. Your board will take shape after just a few minutes of pumping. But to get to the required PSI, you’re looking at 6 to 8 minutes of pumping time.
💡 Note: Consider reading our other post on how to properly carry an inflatable paddleboard. It’ll save you a lot of hassle.
Know Your SUP’s PSI
We’ve used the term PSI a lot in this article. If you are still not sure what that means, PSI is an acronym for pounds per square inch. This is the typical measure for pressure in a closed container. It’s used for everything from your SUP to tires, balloons, rafts, and even the propane cylinders you use in your backyard grill.
Each SUP manufacturer sets the proper PSI for their boards. This value is usually printed on the board near the inflation valve or if nothing else, on the instructions that came with your inflatable paddleboard.
12 PSI is about the average for most inflatable paddleboards. However, some boards only need 10 PSI, and larger boards will require as much as 15 PSI.
Knowing your PSI value will allow you to inflate your SUP to the optimal level for best performance. Under-inflating isn’t harmful to your board, but it probably won’t perform as well on the water as you’d like.
Over-inflating your board is a whole different story. Too much pressure in your inflatable SUP can damage seams, the valve and stretch other weak points in the board. Like an over inflated balloon, over-inflated SUPs can “pop” or come apart at the seams.
An inflatable paddleboard is a great investment for many first time paddleboarders. However, these fun pieces of outdoor gear do require a bit of care and consideration when you are learning to inflate them for the first time.
Knowing how to properly inflate your paddleboard will improve its performance and ensure that you have many years of enjoyment from your inflatable SUP.