As popular as stand-up paddleboarding has become over the past half-decade or so, it’s still haunted by one fundamental problem. At around 8- to 11-feet or more, stand-up paddleboards are big, heavy monsters that require very specific transport. Not only can you expect to drop a grand or so on the board, but unless you live on the water, you’ll need to go spend a few hundred more on a rack or trailer to get it out there. That’s a pretty high cost of entry.
The inflatable paddleboard has long been a sort of solution. It doesn’t require any extra hardware to transport; it’s easier to carry to water’s edge; and it’s often a few hundred dollars cheaper to boot. While the inflatable paddleboard seems like a great solution, it gives up some of the rigidity and stability of a hard board. That makes it a little less friendly for beginners – exactly the group that’s likely to be most interested in an inexpensive entry into paddleboarding.
Inflatable SUP manufacturer Advanced Elements believes it’s solved the problem with its Stiffy (yeah, that sounded weird ). The new board is similar to AE’s other inflatables but has one major distinction: aluminum side rails. The rails run down the length of each side, giving the board the reinforcements needed to make it ride as stiff and stable as a hard board – or at least as close as an inflatable is likely to get. The rails slide into sleeves and secure into place by the pressure of the board. After deflating the board and removing the rails, they break down into segments for easier transport.
Other than the integrated side rails, the Stiffy is pretty similar to all Advanced Elements other boards. It’s made from a durable, drop-stitch, double-layer PVC skin. The raised board tip adds performance, and the central traction foam gives the rider sure footing. It measures in at 11 feet long by 30 inches wide when on the water and 19 x 19 x 34 inches when in your trunk. It weighs 32 lbs. and supports paddlers up to 230 lbs.
The Stiffy will hit the market next year with a suggested retail of $1,100. While that price is a few hundred more than other Advanced Element SUPs like the Hula boards, the combination of inflatable convenience and rigid, stable ride could prove well worth the premium – assuming the rails actually deliver out on the water. The board includes three removable fins, a single-action hand pump, a carry bag and a repair kit.
If you’re not that concerned about rigidity, you could opt for one of Advanced Elements’ Hula models. Next year’s Hula 8 will retail for $800, and the Hula 11 will retail for $900. The 11-foot model is essentially the Stiffy without the side rails and includes the same construction and similar features. You can even equip it with a kayak seat for days that you don’t feel like standing.