Understanding your inflatable paddle board’s PSI is key to understanding your board’s performance. Most paddle boards will range anywhere from 10 to 15 PSI. However, specialized boards designed for specific-use activities can go up to 20 PSI.
Understanding the PSI range is important for two main reasons; knowing how much air to put into your inflatable board, and understanding the type of activities you can use the inflated board for.
If you over inflate your board, you risk damaging it and even altering how it will perform. But if you under inflate it, you may find it tough to balance, and paddling your inflatable SUP won’t be much fun!
Understanding PSI and your Paddle Board
PSI is an abbreviation for pounds per square inch, or rather pounds of force per square inch.
When air is pumped into a cavity, such as the inside of your inflatable paddle board, the air pressure gets heavier the more compact it is. While the amount of space is limited inside of your paddle board, the amount of air that can go into it is not… to an extent that is.
The more air pressure you pump into your inflatable paddle board, the higher the PSI level will be. Having an inflatable paddle board that requires a high PSI can be a good thing, but over inflating your board is not necessarily something you want to do either.
What is the Average PSI for a Paddle Board?
I recommend inflating your stand up paddle board to the board’s own recommended PSI. Every inflatable paddle board has its own recommended PSI level for best performance, but it is usually somewhere between 15 – 20 PSI. The PSI of a board is dependent on how the board is built and what the materials used are.
Because pressurized air is always looking for a way to escape, if it doesn’t escape naturally through the valve, it will seek out weak spots in the seams or material. Quality built inflatable paddle boards are able to retain this stress a lot better than lower quality boards are.
How Does PSI Impact Performance?
Your board’s PSI can have a great impact on your board’s performance. If you go out on the water with an inflatable paddle board that has a low PSI, you’ll feel a lot less stable than you would on a high PSI board. Plus, the board won’t offer as much maneuverability or control either.
High Air Pressure Means Greater Stability
Stability is the main aspect of performance impacted by PSI. More air pressure inside your board means you have less flex when you put weight on the top of the board (which can be beneficial for heavier riders).
If there’s not enough pressure inside of the chamber, then your weight can sink into the board once you start paddling.
Paddle Board Performance Mimics a Hard Shell Paddle Board
PSI also directly dictates rigidity – in essence, a higher PSI means more stiffness. A fully inflated board with a PSI anywhere from 10 – 21 will feel similar to an epoxy hard shell board.
Depending on your preference and activity, this is something you may want. Those doing SUP yoga will want a stiff and rigid board because it will allow them to maintain their stability and balance better.
An inflatable paddle board that is sleek, narrow, is great for paddlers who want exceptional maneuverability.
PSI and Your Paddle Board’s Weight Limit
Your paddle board’s weight limit is not directly related to PSI level. However not inflating to the right air pressure will impact how much weight you can put on your paddleboard.
For example, if you don’t inflate to the recommended PSI, you can end up having a middle flex in your board. While the ends of your inflatable SUP feel firm and support weight, you’ll find yourself sinking in when you’re standing in the middle of the board.
Inflating a Paddleboard With a High PSI
So how do you make sure you’re inflating your paddle board properly, especially one that requires a high PSI? Well, it all starts with the type of SUP pump you use.
It can be difficult inflating a paddle board with a high PSI because you need a pump that can deliver that pressurized air. You can use a manual pump to inflate your SUP, but you want to make sure that it is a high pressure pump.
Manual pumps made for paddle boards with a high PSI will feature a double chamber system that allows you to easily inject pressurized air. If you’ve tried using a traditional hand pump, you likely won’t be able to continue pumping enough air to reach the required pressure.
An electric pump is another great option for easily inflating a paddle board with a high PSI. What’s great about electric pumps is that you can typically set your desired PSI level and let the pump do its thing. When the electric pump reaches the target PSI, it will automatically shut off.
While it’s possible, it’s highly discouraged to use an air compressor to get your board inflated. An air compressor is designed for heavy duty inflation, something inflating in a paddle board is not.
If you use an air compressor, you could risk damaging your paddle board. Air compressors can deliver too much power, and exceed your target PSI.
Lastly, it’s important to use an air pump that has a PSI pump gauge on it. This gauge will allow you to know just how much air is going into your board.
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While your average inflatable SUP will be anywhere from 10 – 15 PSI, it’s important to understand the limits of your own board.
Doing so will keep you from over or underinflating your paddle board. Too little pressure and you may as well be drifting on the water with a Lilo.
On the other hand, if you over inflate your paddle board, you may end up damaging it.
I hope this guide has helped you understand paddle board PSI a little better, and the consequences of over or under inflating your SUP.
By understanding air pressure and how it impacts performance, you’ll be better equipped in making decisions when it comes to inflatable boards.