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Inflatable stand-up paddle boards are excellent because they are lightweight and easy to transport. When deflated they can fold down to half or a quarter of their full size. This means that they can easily be transported in the car.
When you arrive at your destination, you’ll need to inflate your board. Most inflatable boards are sold with a hand pump that can be used to inflate the board. However, this can be tiresome and time consuming, leading many to wonder whether an electric pump would be easier.
You can use most electric pumps to inflate your paddle board. You may need to buy a pump adaptor to connect the pump to your board, but other than that, any pump will do.
Likewise, you do need to be conscious of overinflating your board. Under inflating is rarely a problem because the board will be floppy if it’s underinflated. Over inflating is an issue because it can put too much pressure on the materials. This can cause the board to pop if subjected to sharps or high-pressure points.
If you are planning on using an electric pump, make sure you use one with a pressure gauge. That way you can monitor the air pressure. Your aim is to get it as close to the recommended pressure as possible.
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Can You Inflate a SUP with a Compressor?
Air compressors are different from pumps because they squeeze the air into a smaller volume before they move it. Many tools utilize air compressors because the compressed air creates a lot of force when it moves into a new space or chamber. Nail guns, for example, use air compressors to fire nails into different materials.
Many people carry small air compressors in their trunk in the form of tire inflators. These are smaller, less powerful air compressors that can be powered from the 12-volt port in your car.
If you have one of these handy, you might be tempted to use it on your SUP board, after all it’s much quicker than a hand pump.
The issue with using air compressors is that they create moisture. All air contains water vapor and when it is compressed, the water vapor becomes water. This is injected into the tire or inflatable when an air compressor is used.
Getting water or moisture inside your board is not ideal. The air chamber inside is difficult to clean out which means that if water finds its way inside, it is hard to remove.
Stale, stagnant water inside your SUP causes mold and mildew which can cause premature wear and tear to your board.
The mold and mildew tend to eat away at the digestible parts of the PVC material such as the colorants, cellulose, and stabilizers. As it does this it produces acids which can cause the rest of the PVC to break down.
What is a SUP Pump?
SUP pumps are pumps that are specifically designed to be used with SUP boards. There are two types of SUP pumps.
First up you have the standing hand pumps. These are very often supplied with inflatable SUP boards. They look a little bit like a capital letter ‘I’ because they have a long body with handles and footrests.
To work the pump, you stand on the footrests and pull the handles up before pushing them down. In most cases, air is pushed out of the pump and into the SUP board on the downward push. However, some pumps are designed so that air is moved during the up and downward motion.
These hand pumps are easy to use and don’t require any electric hook up. They tend to be super reliable and fairly cheap to purchase.
The other kind of SUP pumps are electric SUP pumps. These tend to be 12-volt air pumps that have a pressure gauge and a pressure stop.
With these pumps you can not only watch the pressure increase, but you can select a maximum pressure. This means that the pump will stop when it’s reached the maximum air pressure. These kinds of pumps are ideal because they significantly reduce the risk of over inflation.
As electric SUP pumps run off 12-volt power, they can be hooked up to your car. This makes them as mobile as you are.
Some SUP pumps are battery powered. These can be handy if you want to inflate your board on the shoreline away from the car. You do need to remember to charge them, however.
Are SUP Pumps Universal?
The SUP pumps themselves are universal in that they can be used on any SUP provided you have the right valve attachment.
Most SUP boards require a square-head pump nozzle. These will be supplied with SUP pumps, but you may need to buy a separate adaptor if you use a standard electric pump.
Square-head nozzles have two arms that come out of a ring. The arms reach up and behind, curving so that they face each other. The arms form a slightly squared shape which is what gives them their name.
SUP boards have to use a square-head nozzle because they work in conjunction with the valve installed on the board. Most SUP use a Halkey-Roberts valve to manage air flow.
To inflate the board, the pin inside the valve needs to be lifted. The square-head nozzle does this when it is turned counter-clockwise in the valve.
To release the air, the valve needs to be pushed down. This is done when the nozzle is turned clockwise.
You can buy square-head adaptors from any water sports store as well as online retailers like Amazon. They are often supplied even with standard electric pumps, so you may not need to buy adaptors at all.
One word of caution, square-head nozzles look fairly similar to heliciform-heads. These are typically used on inflatable kayaks. They won’t fit a SUP valve so check the type before you buy.
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I’m an Colorado native, who learned to surf in the Pacific Northwest, and SW Canada. I live inland near the mountains now, and love to get out on my SUP. It’s weird, but I love windy, choppy days as no-one is out and I like the challenge.