Tower Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2013 • all rights reserved

Tower Collage

So how do iSUPs figure into cooking on a boat?  Good question.  Best answer I have is that they’re just one more reason that I like to keep galley duty simple — while producing tasty meals — so that I have time to do fun stuff!

Actually, I love all water activities and bought one of these while we were recently in the Florida Keys.  When I posted a picture on The Boat Galley’s Facebook page, I got a number of questions about it — why an SUP, why an inflatable, can “old folks” do it, why Tower and more.

SUP-ing in General

I first tried SUP-ing in Hawaii last winter and was immediately hooked.  I love both quietly exploring shoreline areas and the occasional chance to surf down a wave (for the record, my “big wave” was about a foot high!).

Even better, it’s great exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise.  While I’ve done some kayaking in the past, I always get extremely uncomfortable in a kayak — my back and legs just don’t like sitting like that (I’m extremely inflexible which is probably part of the problem).  SUP-ing is comfortable.  And while you probably think of it as working your shoulders and arms, it also works the core, legs, feet and ankles.

It’s also phenomenal balance training — and this is something that is easy to lose with each passing year.  Even living on a boat, Dave and I found that we had to actively look for low walls and logs to walk on.  One of my favorite “exercises” was to stand in the floating dinghy on a slightly windy day and see how long I could go without grabbing something.  But that felt like “exercise,” not play.

One question I’ve been asked a lot is “aren’t those for the youngsters?”  I don’t think so, any more than snorkeling and diving are for the younger crowd.  If you are comfortable in the water (in case you fall off), you’ll do fine.  I find it much easier to get back on the board from the water than to get into a dinghy when snorkeling (and when snorkeling, I have dive fins on to help).  But if you have serious questions about the physical side, either rent or borrow a board before buying one (even if it’s not the same model, you’ll quickly discover if you have any major problems).

I wanted to get a SUP . . . but we questioned where we could store one and how we could take it with us on trips.  Boards are larger than typical surf boards — generally 10 to 14 feet long.  And so it became one of those “maybe someday” things.

Inflatable SUPs

As we walked into the Annapolis Sailboat Show, the answer literally stared me in the face:  an inflatable board.  It could be deflated and rolled for storage and transport.

I don’t remember the brand that I first saw, but I do remember Dave and I both questioning how well it would work in real life. And even with the boat show discount, it cost over $1,000.

As we walked around the show over the next several days, we discovered that there were several brands displayed there.  So we made a point of searching them out and comparing features and price.

Hands down, our favorites were the Tower Boards.  The big difference that we saw was that they were just a lot firmer (more like a solid board) than the others, had about double the weight limit, and they cost less.  Several hundred dollars less.

But I couldn’t try one and didn’t know anyone with one.  I’ll admit, I was leery of buying one — even though I know that inflatable boats (dinghies) are great, I also knew that we had much better performance with a RIB than an air floor.  And the iSUPs reminded me of air floor dinghies.

Once home, I kept thinking about the Tower Boards and did more research online.  Everything I read moved me towards getting one — maybe we’d call it a joint Christmas present?  Then Melody on Vacilando posted several photos of herself and her dog on their Tower board and we “chatted” on Facebook about it.  I was ready to buy but we were leaving for Florida shortly — much as I’d like to take it along, I didn’t think it’d get here before we left.

Tower only sells directly — online and at some shows.  But they do have a network of board owners who are willing to let others try out their boards.  I noticed that one of these guys was located in the Florida Keys — about a half mile from our hotel.  AHA!  Maybe I couldn’t have my own board before the trip, but I could try one.

In making arrangements to meet up with him, I discovered that he was moving in just a few days — far inland — and was going to sell his board.  While I was ready to buy a brand new one, it was too good an opportunity to pass up and I’m happy to report that I’m the new owner of his board.

One final point that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else in my description is that an advantage of an inflatable board is that there is a tiny bit of give in them and hence they are less tiring on the feet.  No worries if you bump a boat, either!

Info Specific to the Tower Boards

Tower makes two inflatable boards:  one that is just under 10′ and one that is 14′ long.  Mine is the larger, with a 700 pound weight limit!  The previous owner — a 200-pound guy — reports once having two friends and a dog on the board with him!

The longer board is “faster” — while I’m not entering any races, that also means that it takes less energy to paddle and I can go further.  The down side is that it weighs about 10 pounds more, takes longer to pump up and isn’t as small when rolled.  Even though I got the larger one (because it’s what I had to opportunity to buy used at a substantial discount), I think the smaller one would do just fine.

The 14′ board weighs just under 40 pounds and will fit in a duffle or other “standard size” bag, so that it can fly as normal checked luggage with no surcharges beyond any standard luggage fees.

Tower says it’s 33″ wide and a foot in diameter when rolled; our first rolling job resulted in it being 37″ wide and since we were putting it in the car, we “rolled” it to be 16″ deep and 8″ high.  In the photo at the top of this article, I put a ball cap on top of the rolled board to give some scale to it.

The paddle breaks down into three pieces, each of which is just shorter than the width of the rolled board.  Perfect for rolling the pieces in the center if you’re going to take it all on a plane!

I find the board “managable” but not easy to carry both rolled and inflated; Dave (who is 75 but both taller and stronger) finds it pretty simple either way.

Pumping it up is a mild cardio workout.  It took us about 10 minutes, tag-teaming for a couple minutes at a time.  The pumping is pretty easy for the first 90% — you may wonder if the gauge on the pump is working as the needle doesn’t move for quite a while — and the last few strokes up to 11 PSI are tough!  But it’s that last little bit of pressure that makes the board so rigid, so do it.

Consequently, you’re going to want to leave the board inflated if you’re using it every day.  The boards are made from PVC, very similar to a Zodiac dinghy.  Unlike hypalon, you have to protect PVC from sun when not in use.  I’m going to make a cover for it so that we can keep it inflated when in one location.

Before rolling and storing, it’s important to dry the board thoroughly so that the deck pad won’t mildew.  And the 3-piece paddle should at least be taken apart and preferably given a bit of fresh water rinse to keep it from freezing together.  My board has two paddles, but the previous owner apparently never took the pieces apart . . . I’ve now got the joints soaking in vinegar to try to get them apart.

Finally, Tower only sells direct and says this allows them to sell higher quality boards at lower prices than competitors.  I can’t swear that I’ve compared them to every possible competitor, but I know that they are less expensive than other similarly-sized high quality boards I’ve looked at, such as Walker Bay.

If you’re interested in one, click here to go to the Tower website.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the great info! I checked out the web site from your link, and looks like a pretty good price. Can’t buy one just yet, but plan on it in the future … will definitely look into these when the time comes. Looks fun!

  2. Patricia Bryk says:

    Love my Tower ISUP!!! Bought it to use on the boat, but have only used it in the river at our trailer park so far. LOL

    Thanks for all the info on your site, everything has been very useful in prepping us for our first long weekend trip on our boat.

  3. Robert Sayles says:

    Do you have any tips on how to put your numbers on an inflatable, especially one like mine, a roll up??

    • I haven’t had to do it, but here’s what I THINK would work (no guarantees):

      Instead of trying to stick on numbers, I’d “paint” them with a caulk meant to adhere to plastic materials, and then make a “square” of the painted on caulk where I’d attach the registration sticker after the caulk dries.

      This is the type of caulk that I’d try using: http://www.homedepot.com/p/GE-Silicone-II-9-8-oz-Window-and-Door-Black-GE5030-12C/100126591

      I need to re-do the numbers on our (hypalon) dinghy and that’s what I’m planning to try. And while I don’t have to put registration numbers on my SUP, I would like to put our name on it, so I’ll try it.

  4. I want one of these!

    • I love mine! Can’t recommend it highly enough. The inflatable part is nice for longer passages and we even took it to the Virgin Islands to use on a friend’s boat (they ended up buying their own after using ours . . .).

    • I have been hesitant to purchase as not sure I could handle it. I am 67 but pretty agile! Thanks for input. We will be in BVI’s for Christmas!

    • My husband is 76, I’m 54 . . . where are you now? Any chance there’s someone around who would let you try theirs? (BTW, I keep telling the company that they need have to some of us older folks in their ads . . . ) If you’re anywhere near central Illinois, you’re more than welcome to come and try mine!

    • I am in Fairhope Alabama. Lots of SUP board here just not inflatable. Dome hear you saying it’s stable?

    • Yes, very stable! I used a rigid one the first time I tried paddleboarding, and I find the Tower Inflatable slightly more stable, probably as there is just a tiny bit of give under my feet (it’s very hard, harder than an inflatable dinghy, but it does have a tiny bit of give). The better inflatables (those that aren’t super-thin or marketed as kid’s toys) are definitely stable — and that was one of the things that surprised Jan. The water in our cove was fairly calm, but didn’t fall once . . . didn’t even have a close call. Try one of the regular ones if you can — the inflatable will only be better!

    • Sally — you can see that I got to try the iSUP & had a blast. I was initially concerned about the stability, but the one Carolyn has was every bit as stable, and probably more so, than my kayak. I’d love to try the smaller version & see if it’s as stable. It’s just as wide, but only 10′ long and 6″ thick – Carolyn’s version is 14′ long and 8″ thick – not sure how much, if any, stability would be sacrificed by losing the 2″. Try it, I’m sure you’ll like it. (I’m 59 btw).

  5. Where are you hanging out??? I am going through Charlotte Harbor sailboat withdrawal….Relinda

  6. Looks lovely.

  7. Beautiful pictures

  8. We’ve got an inflatable packed car headed for Lake Ontario Jan. Ziggy loves to go too.

  9. Are you still in love with the Tower?

    • Absolutely! Over the summer, I paddled almost every day on it. Lots of fun and great exercise. Can’t now since there are gators on the canals near our boatyard, but as soon as we’re out of the yard, I’ll be back on it.

  10. Does any one know of a 12 v pump the will pump up to this pressure??

    • I found that I could use our dinghy pump — it’s not a perfect fit but close — to get about 80% of the way full, then use the “real” pump for the last bit. I’ve heard there are 12-volt pumps, but haven’t looked for one. If I hear of one, I’ll post it.

    • Carolyn, we love ours thanks for introducing us to the Tower Inflatable SUP!!! Inflating them is just part of the exercise. The two stanchion mounting brackets we have on each side should make things much easier this year.

  11. No PFD? Not a good idea.

  12. I have the Tower inflatable sup and I am good at kayaking on it (sitting) . Today I was finally able to stand up and paddle for the first time for about 10 min. I was shaky but it was better than just sitting the first 5 times i went out on it. I fell off right before getting off of it though and figured while I was in the water i may as well practice getting back on it from a place where I can’t touch the bottom. I was unable to get back on from the end or the side and Im wondering if its a combination of my being very over weight, lack of upper body strength or the fact that its inflatable. Luckily I was about 15 feet from the canal wall where I had steps to get back up and onto land but for now no more standing up on it any further than i want to swim back with it since i cant seem to reboard from water. any thoughts / advice on reboarding from water? PS – its calm, flat barely moving canal water

    • Upper body strength will help you get on. I grab the handle with both hands (from the side) and pull while kicking my feet and slide on sort of like a beached whale. As you keep paddling, you’ll build up that upper body strength. Instead of going from sitting to standing, maybe try kneeling — it’ll help you improve your balance but a lot less chance of falling off.

      • Claire Ford says:

        To add to Carolyn’s suggestion, I started doing “counter” push ups several months ago, and have increased my upper body strength by a significant amount. I do them to failure which some days are probably only 10 or 12. I don’t count. BTW, I’m overweight, too. Good luck!

        • Thanks! I tried the kicking like a beached wale and it didnt help. watched a couple of videos and it looks like the guy threw his leg up on while pulling up onto the side. i neglected to do that. also in a vid the guy was getting on from the end and kind pulled the board under water in front of him kinda under his chest and the boyancy kinda helped pop him up there along with him putting his legs up. I guess ill need to fall again to find out because im not a fan of swimming in that canal water lol. this time ill fall away from the cement blocks i put in to get out of the canal incase i fell off the board. gotta nurse the scratched up tops of my feet before going in again LOL! I like doing push ups on the stability ball. I usually do about 6 sets of 15 of them at the gym so you would think i’d be pretty strong but i guess my weight out does me in strength lol. oh well. down 40 lbs since new year and ill get there. im just jealous of my skinny lil friends who were like la de dah, and could stand up paddle board first try, standing, fall, get right back on. oh well ill get there lol. hahaha. I can sit on my butt indian style or with my legs in front of me and I can kneel sitting on my butt or kneel sitting up no problem. I think ill kneel up when i SUP kneeling for now since ill be the most upright with that position. good suggestion. thanks!

  13. I tried to take a look at the Tower site, but the link on your page is not working for me (http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=453174&u=873224&m=45686&urllink=&afftrack=).

  14. I ended up Googling Tower, and their inflatable boards look very nice. Thanks for your write-up… and Happy New Year!

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