hard epoxy vs inflatable lifeguard rescue boards

What is an Inflatable Lifeguard Rescue Board?

Inflatable lifeguard rescue boards are not as common and are relatively new as lifeguard rescue boards. ‘Sudeste’ was our name before ‘Machine Surf Craft’ and we have been making inflatable rescue boards for the last 7 years. This was mostly for our own work running lifeguard courses in South America.

An inflatable rescue board uses an inflatable material so the board can deflate down to a fraction of the size for transport and storage. Our boards deflate down to 1/8 of the size of a regular hard rescue board so you could store or transport 8 inflatable rescue boards in the space of 1 regular hard rescue board.

Inflatable boards are made of very durable materials and can withstand lots of incidents that would ding/damage a hard rescue board.

What are hard rescue boards?

Hard lifeguard rescue boards are made of fibreglass, epoxy or carbon fibre. These boards mostly have a foam core (EPS) with an epoxy or fibreglass outer shell.

These boards are strong but also heavier than inflatable rescue boards and more prone to dings that will make them heavier.

Why choose a hard rescue board?

Widely available from many manufacturers. If storage, transport and price is not a problem these are great boards and will be stiffer than inflatable boards in the ocean.

beach lifeguard rescue boards training

Inflatable vs Hard Rescue Board

hard lifeguard rescue board vs inflatable lifeguard rescue board comparison table


Inflatable lifeguard rescue boards are the clear winners in this category. They can be rolled up and put in a backpack taken to the beach, or stored in a cupboard a home. They also have the advantage of not getting damaged when taken on roof racks while inflated. A lot of boards get damage while in transport on roof racks of peoples cars. Many people over tighten roof rack straps and compress and ding the rails of hard rescue boards. An inflatable board will not ding from over tight straps!

inflatable lifeguard rescue board rolled up for storage
average inflation time to pump up inflatable lifeguard rescue board

Storage Space

Eight Machine Surf Craft inflatable boards fit into the space that one traditional hard rescue board takes up! This is a massive advantage for people that need multiple boards and have very little spare space. Many hard rescue boards due to there length are stored in special outdoor storage units, replacing your existing hard boards with inflatable ones means that you no longer need to build, maintain and pay for these storage areas.

damaged beach lifeguard rescue boards cornwall


Hard lifeguard rescue boards are more likely to get damaged because they are made of fiberglass. A lot of dings (damage to hard boards) happens just getting the board to the water. Dings on walls, steps, rocks all happen very often due to the length of the boards, and peoples inexperience with moving such a large object in a busy environment. Inflatable boards just bounce off most of these incidents!

Performance on the water

Hard lifeguard rescue boards are traditionally thought to offer the best performance on the water. But with our latest construction process our inflatable boards are stiffer than ever and also on average 3kg lighter. Would you rather have a 10.5kg board or 7.6kg board to turn and maneuver in the ocean?  The big advantage of an inflatable board is they are more forgiving if they hit someone (or hit you).


Traditional hard lifeguard rescue boards weigh approximately 9.5 – 12kg. Our latest Machine Surf Craft Rescue Board weighs just 7.6kg fully inflated! This is a major advantage over hard rescue boards as they are very lightweight to carry down to the ocean and easier to maneuver in the sea. This difference in weight is an absolute game changer for anyone using a rescue board. We often test our boards with members of our local surf lifesaving club in Cornwall. We have found that anyone helping out with water safety chooses an inflatable board over the hard rescue boards. This is due to the weight difference and how easy the inflatable boards are to carry to the water edge.

inflatable beach lifeguard rescue board rnli beach lifeguard hut
running with inflatable lifeguard rescue board


A hard rescue board costs approximately £1000 – £1200, while our inflatable rescue boards cost £690 including deliver in the UK with a carry rucksack, pump, fin and repair kit.

If weight, storage, portability, cost and durability are your main concerns when buying a lifeguard rescue board its a very easy decision to go for an inflatable rescue board.

If you would like to try out a Machine Surf Craft inflatable board send us a message via our Contact Page or use our social media channels on Facebook and Instagram.