When it comes to surf fitness, I’m a big fan of balance trainers. I have the attention span of a goldfish, so the added balance challenge tends to make dry land training more fun for me. However, when you wipe out on a balance trainer, you wipe out hard, which can make the learning curve a little scary for a lot of people (not to mention the surrounding walls and furniture).
The Kumo Board, an inflatable version of the wood and plastic balance boards we’re all used to, was made to solve this problem. The board is made of drop stitch PVC (think a tiny inflatable SUP), and can be used in a variety of different ways to make your experience more or less difficult depending on what you are looking for.
At first glance, I wasn’t completely sold on the inflatable idea. The board looked a little bulkier than what I am used to and I was worried about it not being rigid enough to really be challenging. However, when fully inflated, the Kumo Board feels similar to the wood version, with the added bonus of being more forgiving if you land on your face.
The Kumo Board has several features that distinguishes it from traditional balance boards, not the least of which is that it’s adjustable:
Level 1—Board Only:
The board on its own, when fully inflated has end-to-end rocker making it useful as a standing desk platform. The board can also be helpful when doing physical therapy to help strengthen the body and to prevent injuries. When using the board alone, the balance challenge is increased when the amount of air in the board is reduced.
Level 2—Board and Cushion
The next step is to fully inflate the board and add in the Kumo Cushion, which increases the instability and challenge. The more you inflate the cushion, the more difficult it becomes to balance. By using the cushion instead of the roller, the risk of the board unexpectedly sliding out from under you is decreased, making this setting a good one to master before you step up to the roller, or if you have kids that plan to use the board.
Level 3—The Roller and the Board Upside Down
Now that you are ready to start using the roller, you can work up to full difficulty by reducing the amount of air you put into both the board and the roller. Less air in the roller makes it more forgiving, and easier to learn with. Also, flipping the board so the deck is face down creates a more user-friendly experience with less potential for the board to slip out from under you.
Level 4—Fully Inflated Board and Roller
Once you have mastered the lower levels, the fully inflated the Kumo Board and roller are just as rigid and high performance as traditional balance boards made of hardwood and plastic but are also soft and user-friendly at the same time.
In addition to being adjustable, the Kumo Board has several other features that distinguishes it from traditional balance boards.
It is Portable and Still Has a True-to-Life Feel
If you’re the type that likes to work out when you travel, the Kumo Board, Roller and Cushion deflate to a compact and portable size that can be taken with you when you are on the move. Velcro straps secure all components inside the rolled up board, and included is an accessory strap that converts into handle if you want to carry it around. When partially inflated, the Kumo Board provides front to back movement similar to wooden and plastic boards; but unlike traditional boards, it also challenges heel to toe balance, similar to what you feel while doing real board sports. The Kumo Board is designed for use on any smooth surface both indoors and outdoors and can even be taken in the pool or ocean and used as a kickboard or boogie board (it’s waterproof, obviously).
Honestly, I didn’t think I’d like the inflatable balance board. I wasn’t sure that it would work as well as the wood and plastic version, and I was worried that it wouldn’t be rigid enough to really be challenging. Having said that, it only took a few minutes for the Kumo Board to win me over. I liked its versatility, and I found myself trying to do things on the Kumo Board that I have been too intimidated to try on the traditional versions. It is a lot easier to try some of the more difficult maneuvers without the fear that the board is going to take out your shins.
For me, the only downside is that a pump isn’t included in the box. Although I do have a bike pump, I didn’t have a needle readily available to inflate everything, and had to go get one in order to inflate the board. Also, my bike pump is about a hundred years old and doesn’t have a pressure gauge, so it took me a few tries to get the roller and the board to the right PSI. The first time we inflated everything we over-inflated the roller, which made getting up on the board really challenging.
After I had tried it out myself, I figured that the best way to really test out the Kumo Board would be to test it on both sides of the ability spectrum. So I took it to my local surf gym, where a few of the trainers who use traditional balance boards on an everyday basis could try it out. Both of the trainers were surprised at how realistic the Kumo Board felt, mostly due to the heel to toe balance experience. One even said that he would choose it over what he’s currently using.
On the other end of the spectrum was a family with two kids, a five-year-old and an eight-year-old that are learning to surf. Both kids loved the fact that it’s softer than what they are used to, and therefore much less scary to use. In fact, the eight-year-old didn’t want to give it back because he liked it so much. “From a parental standpoint,” the mom said, “if given a choice between an inflatable and a traditional balance board, I would feel much more comfortable with the inflatable.”
Find out more, here.