BUYING AN INFLATABLE PADDLEBOARD
With the explosion in popularity for standup paddle boarding, more and more people are looking at buying an inflatable paddleboard and at TJBoardhire we are forever being asked about which inflatable board is best to buy. We have therefore put together our top 10 tips for buying an inflatable paddle board for people that may not have any knowledge or experience in this sport. This is a simplified list of tips, gained from our own experience and is aimed at those looking to buy their first board.
There are now numerous board manufacturers flooding the market, with board packages at some very low and also some very high price points. Within our Chichester SUP Club, we see numerous boards of all different shapes and sizes and there is a clear difference between the quality of the budget boards and the more prestigious brands.
Whilst not wanting to get into board snobbery debates, it can be argued that you get what you pay for. However, that does not mean that you have to opt for the top of the range kit, especially if you are just dipping your toe in the water with the sport. At the other end of the scale, many customers express that they are looking at buying a budget range, inflatable standup paddleboard as they want to see if they like it, before committing to a more expensive piece of kit. These boards are generally within the £200 – £300 price bracket (so still a lot of money) and are often of questionable quality. We have seen people inflating their boards to the maximum PSI, only to find that the boards are so unstable that they cannot easily stand on them, with boards flexing in the middle. This does not result in a positive experience and can make people think that SUP is not for them.
It is fantastic that so many people are wanting to buy an inflatable stand up paddle board and understandable that most would not want to spend a fortune on trying something new. However, many people find they have spent their hard-earned cash on something that is little more than a water toy and is not suitable for purpose. This results in a huge amount of plastic being discarded and ending up in landfill.
These are our Top 10 tips for people thinking about buying an inflatable paddleboard and hope that this will be helpful for people looking to get into this fantastic sport.
1) Have a lesson from a reputable SUP school and also hire boards while you are learning. This will allow you the opportunity to try out some different types of boards at a reasonable price and learn on kit that will allow you to stand easily and progress your skills. Ask the instructors what kit they use and why they recommend it. A good instructor will have knowledge of a range of different boards and disciplines and will be able to tell you why they opt for the kit that they do and be able to make recommendations based on industry knowledge and experience.
2) Join a local SUP Club. Most clubs have boards that you can hire and this will give you the chance to talk to other paddlers of different abilities and try out different bits of kit to see what suits you before committing.
3) Look out for second-hand boards. Good quality mid and premium- range boards are often sold on as riders progress and buy kit that is more suited to their specific area of paddling. This means that you can often get a decent second-hand board for a decent price. Most reputable schools and hire centres update their kit every season and there are often bargains to be had on pre-loved board packages.
4) Make use of SUP forums. These provide a great opportunity to ask questions and post links to boards that you may be interested in and ask for feedback from anyone who may have brought or used them. This is a good way to get advice if you don’t live in an area where there are opportunities to try before you buy. However, be aware that these forums will also be frequented by sellers, who have a vested interest in wanting to sell you their brand. Be prepared to ask questions about why the board is recommended for you specifically.
5) When looking at board packages check whether all of the accessories that you will need are included and the rider weight allowance. Often budget boards are sold without pumps, paddles and leashes and the additional cost of buying the extras often takes you in the price range of a more decent mid-range package. Likewise, the rider weight can often be significantly less than the average adult, resulting in an unrewarding experience for many. It will help you to look at the recommended PSI, this will vary between 10-20. The lower the number, the less rigid the board will be, ideally a decent board will have a max pressure of around 15-18 PSI.
6) Think about what you want to use the board for. If you know that you want to progress with more distance paddling, you may prefer to opt for a longer, narrower touring shaped board. These will take a little more getting used to whilst learning, however will be more rewarding in terms of speed and tracking than some of the generic all-rounders. Alternatively, you may want to opt for something hard wearing and easily manoeuvrable for shared use within a family, so a wider, more stable board might be the best option. Additionally, look at the fin setup, often a more rounded design board will have 3 fixed flexible fins which will result in a board that is easy to turn and the fins will be less easily damaged. A board with a longer, removable centre fin will generally provide better tracking, so enable better straight line paddling. There are many considerations, so thinking about what you really want to do with it will help to narrow your search.
7) Consider the construction of the boards that you are interested in. A single layer construction, may be less expensive, lighter and more suited to a smaller rider, however be aware that a single skin board will be less durable and will always have more flex. Some single skin boards have an additional ‘stringer’ to provide some additional rigidity although this will always be less that a double layered construction board. If opting for a more robust double layer construction board, you will find that the board weight is a little heavier than a single skin product however, you will have the added reassurance of a stiffer board that retains its shape well. A board that is made from ‘Fusion Technology‘ will be lighter, stiffer, stronger and more durable but will cost a little more.
8) When you are ready to buy an inflatable paddleboard, aim to buy a reliable brand from a reputable company. These will likely be more expensive than the offers that often seem to be and usually are too good to be true. Any reputable brand will offer good customer service in the event of any problems and if you decide SUP isn’t for you, a decent board will hold its’ value well and there will always be a market for selling on second hand. It is also worth checking with your local clubs and schools to see if they have any discount codes to receive money off the brands that they use. Often this can gain you a saving on any new kit so well worth asking around.
9) If you do opt for a budget board, check the quality of the leash before taking it out and always wear a buoyancy aid. We have seen some very poor-quality leashes that provide more of a hazard to paddlers, rather than being the most important safety aspect of any SUP. Above all, remember that your board will be used in water conditions which may change quickly and as such, you want to have utmost confidence in the kit that you are investing in.
10) Finally, remember that your first board may not be the only board that you will ever buy. For many, a first board will be the start of a lifelong journey during which your interests will change. Many of our Chichester SUP Club members start off with a generic 10’6 board, before realising that they love to do longer distances and upgrade to a touring style board. Others decide that they love the race element and progress onto high-end carbon race boards, whilst some develop a passion for surf and will invest in kit to further their skills in their chosen discipline.
We hope that this helps you to make some decisions when buying an inflatable paddleboard for the first time. Please let us know if you have any other tips. Happy paddling 🙂