Should You Buy A Cheap Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board? (2023)
It’s a question asked often: is a cheap iSUP worth it?
A cheap inflatable SUP board CAN be worth buying as it can serve the purpose and allow you to enjoy the hobby as a beginner IF you chose the right seller and the right iSUP board in accordance to your needs and possibilities. There are some really good budget iSUP boards out there.
By “cheap” I’m referring to paddle boards costing up to around $300. Usually they’re all sold in a package consisting of the iSUP board itself and either all or some of the following: paddle, leash, backpack, pump, repair kit and/or a manual. Nowadays the additional items aren’t all that bad.
Things To Watch Out For When Buying A Cheap iSUP
Almost ALL the boards you come across are made in Asia (as of 2013, 98% of them). Things haven’t changed by too much to this day. There might be just a very, very few brands that actually have their own factory in one of the western countries, but the vast majority get theirs mostly from China. But that doesn’t mean they’re all bad. It all comes down to quality control and customer support.
Obviously, things like the design, size and the board’s features in relation to your needs and possibilities play a huge role (SUP Buying Guide), but the most important thing to watch out for when going cheap is how a brand has enforced their quality control.
Pay attention to:
- customer service,
(my goal would be to look for red flags)
#1 customer service
Check for warranty and customer support. Reputable brands have warranties ranging from 1 to 5 years, cheaper ones tend to have none or up to 2 years. Do they claim to have one, and if so is there any indication that some1 has actually used it (by going through comments, etc). It’s relatively easy to put up fake comments, so when in doubt you may want to ask a simple question to confirm if they’re at least active. If a site looks legit, but is actually fake wherein negative comments are flat out removed, then that can make any1’s blood boil and you can often find complaints off-site on forums and such where people would be able to release their vents.
This is a problem that often plagues budget iSUPs. How much information is there about the product? Like really. Apart from knowing its size, it can be very useful to know a lot more things about the board, such as its weight, weight capacity, volume, features, construction & materials, optimal and maximum air pressure (PSI), to whom and for what water conditions it is best suitable for, and how it performs overall.
And then there are ones that have a long description, but it reads like a sales nightmare: deluxe edition best military grade highest quality top of the class unrivalled this and that jargon… If only you knew how things really were past such deceptive misleading descriptions. No doubt they’ll make you feel good about choosing, but please don’t let yourself be fooled by something like that. More often than not, cheaper iSUPs use probably the most basic materials available, or if higher quality, then sparsely, otherwise it wouldn’t be so cheap (check this article on what is PVC in order to find out more what the iSUPs are made of).
#3 construction & design
This is often followed by lack of proper documentation which gives away that probably not too many resources were allocated to testing, refining and polishing the craft as much as possible, and was instead just launched in a cost-effective manner designed to stay afloat and perform just enough to pass consumer tolerance levels. The seller might have bought a bunch of boards in bulk and just put them up for sale to get rid of them without really giving a damn as to how good or bad they are, their money is already invested and now they need a return…
As long as the cheap inflatable SUP board has no obvious red flags surrounding it, has a warranty of sorts, functionality-wise serves the purpose for you, and had customer support to help in case of defects etc, I’d take it if I was a beginner in need of an iSUP, no problem.
How To Tell If I’ve Found The Right Cheap iSUP?
There are risks involved when buying a cheap iSUP, no doubt, but when you’ve found one that’s got a warranty of sorts (mainly in case of potential defects rendering the iSUP unusable) and no obvious red flags surrounding it (you being the first buyer, customers complaining, shady documentation, etc), the risk is minimized and the iSUP CAN serve the purpose just fine.
Minimizing The Risks
The budget iSUP (around $200) should have:
- warranty & customer support √
- sufficient documentation √
- trustworthy seller √
Warranty & customer support
Perhaps it’s a little too much to ask for a warranty and customer support with a cheap iSUP, but there has to be something to protect the buyer from accidents during delivery which do happen from time to time.
The more you know about the board, the better, but more often than not, only the most basic of specifications are pointed out (size and weight capacity).
How’s their track record? The longer they’ve been around, the more is at stake with each sale to keep their place as the top dog. How’s their customer support? Are they answering people’s questions? This all is to make sure they’re present.
You’ve found an iSUP that has a warranty of sorts, is sufficiently documented and the seller seems trustworthy?
Awesome! BUT how to make sure it’s the right fit?
Is It Right For You?
Although almost all of the budget iSUPs are all-around, they still tend to vary in length, thickness, width, volume, weight and weight capacity, design, etc – it can be overwhelming to orient in. However, it’s actually really simple to find your place among them – you don’t need a 100% fit. In the case of ALL-AROUNDs, just a couple of generalized pointers:
The narrower the board, the faster it is (racing, surfing, touring).
The longer the board, the more speed it can build up (racing, touring).
The wider the board, the more stable it is (all-around, fishing, fitness).
The shorter the board, the better maneuverability you get (whitewater, surfing).
11′ long iSUP for larger/taller (>5’11 tall) paddlers;
10′ long iSUP for smaller/shorter (<5’11 tall) paddlers.
Learn more: SUP buying guide (link opens in a new tab).
The most common beginner all-around board dimensions for typical adult: 10’6 x 32″ x 6″ (length, width, thickness) and at least 15 PSI.
Does It Serve The Purpose?
I can think of a few uses for a budget iSUP:
- you don’t want to/can’t spend the money on a quality iSUP package ($800+);
- you’re not going to use it every single day throughout the year (couple of times a season);
- you’re not the only one using it (iSUPs need to be cared for, some people can be rough with what’s not theirs…);
- you’re not sure what to look for as a total beginner and want to try it out first (a cheaper iSUP is perfect for that).
Get an overivew:
SUP buying guide post
(link opens in a new tab)
Pros And Cons Of A Cheap iSUP
Chances are you’re not paddling in a warzone, so a “bombproof” iSUP would be an overkill, don’t you think?
lower optimal PSI.
Low cost – lower quality
The low cost, in itself, is good, of course, but that’s brought about by the lower quality of the materials. As long as you don’t expect too much of the board, take proper care of it, the lower price of the iSUP can be considered a positive as it serves the purpose for many years. The best iSUPs nowadays use fusion technology rather than just gluing the PVC together.
The weight of a budget iSUP is usually around 16-26 pounds, but that’s not to do with lower quality per se. Nobody aims to create a heavy iSUP, rather the opposite is true. Even the best iSUPs try to make sure their board doesn’t end up being too light because then it would be even more susceptible to wind when out on the water.
Beginner friendly – lower optimal PSI
It’s mainly the price that makes it beginner friendly. The lower optimal PSI (max 15) can be an issue when it comes to longer boards, say 12′ to 14′ boards. Most cheaper boards are the regular all-around size between 10′ and 11′ in length and there 14 PSI is good enough. It’ll be very rigid. As a beginner, you just need to make sure the board is wide enough (32″ to 33″) and the shape appropriate for your needs (remember the SUP buying guide).
I’ve already mentioned that budget iSUPs are of lower quality. That means it will likely only have 1 enforced layer of PVC (skim through the following post where I touch on what PVC is – link opens in a new tab) and other typical construction elements which can become loose or damaged more easily, so taking care of a cheaper iSUP is even more important than it is in case of a higher quality iSUP that can better deal with some rough handling in comparison.
Here’s I go over what not to do with your iSUP: how to take care of an iSUP (link opens in a new tab).
To sum up what’s in the post: it’s really easy to take care of an iSUP (low-maintenance), but try not to confuse “easy” with “not doing it at all” (the importance of drying, proper handling and storing).
A cheap inflatable SUP board CAN serve the purpose and allow you to enjoy the hobby as a beginner IF you chose a trustworthy seller and the right size and type of iSUP board in accordance to your needs and possibilities.
Usually cheap iSUPs are of lower quality, but that means there’s potential for frustration when it arrived with problems or ended up not meeting your needs, which is why it was important to check on a few things beforehand. There’s are very solid options even among the cheapest of iSUPs!
(links open in a new tab)
The TOP 10 Best Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards in 2023 | post | sunsetpaddler
Best Cheap Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards in 2023 | post | sunsetpaddler
Exploring Inflatable SUP Accessories & Their Uses | post | sunsetpaddler
Pink Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards in 2023 | post | sunsetpaddler
What Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Made of? | post | sunsetpaddler
How much do inflatable SUP boards cost? | post | sunsetpaddler
Is a cheap inflatable SUP worth it? | post | sunsetpaddler
How to choose a SUP paddle? | post | sunsetpaddler
iSUP care & maintenance | post | sunsetpaddler
SUP buying guide | post | sunsetpaddler
SUP boards list | post | sunsetpaddler
What is PVC? | post | sunsetpaddler
SUP safety | post | sunsetpaddler