It’s a fair question: Should you buy a cheap inflatable paddle board? Are they worth it? The question isn’t necessarily the easiest to answer. But, I’d say yes, they are worth it provided they serve an actual purpose to the person who’s purchased it or the person it has been purchased for. Additionally, it’s a matter of what kind of cheap board you are looking at and who made it.
The same can also be said that not all cheap inflatable boards are the same. Some might surprise you with how high-quality they are for such a low price point. This isn’t the case across the board, but it doesn’t mean it’s rare to find. Some paddle board manufacturers make really incredible budget boards.
We’ve even got an article on some of the best inflatable paddle boards under $400, so check that out! Let’s take a look at all the things you need to know about cheap iSUPs.
What Are Inflatable SUPs?
There are two primary types of paddle boards. The first is the hard (AKA rigid) paddle board, which is similar to a surfboard. They’re rigid and ready to go but can be difficult to transport and store. On the other hand, inflatable paddle boards are exactly what they sound like; they inflate with a manual or electric pump.
This significant difference means that inflatable paddle boards are inherently cheaper, easier to store, far more durable, easier to transport, and usually provide decent performance.
What Makes an Inflatable SUP Cheap?
This depends on the company, but several factors can dramatically influence the price of your board. First, if the board is cheap, it’s likely mass produced by manufacturers in Asia, most often China. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this factor, but it can lead to issues with quality control.
The design, quality, size, and materials used in production are significant factors influencing the price to make a board cheaper. However, the most important thing you want to look out for when looking for a paddle board is how the brand you’re purchasing from handles warranties, quality control, and general accountability for their products.
Pros & Cons of a Cheap Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
Some notable pros and cons exist to make a case for and against purchasing cheap isups. Let’s have a look at what they are!
The first obvious pro is that a cheap isup is going to be more affordable than higher-end models. This is a given. However, there is a downside to this as well expressed in the cons, such as the board being poorly designed, lower quality, and a lower optimal PSI. This pro is a tradeoff. It’s expected when the price is far lower than other paddle board options. However, for those looking to paddle board but are without the means to get truly invested, it’s a great starting point.
- Friendly For Beginners
If you’ve never paddle boarded before or are unsure if paddle boarding is for you, then this is a perfect way to break into the sport. You’ll be able to enjoy a board that is perfect for getting acquainted with the sport and more comfortable on a paddle board in general.
They are often lightweight in general, so this is a broad pro for the type of board.
- Lower Optimal PSI
Larger paddlers might find they suffer the worst at the hand of cheap boards. These more inexpensive boards aren’t designed to have higher PSIs, which is what correlates to the max weight capacity and, therefore, if it can handle larger sizes. So pay extra attention to the max weight capacity, and don’t take the number at face value. The closer you get to their number, the more the board struggles to accommodate.
- Poorly Designed
Due to the price point, you’re definitely going to find that there’s a stark difference in how a cheap iSUP is designed versus a more middle-of-the-road or higher-end iSUP is designed.
Cheap ones use fewer materials to create a board. Higher quality boards will use multiple materials to achieve that lightweight design while making them far more durable.
- Low Quality
To keep costs low, the quality of the materials used has to be cheap. The combination of low-quality materials and a minimal/poor design means the board can be considered cheap in the first place. Don’t be too surprised by the quality of less expensive board. They don’t usually espouse to be anything other than starter boards.
Watch Out For These 6 Things When Buying a Cheap iSUP
There are six pivotal aspects you want to take into account when shopping for cheaper options:
- Customer service
- Construction and design
The first thing you’ll want to look at when purchasing a cheap inflatable paddle board is the website for the brand you’re considering. What would you consider a red flag for a brand? For me, the biggest red flag is brands not having a website at all. Of course, this is detrimental to any brand, so if they don’t have a website, it tells me a few things about the brand:
- Not serious about the brand
- Don’t want to advertise their products
- They’re not trustworthy
- They’re not willing to put in the effort to explain their product and provide transparency
What’s worse is when there is a website, but it’s a low-effort website. Considering how cheap it is to create and host websites these days, the fact that they went to no effort just doesn’t sit right with me.
The biggest issue I find with cheap inflatable paddle boards is answering the question, ‘how much information is there on the product?’ If I can’t come up with an answer that’s satisfactory, that’s a problem. You’ll often find that some paddle boards don’t go much further than expressing the weight of the board and its dimensions. You’ve got no clue what its weight capacity is, what it’s made of, its construction, etc.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are products that overly explain themselves but use nothing more than flashy language to sell you on the product. They’re not providing useful information, just jargon aimed at misdirecting you and making you think the board’s nothing short of perfection.
A warranty can tell you a lot about a company. When they don’t provide one, it tells me that they know this product might not last long, but that’s an issue you’ve got to deal with unless it meets stringent requirements for a refund or replacement. On the other hand, you’ve got brands that provide generous warranties because they believe in the product and know it’s unlikely. Therefore, they’re confident in offering something better than their competitors.
It’s all relative and should be considered. But the main point is to avoid buying a product without any form of warranty. Reputable brands usually offer warranties of 1 – 5 years. More inexpensive brands offer under 2 years, nothing at all, or under very specific circumstances, which are often difficult to prove or claim for.
Is it easy to get in touch with the brand? Can they help you with your return or query? You don’t want to need to act on a warranty and find yourself unable to because the brand has no way of contacting them.
Construction and Design
It’s rather easy to tell if the product in question isn’t constructed or designed as well as it could have been. It goes hand-in-hand with a lack of documentation. This shows you that they probably didn’t spend a lot of time allocating resources to refining or testing the product or product. Instead, they could have just bulk ordered some boards, wrapped them up, and sold them as their own. This lack of effort, while packaged as a cheap iSUP, becomes something you pay the price for later when the board gives out due to poor quality.
Overall all this is a matter of transparency. How much information are they willing to give you? Will they answer the necessary questions to express and explain the product they’re trying to sell you? All of these factors boil down to this one question of transparency from the brand you’re considering.
Cheap iSUPs might not be built to last, thanks to lackluster material usage and generic construction. Essentially this means you’ve got to take extra care of the board to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Also, make sure you’re saving up for a proper board in the future.
Also, ensure you don’t go beyond the capabilities of your board. For example, if it states a weight capacity, don’t test it, and don’t take it into water conditions it cannot handle. Just because it’s a ‘cheap iSUP’ doesn’t mean you can replace it in a heartbeat if something goes wrong.
Don’t be afraid of budget paddle boards. We all have to start somewhere, and investing in an expensive board right at the start of your paddle board journey is difficult. So the most significant piece of advice I can provide is not to place too many expectations on what a cheap iSUP can do for you. It’s not going to be the board of your dreams; it’s a starter board at best.