Are Cheap Paddle Boards Any Good?

irocker nautical boards

Everybody loves a good deal. Why spend thousands on something when you can get it for hundreds? 

A lower price may be attractive, but it is not always the best option. One of the biggest fears when opting for lower-cost items is that you’ll be sacrificing quality for a cheaper price. 

This definitely applies when searching for a new paddle board. Anyone looking to buy a paddle board is spoilt for choice – SUP has become very popular, with new brands (and boards) popping up every year. These boards all come with different price tags, with some really cheap options out there. 

So, with this in mind you’re probably wondering-  are cheap paddle boards any good? Yes and no; the answer to this question is a little complex and we’re here to guide you through the answer.

RELATED: Read our reviews of your best budget SUP options of 2021.

What Qualifies As a Cheap Paddle Board?

Cheap may mean different things to different people, so let’s start by clarifying what we mean when we say cheap.  

The price of stand up paddle boards ranges anywhere from $200 to about $3000. Low-end inflatable paddle boards are those that cost less than $500 while cheap solid boards are those that cost less than $700. 

Inflatable boards are cheaper than traditional boards. If your budget is really tight you can even get an iSUP for less than $200

Benefits of a Cheap Paddle Board

A $200 price tag on a paddle board may make some people a little skeptical. When something is too cheap, it almost always means that costs were cut somewhere. However, cheap SUPs do have their benefits. 

1. Budget Boards Are Good for Beginners

We’ve all tried an activity that we thought we would enjoy, but we ended up getting bored after a short while. Now the equipment is sitting somewhere in storage, collecting dust. 

If stand up paddle boarding is your newest hobby, going all out and buying premium gear may not be a good idea. First, you don’t know how long your interest will last. You may find it exciting in the beginning but then you start to wonder what the hype is all about. 

We hope you’ll stick to it, because SUP is amazing. But if you don’t, or if you get too busy, you won’t feel guilty about having wasted a ton of money on a paddle board. 

You also won’t have to force yourself to continue doing something you don’t enjoy just because it costs a lot. Quitting is easier when you only spent $300 on equipment instead of $1500 (but we still think you should give it your best shot).. 

2. Not a Big Loss If You Damage Your Board

While high-end SUPs are super tough and durable, no stand up paddle board is 100% indestructible. There is always the risk of damage. If you own an inexpensive board, this thought cannot keep you up at night. But can you imagine how devastating it would be to discover a huge dent or tear on your $2000 racing SUP? 

The fear of damaging and having to replace an expensive board may prevent you from having fun. You can’t freely explore every paddling spot around you, especially not rivers with rocks, if you’re constantly held back by fear.. 

It’s different with a $350 inflatable paddle board because you can be as adventurous as you like. If it gets a serious tear you can easily say, “it is what it is,” and replace it almost immediately.

3. You Can Buy Several Boards At Once

If you need several paddle boards, you may want to consider cheaper options. 

Let’s say everyone in your family wants to try or enjoys paddle boarding. It would be better to get a couple of cheaper paddle boards instead of just one. This way everyone will have their own SUP and the whole family can enjoy fun days at the water together. 

This also goes for anyone looking to start a SUP yoga class. Start small with affordable options and you can upgrade slowly over time.  

4. A Cheap SUP Makes a Great Secondary Board

Is your main paddle board a specialized board? Many specialized boards can’t be used for other activities and they can also be quite expensive.  

If you are into SUP racing, for instance, you will have to buy a proper racing paddle board. While you will have lots of fun cruising the water at high speed, you won’t be able to use it for, say, paddle board yoga.

A cheap all-around SUP would be great for flat water leisure paddling, SUP yoga, and any other activities. 

You may also want to have an extra, cheaper board for when friends or family visit and you decide to go paddling together. 

The Downsides of a Budget Paddle Board

Inexpensive paddle boards are not all perfect. Let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages of cheap SUPs.

a. You Get What You Pay For (Most of the Time)

Manufacturers have to make a profit, one way or another. You can easily notice the difference between a costly board and a cheap SUP board. 

All inflatable paddle boards are built using drop stitch and PVC material. The more PVC layers an inflatable SUP has, the tougher you can expect it to be. Cheap inflatable paddle boards usually have only one layer. They are lighter and can’t support a lot of weight. Most of them can’t hold a heavy paddler without flexing. 

The more expensive inflatable paddle boards feature two or more PVC layers. Other boards will even have additional carbon fiber rail reinforcement for added rigidity. They may be slightly heavier but they are tougher and have a higher weight capacity–some up to 700 pounds!

Manufacturers of high-end inflatable stand up paddle boards are now using technology that makes their boards lighter without compromising on quality. So you get the best of both worlds. 

This same thing applies to solid paddle boards. Cheap traditional hard boards are mainly plastic or soft-top boards. Plastic may be durable, but SUPs made using the material are heavy and their performance is underwhelming. 

Expensive solid SUPs are mainly built using fiberglass, wood, and carbon fiber, with carbon fiber boards being the most expensive ones. They are stiff, lightweight, and their performance is exceptional. 

b. Fewer Features

Most cheap boards have a simple design and they don’t usually have a lot of features on the deck. You may get a bungee storage area at the front and a D-ring for your leash, that’s it. 

The features that you find on a SUP’s deck offer comfort and convenience, making your experience even more enjoyable. They also allow you to try out different SUP activities. 

Mid-range and high-end paddle boards may come with two bungee storage areas, extra D-rings for attaching things like a kayak seat, a paddle holder, and multiple gear mounts. They are compatible with action cameras, cup holders, fishing rod holders, and other gear. 

c. Lower Quality Accessories 

One good thing about paddle boards, more so inflatable paddle boards, is that they come as a complete package. This is the case even with cheap SUPs. 

While a cheap inflatable paddle board comes with all the essential accessories, they are usually low-quality. You will get a basic manual pump, adjustable aluminum paddle, SUP backpack, and maybe a leash. 

Aluminum paddles are the heaviest and least efficient for paddling. After a while, you will have to upgrade to a carbon or fiberglass paddle. The leash, backpack, and pump are also not the best quality but they still work. 

If you land a top cheap paddle board like iRocker Nautical you will get much better accessories. 

A high-end inflatable SUP board comes with a heavy-duty wheeled backpack, dual-chamber pump, premium leash, repair kit, and a carbon adjustable paddle. Carbon paddles are the lightest and most efficient but also the most expensive. 

How to Find the Right Cheap Paddle Board

It is easy to get a great board, especially an inflatable paddle board, even on a tight budget. Here are a few simple tips to help you get a fantastic deal. 

1. Buy From a Reputable Company

There are tons of cheap inflatable paddle boards on the market, but not all of them are worth considering. 

To make sure you are buying a good paddle board, find one that is made by a reputable manufacturer. iRocker, Bluefin SUP Boards, and Gili Sports are well-known names in the SUP world. They have been around for a while and they make some of the best inflatable boards in the industry.  

These popular companies mainly make mid-range boards but they usually have one or two entry-level models. The Nautical inflatable board , for instance, is iRocker’s cheapest SUP. It is affordable and comes with features that you will typically find in more expensive inflatable SUP boards. 

2. Check the Warranty Period

If a company is confident in its paddle boards, it won’t have a problem offering a warranty, even for cheaper paddle boards. The iRocker Nautical comes with a one-year warranty while the Bluefin Cruise 10 ‘8 has a five-year warranty. And these are budget options! 

A warranty assures you of quality and comes in handy if you receive a defective board. 

3. Check Out Genuine Reviews and Feedback 

You can learn a lot about a stand up paddle board by reading other users’ feedback. You will know what to expect when using the SUP and whether or not it is worth buying in the first place. 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Why are stand up paddle boards so expensive?

Wrapping Up

Are cheap paddle boards any good? It depends. 

Budget paddle boards have their advantages as well as downsides. They are of lower quality and have fewer features but you pay less money. 

Super cheap boards, under $400, are best suited for lightweight paddlers because of their construction and low weight capacity. If you are taller or heavier you should consider spending a little more and getting something like the iRocker Nautical 10’6 or 11’6. 

Do your due diligence before buying the paddle board to make sure you get the best budget option. Research the company, see what other users are saying, and check whether the SUP comes with a warranty. 

Happy paddling! 

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