Inflatable Paddle Board Reviews 2017

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The inflatable paddle board industry is a minefield of missinformation and marketing jargon. There are plenty of companies who are claiming major technological advances and innovative design. The reality is that about 90% of the boards on offer are manufactured in just half a dozen factories in China/Korea and the construction of the boards differs very little across most brands. We have attempted to look beyond the marketing speak, to take the stress out of choising the right iSUP for you.    

 

We have 7 simple rules when choosing an inflatable paddle board:

 

1.  Look for 6" thick boards

2. Expect to pay upwards of £700

3. Buy direct from the brand if you can - you will get a lot more for your money!

4. Ensure you have a warranty

5. Always choose a glassfibre paddle as standard

6. Opt for US Box fins

7. Unless you are looking to specialise in surfing or racing, always look for an allround board.

 

INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS MADE SIMPLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dropstitch technology has evolved to allow board thickness to increase to 6". This has increased board volume and ridgity - improving performance and speed.

 

RAILS

 

The Rails are the sides of the board and are essential to joining the top and bottom sections of the dropstitch structure. This is where any weakness in construction can make a board "pop" when inflated.

 

ROCKER

 

The Rocker is the angle of raise in the nose (and sometimes tail) of the board. Typically surf and allround boards will have a nose rocker to allow better turning , while touring/race boards will have little of no rocker.

 

 

Why is there such a range in price of inflatable paddle boards?

 

A good portion of the retail price is based on the cost of production. Quality materials and construction techniques aren't cheap. The general rule is to look for boards priced upwards of £700 and avoid the "ebay boards". However, other factors also influence price.

 

1. DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS

 

Although price is a good indicator of the quality of an inflatable paddle board, how the board is sold plays a significant part in pricing.  The disribution channels can double the price of a board! The inflatable paddle board market in the UK typically consists of 2 common delivery channels and understanding how these affect board prices could save you a massive amount of cash.

 

Traditional 3-tier distribution

 

The traditional retailer network is the most commonly used distribution channel in the UK.  The customer buys from a local shop or online retailer at a 40% markup. The retailer has purchased the product from the brand or a distributor who has added 20-40% already. The brand has purchased the product from the factory who has also added their margin into the equation. There are also two or three levels of shipping costs factored into the price too!

 

ALL local shops, outdoor retailers and surf stores and the vast majority of SUP brands work in this way. The higher prices are a good reflection of this.

 

Pros:  Good shops offer advice and you often have a choice of boards

Cons: You pay a premium for your board and some shops deliberately steer you to the brands who have the bigger mark-up.

 

Direct to consumer brands

 

No wholesale middle man. The iSUP brand buys from the factory and sells directly to the customer, stripping out the majority of add-on costs.

 

Pros: Significantly reduced prices (for boards often produced in the same factories as the traditional brands)

Cons: You have to do your own research and may end up with an unsuitable board.

 

2. ACCESSORIES

 

If you are investing a significant sum on an inflatable paddle board, you need to make sure the accessories supplied with your board are of a decent quality. Quality accessories will impact price but also provide an indictor to the quality of the Brand - why pay £900 for a board if it only comes with an aluminium paddle! This should ring alarm bells. Here is a breif guide to what to expect.

 

Paddle

 

All inflatable paddle boards should come with a paddle. How else are you going to use it! If it's not icluded in the price, ask for it to be included as a deal breaker.

However, always look for a glassfibre paddle. If you graduate to expert level, then a carbon paddle may be worth the investment but most importantly, avoid aluminium options.

 

Fins

 

Fins are a significant factor in how your board will perform and also how your board is priced. There are two types of fins found on an inflatable board; removable fins or fixed fins.

 

Our preference is for the traditional removable US fin box. The removable fin slides in to the fin box on your iSUP and is fixed with a screw. The main benefit with this system is the flexibility it offers by allowing you to swap a fin based on your activity. There are two popular fins sold as standard with inflatable paddle boards.

 

Dolphin Fin: This fin has a curved shape and is a good multi-purpose fin. Sits well in the fin box.  Good quality and suits allround board.

 

Tour Fin: This fin is better suited to touring or racing boards. It is larger than the Dolphin fin and optimises straight line travelling whist sacreficing some manoevrability and surf performance.

 

AVOID removable fins which use a plastic peg fixing. These are poor quality and often break.

 

Fixed fins are manufactured from rubberised PVC. They all come from China and can vary in size but are all essentially the same. Don’t be fooled by companies telling you they have developed a new fixed fin or it was their creation. It is all just marketing speak and 90% of the boards on the market have the same fixed fins on them, the iFIN.  We do not recommend fixed fins as they limit your options.

 

Pump

 

We place less emphasis on the pump when choosing inlatable paddle board. Ensure you have a a Bravo High Pressure Pump as a minimum and you have all you need.  There are other options including electric pumps, all of which can normally be purchased separately depending on your preference.

 

 

IN SUMMARY:

 

All the boards in our Inflatable Paddle Board Review section are produced by reputable brands and tick all the quality boxes. In addition,

 

1.  Look for 6" thick boards

2. Expect to pay upwards of £700

3. Buy direct if you can - you will get a lot more for your money!

4. Ensure you have a warranty

5. Allways choose a glassfibre paddle as standard

6. Opt for US Box fins

7. Unless you are looking to specialise in surfing or racing, allways look for an allround board.

 

 

 

 

 

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Inflatable Paddle Board Buyers Guide

Dropstich

What are inflatable paddle boards made from?

 

DROPSTITCH

 

All performance iSUP’s are made from an internal layer of drop stitch material, encased in a PVC envelope. Pioneered in South Korea, drop-stitch material is consists of thousands of fibres connecting the top fabric to the bottom fabric. Whilst incredibly strong, the dropstitch fibres are flexible allowing the material to sit flat and be rolled or folded when not filled with air. When inflated, the PVC envelope expands and can be inflated to a high PSI which gives the board its ridgity. The dropstich structure holds the board in shape and prevents the envelope becoming a natural sausage shape.