1. FUSION IS KEY.
Nearly every new iSUP made these days is made from fusion technology where the outer layer is fused to the drop stitch. This is the bare minimum you should expect when buying a new inflatable paddleboard.
2. TWO SKINS ARE BEST.
Single skin fusion boards are ok for lighter riders, but bend for moderate to heavier riders. This means wet feet and more resistance when paddling. Double layer boards bend much less. Double layer boards that use premium woven dropstitch will be even stiffer, but this comes at a price. If your budget only stretches to a single skin budget board, make sure it is 6″ thick as this helps with stiffness with budget boards.
3. DISCOUNT DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN GOOD VALUE.
Some brands have a permanent sale on, so just because something is half price does not mean it is good value or a bargain. Two Bare Feet, Aquaplanet, Bluefin, iRocker (including Nautical and Blackfin), Coolsurf and Wavesup are the biggest culprits, but there are others. If you pay the full RRP, you are paying too much!
4. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
On average the quality of finishing, and the quality of the accessories increases the more you spend on the board. If you’re spending £200 to £400, expect blemishes like air bubbles, glue bubbles, deckpads not fully stuck down. The accessories like paddle, pump, bag will be lower quality and not last as long.
At the top end of £600+ you should expect absolutely perfect cosmetic condition, and you should expect the company to replace your board promptly if there are any cosmetic issues. The bags should be larger, more comfortable and durable, and the pumps should be much easier / quicker to inflate your board.
At the price point in the middle, you might get a lower tech board with better accessories, or a better tech board with lower quality accessories, or a lower quality board with lower quality accessories that spends a lot of money on internet adverts.
Also bear in mind that buy direct brands will typically be £100-£200 better value than boards solids by retailers. But when you pay the retail margin, you will be paying for top notch advice from watersports shops who are the beating heart of paddleboarding.
5. AVOID HEAVY BOARDS.
Not only are they heavy to carry around, a heavy board (more than ~12kg) are made from older technology, meaning they’re not as stiff or robust.
6. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS ‘MILITARY GRADE’ PVC FOR ISUP.
It’s just a marketing term used by unscrupulous brands to make their gear sound better than it is. And if they’re willing to lie about this, what other marketing are they prepared to deceive you with.
7. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.
It is helpful to speak to friends who paddleboard, speak to instructors, paddle with a club and be cheeky and ask to try different boards (Use the map here to find your closest https://suphubuk.com/the-new-and-improved-sup-maps/). Bear in mind your friends might not have tried many different boards, or an instructor/club might get a kickback for referrals. Different people suit different board widths, thicknesses, etc, and have different budgets.
But ultimately, make your own mind up. No-one but you knows what board is right for you. There is so much marketing BS out there, but hopefully your head and your heart will find a way through it, and you’ll just know what brand is right for you. And then speak to that brand on social media.and ask their advice. If they don’t reply, that gives you a hint about how good their customer service is likely to be if things do go wrong!
8. LONGER IS NORMALLY BETTER.
All round boards are great beginner boards, but most people find they’re a bit limiting and slow after a few months paddling. Longer, pointy nose boards are better for more people, more of the time. Unless you want to surf regularly, and then a round nose board is best, and a hard board is even better!!!
9. JOIN OWNER GROUPS.
Facebook owner /community groups are a useful source of information. But bear in mind that some brands moderate or remove negative comments from their official groups, and some groups are used by retailers to spread misinformation and promote their products instead of giving impartial advice.
10. BACK YOURSELF.
Yes, OK, this is a repeat. But you’ll know when you’ve found the right brand and board for you. If you’ve got a strong feeling about a brand or board, reach out them and see how quickly and well they respond. If there’s no way to contact them, or you don’t get a response, that 5 or 6 year warranty they offer.
11. THICKNESS MATTERS.
Almost all 4″ boards are only good enough for children or adults under 50kg. The ONLY exception to this is the surf specific boards from Red Paddle Co or Itiwit. All other 4″ thick boards are too bendy for adults
4.75 or 5″ thick boards are normally made from some of the best grade double wall fusion. Some adults prefer the lower volume compared to thicker boards. Perform a little more like a hard board with riders ploughing through the water rather than on it, and some riders prefer the connection this gives them with the water.
6″ thick boards come in a range of quality drop stitch from the very cheapest single skin to the very best X-woven fusion. 6″ thick boards have more volume which generally means more stability. Riders paddle on the water rather than ploughing through it, but can be more affected by wind than thinner boards.