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.
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.
Things To Watch Out For When Buying A Cheap iSUP
It’s really a double-edged sword buying a cheap (around $300) inflatable stand up paddle board without knowing some things beforehand.
Things like the design, size and quality of the board in relation to your needs and possibilities play a huge role (quickly skim through this SUP Buying Guide article for more insights), along with customer support and a warranty.
In my experience, cheap/budget iSUPs usually have: (there are exceptions)
· no warranty,
· poor documentation,
· low quality materials,
· no customer support,
· poor construction & design,
· and/or perhaps no brand association.
· (or a combination of them all and more)
Among other reasons, one of the reasons to why there’s no warranty is simple: the budget iSUP will likely show signs of failure within couple of years if not sooner, so they can’t really put a warranty on something like that… Which is why it’s super important to simply take good care of it the cheaper the iSUP for it to last for what can actually be a really long time (years and years).
When there’s no warranty to speak of and you’re dealing with an iSUP that was probably pumped out of an unknown factory with no quality control, you better be born with all the luck because you might very easily end up with a defective product.
(even if it was so minor of a problem you didn’t know it was there, it could lead to huge problems and headache in the future, if it wasn’t already a troublermaker under the radar…)
At least with a warranty of sorts, you could maybe try your luck a few more times (in case of defects).
This is another problem that often pleagues budget iSUPs. 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.
It’d be like having a mystery tinder date in a fancy restaurant with you only knowing their gender and you having to pay for it all well in advance no matter the outcome without the board documented well enough…
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 sparsly, 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).
#4 customer support
If there was no warranty, there won’t be much of customer support either and you’re left with the 3rd party company who’s doing the selling to make things happen for you in case something went wrong.
5# 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.
#6 brand association
I’ve found that some budget iSUP brands are basically untraceable. They have a fancy name and logo on boards that by design might look just like some other brand’s budget iSUP board, but upon looking around for the brand(s), nothing comes up, and I’m left wondering how can that be…
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, brand un-traceable, shady documentation, etc), the risk is minimized and the iSUP CAN serve the purpose just fine.
Minimizing The Risks
The budget iSUP (around $300) 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 an outright scam or “accidents” 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). There’s mainly 2 reasons for that: (1) from marketing perspective, it’s wiser to not mention the negative aspects so as to not confuse a beginner to research that stuff, or (2) it’s just not tested nor refined accordingly to a point where specs matter and is kind of only made to stay afloat…
Since the companies behind some of the cheap iSUPs are often untraceable (for various possible reasons), one can’t expect them to care for the users of their products, so instead you ought to turn to the actual retailer/seller in case of problems. It might be annoying, but you might want to make yourself accustomed to their policies to determine your chances of overcoming possible problems that may come with cheap iSUPS.
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.
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 ($500-$1000+);
· you’re not going to use it often (couple of times a year for very short periods of time);
· you’re not the only one using it (iSUPs need to be cared for, some people don’t bother with that…);
· you’re not sure what to look for as a total beginner and want to try it out first (in the case where you had no options for renting/borrowing one).
Pros And Cons Of A Cheap iSUP
Chances are you’r not paddling in a warzone, so a “bombproof” iSUP would be an overkill, don’t you think?
lower optimal PSI.
Low cost – low quality
The low cost, in itself, is good, of course, but that’s brought about by the low quality of the materials, poor design + no added value (customer support, warranty, etc). As long as you don’t expect too much of the board, the lower price of the iSUP can be considered a positive as it serves the purpose.
Lightweight – poor design
The weight of a budget iSUP is usually around 16-26 pounds, which as you can imagine is lightweight indeed. It often correlates to the low cost of the board/package as it means LESS materials were used to patch one together in a cost-effective manner. But lower quality materials may not feel convenient nor allow the board to perform well. For some contextual comparison, some higher quality iSUPs use quality mixtures of materials to achieve even lighter weights yet maintain extreme durability, but they also try not to go too light as then the board would be too susceptible to wind.
Beginner friendly – lower optimal PSI
It’s mainly the price that makes it beginner friendly. The potentially poor design and overall off-feel of the board might not be beginner friendly at all… And since boards take less resources to make the smaller they are, hence cheaper, it’s only really “beginner friendly” in the case of SMALLER PADDLERS. For bigger paddlers, a cheap iSUP can pose lots of problems (stability, rigidity, etc issues). Usually 15 PSI is the optimal air pressure for the budget iSUPs, and although you can pump it beyond that, it may not be healthy for the longevity of the board.
I’ve already mentioned that budget iSUPs are NOT of best quality. That means it will likely only have 1 generic layer of PVC (skim through the following post where I touch on what PVC is and other relatively generic construction elements which can become loose or damaged more easily, so taking care of a cheap low quality 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.
Would you like to know what and why would happen to an iSUP if you did NOT take care of it enough? I’ve covered that and more in the following post: how to take care of an iSUP.
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 cleaning, 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 the right seller and the right iSUP board in accordance to your needs and possibilities.
Usually cheap iSUPs are of low quality and poorly documented, but that means there’s potential for frustration when it arrived defective or ended up not meeting your needs, which is why it was important to check on a few things beforehand.