If there’s one thing that you’ll immediately notice about paddleboards (SUPs for the uninitiated), it’s the massive disparity between boards in terms of costs. Fortunately, inflatable paddleboards are the least expensive of three types of SUPs available on the market.
However, inflatable paddleboards are still not something that most people would consider to be inexpensive and they will usually run you around $400, with some brands as low as $200. There are a lot of things that go into the manufacturing process of a SUP, excluding the fact that most are sold in surf shops, which sell everything at a premium expense.
Much of the reason that inflatable SUPs are less expensive is that these are generally beginner paddleboards and aren’t designed with some of the premium features that make some SUPs more streamlined, maneuverable, and faster in the water.
Why are paddleboards so expensive?
Material and popularity are the driving forces behind the expense of paddleboards as of right now. It’s kind of like kayaks. It’s difficult to look at some kayaks and justify the massive expense for something that amounts to little more than a lot of plastic and rubber in a streamlined shape.
Paddleboards are the same way right now and if you want to join this particular watersport or recreational activity, you’re going to have to fork over some cash.
Materials that go into inflatable paddleboard construction
Materials are a large, driving factor behind the cost of a paddleboard so you may like to know what exactly you are buying with your money. Drop-stitching is the method in which an inflatable paddleboard is put together, but there are other methods and materials that go into it.
- Drop-stitching polyester fabric
- PVC material
- Single-layer and double-layer paddleboards
- Thousands and thousands of fine threading
- Coating for the polyester fabric
The three major materials are the polyester fabric, the layer of coating that goes into the polyester fabric, and PVC. That’s not to mention the tens of thousands of fine threading points that are stitched into the material to combine multiple layers of polyester fabric.
How is an inflatable paddleboard manufactured?
Polyester threading is used to bring two layers of polyester fabric together. After the machine threading has joined the two sections, the entire thing is covered in a coating that is designed to be air and water-tight.
Once the coating is applied, bonded, and cured, another layer of air-tight tape is applied to the areas where the fabric is stitched together, otherwise known as the seams of the material. This tape goes all around every section where two layers of polyester come together. This is a ‘wide-seam’ tape and it is glued on, including its own adhesion.
Drop-stitching isn’t a complicated process and all it really entails is the use of a machine. It “drops” over 400 stitches into a specific section of material and there are a lot of stitches that go into an inflatable paddleboard.
The most affordable paddleboards are inflatable, single-layer SUPs where the drop stitching occurs over a smaller area because it’s just one layer. This one layer is then combined with the PVC material mentioned above. It cuts down the amount of polyester used in the process which also drives down the price.
The single-layer SUPs are the most lightweight and affordable variations of SUP boards in the inflatable category.
Types of paddleboards and their costs
There is more to paddleboards than just inflatable versions. There are two types of inflatable paddleboards (most of which we will cover here), along with premium paddleboards that are manufactured with fiberglass and epoxy resins and some that are made out of foam.
The most expensive paddleboards are going to be the ones that are made out of fiberglass and epoxy resins. They are solid through and through and don’t require any kind of inflation to get them in the water. These are high-end paddleboards and can easily cost $2,000 if not more.
There are also paddleboards that are primarily made out of wood and carbon. These are also high-end paddleboards and they will come with a premium cost because they are designed for a competitive level of paddleboarding. They’re sleek, fast, and highly maneuverable.
Your mid-range inflatables are designed with better materials, are a little heavier in the water, and are more streamlined and smaller than beginner paddleboards. The mid-range inflatable SUPs are designed to at least attempt to go toe-to-toe with the higher level, premium boards. They will never do that but sometimes, they can come pretty close.
The mid-range inflatables are going to run you anywhere between $600 and $1,000, depending on the brand and where you purchase it from. As we mentioned above, purchasing these boards from surf shops means that you are going to be paying a premium price where you could probably order the same board online for less.
Your foam paddleboards and lower-tier inflatables are purely designed without competition or hardcore paddleboarding in mind. They are designed for kids and beginner adults who have never used one before and you can easily find these SUPs for as low as $300, once again depending on where you buy.
Don’t confuse foam paddleboards with paddleboards that have foam in them. There are plenty of premium SUPs out there that have a foam center to help create a higher degree of buoyancy in the water, countering the overall weight of the board and the material that went into constructing it.
Additional values drive up costs as well
Additional values are things that either come with the SUP or things that are directly associated with your purchase of the SUP. For instance, let’s say that you purchase a SUP for $1,499.99. The reality is, that you may be paying $200 more for that particular SUP because it comes with lifetime customer service.
There’s no telling what Sally from New Brunswick is going to be able to do for you when you call in because you’re having trouble balancing on your SUP board, but Sally came with the price nonetheless.
- Dog leashes (yes, dog leashes sometimes come with your SUP)
- The SUP paddle
- Inflatable pump
- Backpack (sometimes backpacks come with a paddleboard as well)
- Customer support
All of these things drive up the cost of the paddleboard. Some people like to take their dogs out on their paddleboards and it’s a popular enough activity that some paddleboards will come with a leash. Now the marketing card might say something along the lines of (buy this paddleboard and you get a free leash!) However, you’re paying for the leash.
It’s not as if some of these companies break down the price formula for you so that you see you are getting a free leash. There is also the paddle to consider. SUP paddles are long and that’s a lot of material that doesn’t come with the paddleboard as if it’s charity.
For inflatable paddleboards, you have to inflate them with something, and it’s not the kind of inflating that you can do with your lungs either. Obviously, it has to come with an inflatable pump and that drives up the price as well.
Most SUPs come with a limited warranty that will cover any defects on your SUP for 2 to 4 years. Warranties apply to a lot of the things that we buy and they are certainly included in the cost somewhere along the line. We think of warranties as protection against buying a shoddy product and companies look at warranties as an added expense, adjusting their prices accordingly.
Sometimes, certain paddleboards will come with a backpack that will often be advertised for free with the purchase of the paddleboard. Trust us, the cost of the backpack is calculated in there somewhere, one way or another. However, it’s honestly nice to have an extra backpack with this kind of recreation/sport and you’ll certainly want one at some point.
Is a paddleboard worth the expense?
That depends entirely on you. There are a lot of health benefits that come with paddleboarding, not to mention the sense of adventure and being able to access and explore areas of nature that you were never able to access previously.
If you’re a beginner, go with something cheap. You’re not being cheap just because you may feel like learning to paddleboard one day after you wake up and have your morning coffee. You want to go cheap in the beginning to find out whether or not paddleboarding is for you.
Nothing is worse than dropping well over $1k and deciding the next day that “Nah,” paddleboarding just isn’t your thing. Get you a cheap paddleboard, learn the ropes, and then make a decision on whether or not you want this to be your next money sink.
Paddleboards are expensive and there’s little to show that they will become cheaper anytime soon, especially as the popularity of the sport/recreation (whatever you want to call it) continues to grow.
One thing is for certain, although there is a huge disparity in costs, you don’t have to drop your entire bank account on a premium board right off the bat. Start cheap, learn to paddleboard, decide whether or not it’s your thing, and only then should you sell a kidney on the black market to afford your next adventure.