Choosing an inflatable paddle board for sale in the UK can be a minefield of misinformation. Every week a new paddle board brand pops up, often with false claims of lengthy warranties. Everyone you speak to has an opinion on the best brands, models, features, and price points that you should be buying.
This article seeks to provide an insight to what goes into making the best inflatable paddleboards and provide you with the tools to make an informed buying decision.
CHOOSING AN INFLATABLE SUP
Most new paddlers are faced with so many choices but have no prior knowledge of how to select a paddleboard. Too many SUP companies use marketing spin to suggest their board is “the best inflatable paddle board”, “the best value SUP” or “as good as any premium paddle board but half the price”. It’s very easy to fall for a well targeted advertisement or one of the “10 Best Inflatable Paddle Boards” lists from a guide or publication you have never heard of that pop up Google. These guides very often have absolutely no knowledge of paddle boards but simply make money out of referring you to Amazon. They will most likely have other guides on electric scooters, electric bikes, or any other “on trend” product.
When you actually get on the water and have even a little paddleboarding experience, you will quickly realise that there is a lot more to choosing the right inflatable paddle board and these sites do not publish the depth of analysis on the products needed to make an informed decision.
In addition to the “Top 10” style reviews, fake ‘customer’ reviews are a huge problem in e-commerce and especially in new and growing industries such as paddle boarding. We are contacted daily by companies promising to create hundreds of glowing customer reviews through automated customer review generation.
Some companies also rely on manipulating Social Media to steer customers to them. Most Facebook Stand Up Paddle Boarding Groups are actually owned by SUP companies, where friends and employees often promote the brand’s boards to unsuspecting members. All this combines to make it extremely difficult to find the right paddle board for you. Most people end up with a pretty average paddle board which seemingly has lots of 5-star reviews or Facebook recommendations without appreciating the amount of behind the scenes tactics that was involved in creating the appearance of a hugely popular inflatable paddle board.
In this article, we share the key factors and features you should be aware of when choosing an inflatable SUP.
MAKING AN INFORMED DECISION
Quroc spends a lot of time designing our paddle boards. We analyse in detail what works, what doesn’t, which shapes and board thickness, dimensions, etc combine to make the best inflatable paddle boards. We have used this knowledge to identify specific steps you can take to narrow down your buying choices and sources of information available to help you make an informed decision on which inflatable SUP to buy that suits your size and the type of paddling you are looking to do.
The key factors in choosing the best inflatable paddle board are:
STEP 1: AGREE YOUR PADDLE BOARD PRICE RANGE AND BUDGET
The best inflatable paddle boards may seem expensive, but you need to consider it as a one-time cost that comes with investing in quality. As with any piece of recreational / exercise equipment, from bikes, golf clubs, running shoes, etc there are a wide range of price points and levels of quality to choose from to fit your budget and aspirations.
Materials, glues and accessories all have a cost directly linked to quality and longevity.
Cheaper inflatable paddle board models are typically priced below £600. At the lower end of this range (£200 – £350), you’ll get a very basic starter set. This will be fine for a few beach days where you can enjoy paddle boarding close to the shore. This can be great fun but the actual paddling will most likely appear sluggish and the board may last just one season of use.
Closer to the £500 mark, you’ll find some boards that will be good enough to give you a decent feel for what paddle boarding should be like, but materials and glues (in particular) are low quality and this directly affects how long your board will last. The best glues and dropstitch materials will last for 10 years plus but these are too expensive to use on inflatable paddle boards in this price bracket. Accessories will also be compromised. Paddles will be heavy and inefficient. It’s important to note a good paddle is as important as a good board – it’s the engine that drives the board forward! Many buyers who start with a board in this entry level range soon realise that they want more from their equipment and invest in a better board. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s great to get more paddlers on the water. However, by stretching your budget a little into the £600 plus bracket, you will get a much better experience on a board which will last you many years.
You will see many boards in the £400 – £500 price range promoted “as good as any premium board”. Knowing the actual costs of materials, we know this is definitely not the case.
The highest quality and best performing inflatable paddle boards fall in the £600 – £1300 range. This is a major purchase but it is where you should look if you are keen to get into paddle boarding and your investment will be rewarded with a considerably better “on water” experience. Better performance, lighter, stiffer boards with a long life. The materials will be far better, the boards will have gone through a proper design process and the factories used will most likely adhere to higher quality and ethical standards.
Importantly, the sales model in this price bracket can have a major influence in price. Quroc uses a direct sales model which means we sell directly to the end user, without using the traditional bricks and mortar retailers. This takes approximately £300 out of the transaction, allowing you to purchase one of the top UK inflatable paddle boards at a lower cost. It also means we can build an impressive accessory package as standard.
This said, traditional retailers have a value and can offer great advice and back-up. You may consider this worth £300 plus. It’s a personal choice.
STEP 2: CONSIDER THE TYPES OF PADDLEBOARDING YOU’LL BE DOING
Inflatable paddle boards come in all shapes and sizes and the right choice will be driven by what you want to do on the water.
- Cruising on all types of water. Paddling around on lakes, rivers, or coastal waters is what most paddle boarders are looking for. Simply enjoying being out on the water and all the health benefits it provides.
- Touring / Adventure. Normally longer paddles with extra equipment for camping, etc
- Racing. The UK has an active race scene with lots of local events and a National Race Series.
- Surfing. Most inflatable paddle boards will catch a wave but surf specific boards with hard edges allow you to get some real performance out of an inflatable board.
- White water. A specialist area where expert tuition is essential. Specially designed boards supported by specialist safety equipment are required.
- Yoga. Paddle Board Yoga is yoga performed on a stand up paddle board moving on the water which adds an extra dimension and challenge to your yoga. Whilst being on the water adds to the zen.
Again, the quality of your board and it’s performance through the water will have a massive impact on your enjoyment of the above activities.
STEP 3: WHAT SIZE PADDLE BOARD DO I NEED
The Best Paddle Board Length
ALLROUND PADDLE BOARDS – For most paddlers, an allround board will be the choice as their first inflatable paddle board. These typically range from 10’4” to 11’6. The shorter the board the more manoeuvrable it is while the longer the board, the faster and more efficient it is through the water.
TOURING PADDLE BOARDS – if you are looking to take on longer paddles, a longer board is more suitable. These typically range from 12’ to 14’. The extra length provides significant improvement in glide speed, tracking and general efficiency through the water.
PADDLE BOARD WIDTH
Most adult Allround Paddle Boards will be 32” wide. This is typically the best width for a beginner. A board becomes more unstable the narrower it is but too wide and you are forced to lean too far to one side when paddling.
Touring boards are generally thinner, ranging from 31” to 26”. Stability and load carrying requirements will dictate which width is better for you. We design our touring board at 31” wide to maximise the stability and space for equipment, whilst the shaping on the board ensures an efficient glide.
THE BEST PADDLE BOARD THICKNESS - 4.75 or 6 inches
This is a hotly debated subject with differing opinions on the most appropriate thickness for an inflatable paddle board. We see a lot of misinformation on the web. Mainly by retailers who have an agenda to sell a certain brand of board. We often come across quotes such as “A 6 inch board will make you bob about like a cork” and complete nonsense like “A gust of wind will blow you off a 6 inch board!”.
We use a mix of 4.75” and 6” thick boards in our range. Our Allround boards come in two sizes – 10’6” and 11’4. The 10’6 is 4.75” thick and suits paddlers weighing 7st to 17st. Our 11’4 is a better option for paddlers weighing 9st to 18st. Our longer boards are all 6” thick to benefit from the extra stiffness which results in a far better paddling experience.
It’s an undeniable fact that well made 6” boards are stiffer than 4.75” boards and require less air pressure to get to that stiffness. It makes absolutely no sense to tell someone who is 8st to buy an 11ft plus board with a 4.75” thickness and expect them to pump it up to 22-25psi. It’s almost a physical impossibility to do this with the pump supplied.
Interestingly, Candice Appleby, generally considered the top female paddleboarder paddles a 6” thick Infinity Race Board (below) and she has never been “blown off the board by a gust of wind” 😂
Candice Appleby. Photo Credit: candiceappleby.com
Looking at typical hard paddle boards, the Starboard Generation is generally accepted as an industry leading hardboard for allround paddling and is slightly thicker than 6”. SUP experts across the World rate it highly and nobody has ever suggested “it will make you bob about like a cork!”
STEP 4: PADDLE BOARD ADVICE
If you are at all unsure about the best board for you, give us a call on 01446 792068.
We are more than happy to advise you on what size board is most suited to you, even if it’s not going to be one of ours.