Most of us recognize that price is not the only factor to consider when making buying decisions. But somehow when it comes to buying a paddleboard lots of people want to buy the cheapest one they can find. Like most things, there is a huge range of quality and price when it comes to paddleboards, and like most things, the cheapest one is usually junky. That’s where the idea of value comes in. If the cheapest item breaks quickly, doesn’t do what it should, or lacks important features that make it easy and fun to use, it’s not a bargain. You are not actually saving money….you are throwing away money on something that you will never use. If you spend a bit more and get a better product that is suited to what you want to do it will serve you better, you will be safer, and you will have more fun.
Those are just a couple of the reasons why buying the cheapest paddleboard can come back to bite you. But there are many other reasons why it’s not a good idea to run out to your nearest Walmart, Job Lot, or Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy a paddleboard.
-Paddleboards are expensive
so the opportunity to save some money is appealing. We get that. But that’s the first reason why it’s important to be educated about what you are getting. And since even a cheap paddleboard is going to cost several hundred dollars, you should know very well what you are getting for your money. A $500 paddleboard is obviously cheaper than a $900 one. But if you never use the $500 one because it’s heavy, it doesn’t paddle well, and you can’t get it on your car to get to the water, you didn’t actually save $400…you just wasted $500.
-Many people shy away from going to specialty shops because they don’t want to be pressured or “sold” something…especially something expensive that is potentially more than what they need.
But if you go to a reputable shop your experience should be the opposite of that. They should be interested in pairing you up with the gear that is best for you…for your size, the type of paddling you want to do, your budget, etc. Any shop that tries to sell a beginner a carbon raceboard for the entire family to use is irresponsible and not invested in the sport. Most of us in the industry want people stoked on paddling and that means that we want you to get the setup that is right for YOU. Yes, it’s nice to sell expensive boards. It means we can pay our rent and stay open for another month. But most really expensive boards are geared more toward people who have some experience and know what type of features and performance they are looking for. A good shop will recognize the value of a happy customer… there’s that value concept again and they can help you choose the gear best for you.
-Bargain stores don’t understand what is different about a cheap sup vs a quality sup.
There are construction differences that can affect durability, maneuverability, and portability. Lighter boards are usually more convenient, but if they are light because the manufacturer skimped on layers of fiberglass, then your board will be getting repaired more than you will be riding it. And if a board weighs 50 lbs what are the odds that you will take it out much? And we can assure you that it will not paddle like a paddleboard. It will paddle like a barge. But no one at the discount store can explain these things to you.
-It is important to get gear that is appropriate for your size and goals.
If you are a 5’, 110 lb woman and you have a 50 lb board, the odds of you being able to handle that board on and off the water are slim to none- regardless of how strong you may be. It’s not practical. And it can be very dangerous. Weather can change on a dime and if you take out a board that you can’t handle and the weather changes, you can find yourself in a very dangerous situation.
-If you have no experience paddling you should really consider taking a lesson (or a series of lessons).
Lessons will give you important safety information. You should learn about hazards in and around the water, how to get back on your board when you fall off, the importance and appropriateness of PFD’s and leashes given where you are paddling, paddling technique so you don’t hurt yourself or cause unnecessary stress on your body, and practical things like how to turn and stop, how to handle the equipment, and how to hold the paddle. Most sup shops can offer instruction. Job Lot, Walmart, and Dick’s do not.
-There is also safety equipment that you need.
The big box stores are not going to tell you about leashes, Coast Guard requirements and approved PFD types. They are also not going to educate you about how you should dress to paddle based on water temperatures. Sup safety is incredibly important and you’ll do best to learn from the experts.
-Many cheap boards are package with even cheaper paddles.
The paddle is your tool. It is your direct connection to the water and it can dictate how good, or not, your experience is. A heavy paddle will put a lot of wear and tear on your body. It is also much less efficient, so you lose lots of the power that you put into it, stressing your body and making you work harder with less result. It will also punish bad technique in the form of injuries. So paddling safely goes beyond PFD’s, leashes, and boards that you can handle on and off the water. It also means taking care of your body and avoiding injuries.
-If you are tempted to buy a cheap board because you are not sure if you are really going to like paddleboarding, don’t do it.
Take a lesson, maybe rent a few times if you are not sure. Decide if you do enjoy paddling before you spend the money. Some shops will even let you put some of the money you spend on lessons or rentals toward the purchase of a board so it’s not even lost. But do yourself a favor and find out if you like it and then make an educated decision about what to buy.
If you cannot afford a decent quality board to start, you might want to wait and save up a bit. Buying a paddleboard should be an exciting experience. It really will be a much safer and more enjoyable experience if you are riding a board that is well suited for you. And you will be more apt to use it because it’s more fun and easier to get around. Any dollars that you think you can save by buying the least expensive paddleboard will be far outweighed by the value of buying the right paddleboard for you.