Cheap paddleboards, to buy or not to buy?

We get it…paddleboarding is not a cheap sport to get involved with.  The boards are expensive and so are the paddles.  But when you think about it…those are really the only two expenses you have with paddleboarding.  Yes, a leash and PFD are necessities, but many people have PFDs from other pursuits (just make sure they are USCG approved for SUP) and a leash is a modest $30-$35 expense that will be invaluable if you ever actually need it.


The temptation to purchase a cheap paddleboard is more than many people can handle.  There are a variety of reasons why it’s so tempting including:


  • You just don’t want to (or can’t) spend the money on a good quality board
  • A whole bunch of people will be using the board, and no one takes care of your stuff like you do
  • You are new to the sport and don’t really know how much of a difference there is between cheap boards and quality boards


We get that too.  I grew up on a lake and know how it was to have all of the toys there to be used by family and friends all the time. And some people are more careful than others.  And it’s hard when you are just getting into a sport to know how much you really need to spend and what the most important factors are in determining where to put your money.


Here are your options if you are looking for inexpensive boards

  • Plastic boards…these are basically like kayak construction.  We get comments all the time about how little someone paid for their kayak. Paddleboards are not kayaks. Plastic paddleboards are heavy and are not nimble at all.  They take a lot to get going and they are very sluggish to turn, they also don’t usually track very straight.  However, they are incredibly durable.  They are very tough to damage.



  • “Foamies”- these are basically EPS foam cores with plastic bottoms and a cover made of pool noodle material. These boards are soft underfoot, will take somewhat of a beating, and are generally built to be very stable. Since they are built for stability, they can be good for pursuits like yoga, or for people just starting out who aren’t real confident in their balance.  The drawback of these is the construction…they are not particularly well made. They are often held together by little more than double stick tape, and they are very subject to pressure denting.  They are also utilitarian. They willnot be particularly quick or nimble on the water either, but they will get you from point A to point B.
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  • Some Inflatables. Not all inflatables are created equal, and you usually get what you pay for when it comes to these. Inflatable boards (as the name implies) get pumped up with air and pack down to the size of a piece of luggage when not in use.  If you get an inexpensive inflatable paddleboard, it will not be constructed to accept enough psi to make it rigid.  Any board that accepts less than 18 psi will likely feel similar to a raft made out of pool noodles strapped together.  These tolerate bumps and dings incredibly well.  But lesser quality inflatables, in addition to being bouncy when you paddle and lacking stability, can bulge oddly once inflated and can have weak spots at seams if over-inflated.
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  • Inexpensive epoxy boards-these typically use subpar materials, too heavy or too light EPS foam cores, and light layers of fiberglass making the boards flimsy and delicate, or heavy layers of fiberglass resulting in a heavy board.  These are also usually very generic shapes and do not benefit from all of the R&D of better boards and board shapes. That all being said, you can still have fun on an inexpensive epoxy board, whereas an inexpensive inflatable will just not be very fun at all.



  • Used boards…these are usually the best option for an inexpensive board.  But the used sup market is pretty tight, and it can be very tough to find good deals on good boards.  They hold their value well. You could always luck out and find someone unloading a great board for a song because they just need some cash-fast.  The biggest risk with used boards is that you find a great deal on something that is completely inappropriate for your size, ability level, or your paddling goals.  And you never really know how a board has been treated.  But you can usually tell if there have been any major repairs, and like a car, it’s not necessarily a problem if a board has been repaired as long as it was done properly.


There are instances where all of these boards can be good options.  But there are more instances where you may have just wasted $600 that you could have put toward getting a good quality board and paddle suited for the type(s) of paddling you would like to do.  If you cannot get your board where it needs to go, if your board feels like a dock when you get it in the water, if it starts to take on water, or if it feels like a raft made of pool noodles strapped together, you probably won’t use it and that is where it becomes a waste.  And please don’t underestimate the value of a good paddle.  This is the piece of equipment that puts the wear and tear on your body and a cheap paddle will be harder on the body.  Also, some very inexpensive paddles don’t float, so beware when you drop it in the water.


If it gets you on the water, we’re all for it. Our ultimate goal is for you to be out paddling having fun. But do yourself a favor and learn about the differences.  Talk to your local sup shop about which options make the most sense for your paddling goals. As with most things in life, there are trade offs when choosing a paddleboard. If you are making trade offs that will result in you getting a board you won’t paddle, no matter how little you paid for it, in the end it’s not a good deal.  A paddleboard is an investment and sometimes it doesn’t require much more to get something that will be much better quality and a better fit for you.



Tags: sup shop, local sup shop, used stand up paddle board, inflatable sup, inflatable paddleboards, choosing a paddleboard, cheap paddleboards, cheap paddleboard, inexpensive paddleboards, used paddleboards

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