The best inflatable Stand Up Paddle boards (i-SUP) are not always the most expensive. However, one must take into account that i-SUP will never compete with rigid boards, in racing, and in wave riding. The “inflatable all-round SUP” and “inflatable touring SUP” market has changed significantly in recent years, resulting in a major shift in the technologies used.
So we get to have boards that can be inflated to more than 25 psi (not far from 2 bar pressure) and can be rigid even with a small thickness.
Here is a little explanation of what an inflatable paddle is, reviewing the entry-level, mid-range and high-end. You will notice that the mid-range is sometimes close to both extremes.
It is not always easy to know if a board is more or less well built and the price is not always an accurate indicator. It is therefore necessary to know what an inflatable SUP is and the technical differences that make it possible to classify them in order to choose a board.
The so-called “supermarket” paddle board probably makes up the biggest part of the market. A few years ago, they were poorly made and often made with cheap materials. Recently, these boards approach the mid-range in terms of materials used.
The difference in price is concerning the stand up paddle accessories, such as the transport bag, the fin or the inflation valve and the pump.
This kind of board doesn’t support overpressure. It will therefore scrupulously comply with the instructions of the manufacturer. The pressure on this kind of paddle is between 12 and 15 psi max.
The price is around 399 CHF, about 330 €. The price includes a paddle, which is generally not very high quality.
The paddle is often too heavy, it does not float when it falls into the water and is a little rickety in most cases. In this segment there is Aqua Marina; DVS; Decathlon and many others.
In summary, the materials used for an entry level board are not bad and are generally quite well assembled, however, it is at the level of the inflation valve and the pump that the quality is much lower by compared to a mid-range board.
This is probably where we do the best business! Mid-range SUPs are usually built with the same materials as cheap ones but often better manufacture. The valves and the pump, which are important elements, are of good, or very good quality.
This kind of board withstands overpressure (20% in general): they are inflated between 15 to 18 psi, according to brands. The finishes, the padding and the sealing of the board are also well done. These SUPs are also more expensive because they are wider and offer better stability.
This characteristic affects the price because it utilises more basic material than the “supermarket” paddle boards.
The price is between 500 and 900 CHF or 400 to 800 euros. Often the price does not include the paddle or it is added to the pack for free during a promo for example. In this segment all major brands like Fanatic, Star Boards, Bic, F-One, JP, RRD, Mistral, Naish, have at least one mid-range board to offer. So pretty much the basic materials are the same (some have more filaments inside, which will make them stiffer) than on entry-level SUPs.
Mid-range SUPs make the difference in equipment, glue, manufacturing and board width. On the other hand, they do not compete in stiffness against the high-end paddle.
Compare all inflatable Stand Up Paddles on Backside
If you want an inflatable paddle with very good technical characteristics, it is in this segment that you will find it.
The difference between a high-range and the low and mid-range SUP is in the materials used. They are often built with double skin, so two layers of material glued or welded together, which gives more rigidity and durability to the whole.
For an inflatable race SUP, it’s a must. It will require a double skin without which it will not be rigid enough. To go on rivers, on waves or simply if you want super quality, top range paddle boards are the solution.
The valve and the pump for SUP are obviously the best we can find. These boards can be inflated with a lot of pressure (up to 2 bars or 25-30 psi).
In this segment brands are fighting for quality and not price. We will always expect to pay more than 1000 CHF or about 900 euros and without the paddle included! A bag with wheels comes with this kind of SUP that are heavier than the inputs and midrange.
We often approach the price of rigid boards already high end. Of course, all the major brands in the snowboarding industry are present: Fanatic, Star Boards, Bic, F-One, JP, RRD, Mistral, Naish and Red Paddle, which is one of the precursors in the inflatable paddle.
So the materials used offer more rigidity and stability and are more durable. The equipment and accessories provided are at the top and the pump can reach 25 psi without much effort.
The brands and the manufacturers
Brands do not have their own factories. They have their boards built in factories in Asia that work for all brands.
There are factories specializing in the production of entry-level boards and others specializing in higher-end products. Note that some factories produce raw material of better or worse quality. These different parameters define the quality and price of an inflatable SUP board.
There is also the routing and logistics, but also the service provided by each brand. All this defines the final price of a marketed product. An unbranded SUP will require more product knowledge and will be more difficult to identify as qualitative or not by the consumer.
So, relying on big brands is not a bad idea, even if you pay a little more for the service they offer.
But, finally your Stand Up Paddle shop is your best interlocutor, because it is there that you will return in case of problems. And it is there where you will find the solution and where you can buy the best board adapted to your needs.