SUP continues its surge in popularity with 2023 looking set to be another bumper season. And while there were lots of new paddlers entering the fray there are still plenty more planning on getting involved this year. A large number of stand up paddlers will also be upgrading their kit and pushing on along their chosen path. Yet whilst this is all well and good we’re also hearing plenty of stories from riders who just haven’t been getting on with it. But SUP’s easy (enough) right? So what’s gone wrong?
SUP price points.
Price of stand up paddle boarding equipment is a big driving factor when newbies are looking to make their first purchase. With many newbies not having much (if any) prior watersports experience the decision is to have a dabble with a paddle, via a cheaper set up, to see if he/she likes it. This is worthy strategy. But unfortunately, within the world of inflatable SUP boards, a cheap SUP is still a cheap SUP (and we’re not talking budget).
Some riders may plump for a cheap set up and get on perfectly well with it. Totally oblivious to the downsides of owning such a ‘machine’. It’s only when (and if) they upgrade do they fully appreciate the benefits of quality materials and manufacturing. Which unfortunately cost a little more readies. For all parties involved; the paddler, the brand and the manufacturer. Cheap stand up paddle boards are priced as such for a reason.
SUP materials and manufacturing.
A quality stand up paddle board will usually be made from the best Dropstitch and PVC available. Coupled with this will be good adhesive and resins used as well as the actual techniques, such as welding and fusing for producing the board which will be high end also. For instance, with Dropstitch itself the more threads there are linking the board’s deck and hull the less bounce or play there’ll be when standing on it. A board with better quality Dropstitch and PVC can also be inflated to higher pressure. Which also knocks onto rigidity.
Cheaper iSUPs are usually comprised of less materials as well. For instance, rather than double skin boards these lesser quality sleds are just single skin. And thinner too. Technology has definitely improved during the last few seasons. And we’re now seeing super rigid, quality iSUPs with 5″ thickness as opposed to 6″. But we’re also still seeing cheap kit that’s made to 4″ thickness. With lesser quality materials, this reduced thickness and often narrow board widths any paddler using this equipment is going to have a worse experience (usually). We say usually as there are still paddlers that have a great experience even riding cheaper inflatable SUPs. So nothing’s set in stone.
In one instance we’ve heard how a paddler had purchased a cheap SUP that seemed a good deal at first. He proceeded to dabble with his first steps but try as he might be just couldn’t get on with SUP. The initial plan had been to learn to paddle then head off on trip s with his dog. Yet his 10′ x 28″ x 4″ iSUP just didn’t do him any favours. The deflection point was pronounced and the overall dimensions meant even flat water paddles were tricky.
Fast forward and he got chance to try a better SUP. Just at the point he was about to give up he hopped aboard a 10’8 x 32″ x 6″ inflatable. And hey presto! Suddenly paddling became easy and there was plenty of scope to SUP with his canine friend in tow. The rider experience had improved no end and he’s now hooked on SUP. But not everyone gets this chance, instead having paddled their less quality board canning the whole thing thinking stand up’s just too hard and not for them.
Whenever equipment discussion arises and the word ‘cheap’ is mentioned screams of elitism can be heard loud and clear. Yet the quality of inflatables directly transfers to rider experience. And unfortunately, there is a slightly higher cost for better quality gear. But the cost of fun can’t be priced. And if he/she is having the maximum amount of fun afloat then surely it’s a worthy investment?