Are Cheap Paddle Boards Any Good?

If you’ve been checking out paddle board prices, then you know they can be ridiculously high. A well-made paddle board could set you back $1500 for an inflatable and over $2000 for a solid board. This is a lot of money for many people. 

But you may have also come across some very cheap SUPs in your search–some as cheap as $250. That’s a huge difference and it may leave you wondering. 

You know that more often than not, cheap is expensive and you get what you pay for. So, are cheap paddle boards any good? Should you consider getting one? 

Inexpensive SUP boards can be good and some of them – like the iRocker Nautical – perform well and last for years. But it’s also easy to buy a cheaply made board that won’t last a year. 

In this post, I’ll discuss all things cheap boards including the pros, the cons, and how you can get a good SUP on a tight budget. 

At What Price Is a Paddle Board Considered Cheap?

This depends on whether it is a solid or inflatable paddle board. 

For a traditional stand up paddle board, anything under $1000 can be considered cheap. In this price range, you’ll mostly get plastic and soft-top all-around boards. For inflatable paddle boards, cheap is anything under $500. 

Why Are Some Paddle Boards More Expensive Than Others? 

The price difference between the cheapest paddle boards and the most expensive ones is crazy–over $2000. So why is that?

1. Build Quality

One factor that causes the large price difference is the construction and materials used. 

All inflatable SUP boards have a drop stitch core and a PVC layer on top of that. Cheaper paddle boards usually have just one PVC layer. More expensive ones have multiple layers of military-grade PVC. 

The SUP board will cost even more when they use advanced technology for lighter but still tough boards. Other boards have reinforced seams and carbon rails for added rigidity. 

Most expensive inflatable SUPs are virtually indestructible. They can survive being thrown off a roof or being run over. 

When it comes to solid paddle boards, those on the cheaper side are mainly made of plastic. While they are durable, they don’t perform very well. And most people love traditional SUPs for their performance. These boards can also be quite heavy.

On the more expensive side, you get fiberglass SUPs which are lighter and perform well. 

Solids SUPs that feature carbon construction are the most expensive. Some of them cost as much as $4000. They are usually designed for paddle board racing. 

Wood paddle boards are also quite expensive. They are lightweight and perform extremely well, making them suitable for activities such as racing. Wood SUPs are also gorgeous and some manufacturers even allow you to request a custom design. 

2. Accessories That Come with the Inflatable Paddle Board

Almost all inflatable boards come as a complete package. This means that you get everything you need to start paddle boarding right away. The package typically includes an adjustable paddle, SUP carry bag, removable center fin, safety leash, repair kit, and a pump. 

Cheap inflatable paddle boards don’t come with fancy accessories. It’s usually just a basic bag, paddle, leash, and pump. In most cases, the paddle is made of aluminum. An aluminum paddle is the heaviest and least efficient type of paddle. 

More expensive inflatable paddle boards will come with decent and well-made accessories. You’ll most likely get a fiberglass paddle which is lighter and more efficient. 

Costly iSUPs have top-of-the-line accessories. They come with wheeled backpacks, carbon paddles, and dual-chamber manual pumps. These pumps are easier to use and they inflate your board faster. You may not even need to upgrade to an electric pump. 

Carbon paddles are the lightest and also the most expensive. They are so fun to use and the best that you can get. 

The better the accessories, generally, the more expensive the paddle board will be. 

3. Intended Use

what-kind-of-strength-do-you-need-for-paddle-board-yoga-1

An all-around stand up paddle board can be used for different SUP activities–yoga, fishing, casual touring, and more. It can do a little bit of everything. Most boards on the lower end of the price range are all-around SUPs.

Many of the costly paddle boards are made specifically for a single activity. Racing boards, for instance, are super long and narrow–designed for speed and smooth tracking. A lot goes into the design to ensure that the paddle board performs exceptionally. 

The same goes for fishing paddle boards. They are large with tons of attachment points and features that allow you to create your ideal fishing setup.

All those design features cost the manufacturer money and that’s transferred to the buyer. 

Benefits of Cheap Stand Up Paddle Boards

A cheap paddle board isn’t necessarily a bad paddle board. Check out these benefits of inexpensive SUPs. 

Ideal for Paddlers on a Tight Budget

Stand up paddle boarding is fun and easy to get started on. It’s also a fantastic workout and is quite effective in burning calories

You don’t need $1500 to enjoy the sport.

People who still want to paddle board but can’t afford a fancy board would benefit from the cheap models. 

With as low as $300 – $400, you can get an all-inclusive package and hit the water right away. It may be a basic package, and the quality won’t be the best, but it will serve you until you’re in a position to buy a better board. 

Just be sure to opt for something from a recommended brand, and don’t expect a cheap paddle board to perform quite the same as a more expensive board. 

Great for Beginners

drift sup

A cheaper board is a great option for newbies. There’s no need to go all out when getting started with SUP, especially if you’re not sure whether you’ll stick with it. 

Besides, most of the expensive paddle boards are designed for a specific SUP activity. As a beginner, you still haven’t figured out what your favorite one is. So a cheap SUP board that can do it all is the better idea. 

Plus, even the cheap inflatable boards come with everything you need in the package. You don’t have to go looking for the accessories separately. 

They Make Good Secondary Boards

If you’re an intermediate or advanced paddler and you already own a fancy board or two, you may be in the market for a secondary board. This could be for your friends when they visit, traveling, or casual paddling at the nearby lake. 

In this case, you wouldn’t want to splurge on a SUP board that won’t be used as much. That’s where a cheap inflatable SUP board comes in. It won’t take up much space and you’ll barely spend $500. 

Suitable for Kids Getting Started with SUP

One great thing about paddle boarding is that it’s a sport for everyone, regardless of age. If your kids are showing an interest in SUP, you can get them their very own paddle board. 

A cheap inflatable stand up paddle board will help them explore this interest and hone their skills. They can get a premium SUP board once they’re older and more serious about paddle boarding.  

Don’t forget that inflatable SUP boards come as a complete package so you won’t spend much. 

Downsides of Cheap Paddle Boards

You’ve heard of the expression ‘you get what you pay for’ right? Cheap SUPs are cheap for a reason so here are a few things you should be aware of.

Lower Quality Accessories

As mentioned, the accessories you get with expensive boards are different from what you get with cheaper ones. 

For instance, inexpensive SUPs come with an adjustable aluminum paddle. While it works well, you’ll need to upgrade after a while, more so if you paddle long distances. The bag and pump are quite basic too. 

If you start paddle boarding more seriously, you’ll have to buy better accessories. 

Fewer Paddle Board Features

You don’t get much with cheap boards when it comes to paddle board features. Most of them only have one bungee area and, if you’re lucky, extra D-rings for attaching a kayak seat. 

This limits you in terms of what you can bring and the activities you can do. For instance, if you decide to try SUP fishing, you won’t have a place to attach your fishing rod holders or fishing rack. 

More expensive SUPs boards have action mounts, tons of D-rings, and two bungee areas. You can bring a lot of gear and attach accessories like speakers, cup holders, and fishing rod holders. 

Low-Quality Construction

Although there are some good budget paddle boards, their quality cannot match that of more expensive SUPs. A cheap inflatable paddleboard, for instance, features single-layer construction while more expensive iSUPs will have multiple layers. 

The construction technology and materials used affect the quality too. High-priced boards can take a lot of abuse and many of them will last a lifetime if you take good care of them. 

That’s why costly paddle boards have a longer warranty period–three to five years. Inexpensive ones typically have a one-year warranty or no warranty at all. 

Lower Weight Capacity 

This applies especially to inflatable paddle boards. 

You may have noticed that cheap inflatable paddle boards have a low weight capacity, about 250 to 300 pounds. They aren’t suitable for heavier paddlers and they’ll flex if you’re heavier. 

Lighter paddle boarders can get away with almost any paddle board. But if you’re bigger, a cheap SUP may not be right for you. 

The low weight capacity won’t allow you to bring a lot of gear or your pup with you. 

No Specialized Design

Cheap paddle boards are usually all-around SUPs. This means that they aren’t designed for a specific activity like fishing, touring, or racing. It isn’t a downside if you’re a newbie or casual paddler. 

But if you want a feature-packed fishing board or a high-performance SUP for racing, you’ll need to dig deeper into your pockets. 

How to Choose a Good Budget Paddle Board

Just because your budget is tight doesn’t mean that you have to settle for less. You can still get a great board at an affordable price. Here is how. 

1. Buy from a Reputable Company

There are many no-name paddle boards online and some of them cost as low as $150. But you can’t trace the companies that manufacture them. Avoid those ones. 

You can find many popular companies that make affordable boards, such as Roc SUP Company. They have been around for years and their SUPs have proven to be reliable. 

Alternatively, you can check with bigger companies like iRocker, Bluefin SUP Boards, and Gili Sports. Their paddle boards aren’t exactly cheap but they’ll usually have an entry-level inflatable board that’s cheaper. 

In fact, the iRocker Nautical, Gili Air, and the Bluefin Cruise 10’8 would be my top cheap paddle board picks if I had to choose. 

2. Read Other Users’ Reviews

Don’t just trust what the manufacturers and advertisers say, check the feedback from other paddlers on different platforms such as Reddit. You’ll get honest information about what the paddle board is actually like. 

Too many negative paddle board reviews should be a red flag. 

3. Make Sure It Has a Warranty

Even cheap paddle boards should have a warranty. 

A warranty protects you from manufacturing defects and you can exchange a faulty SUP for a new one. Without a warranty, you get what you get, and sometimes, that’s a damaged paddle board that you can’t even use. 

Make sure the board has at least a one-year warranty. 

What Is a Good Price for a Paddle Board? 

This depends on what you’re looking for. 

If you want a simple inexpensive SUP board, $300 to $500 should be enough to get you a good cheap board. 

For a high-quality all-around board with great accessories and features, you’ll have to set aside at least $800. This will get you a nice, long-lasting SUP from the popular brands. 

Paddlers looking for premium paddle boards and those designed for a specific activity should be ready to part with no less than $1200. 

Final Thoughts

Are cheap paddle boards any good?

Yes, cheap SUP boards can be good and, for some people, they’re the better option. They’re great for beginners, kids interested in SUP, people looking for a secondary board, and those on a tight budget. 

You should however know that inexpensive boards won’t have fancy features and the accessories in their packages aren’t premium quality. But that’s to be expected.

When buying a low-priced paddle board, buy from a reputable company and ensure that the SUP has a warranty. You should also read other paddlers’ reviews so you know what to expect.