Buying a new inflatable paddle board and paddle can be quite overwhelming, with boards ranging from $200 on Amazon to $1,500 for some high-end brands. Paddles start at $20 and go up to $500, so how do you make the right choice? Of course the first factor is budget. You can only buy what fits your wallet, however what should you look out for and is it really worth spending more?
In our opinion buying a super cheap inflatable paddle board is a false economy because it will be single layer construction and you may well get that sinking feeling after a couple of uses! Ideally speaking you want to get the best value double layer fusion board you can find, and the following explanation on board construction will help explain why. Essentially there are 3 different grades of board construction on the market:
- Single layer boards are exactly that. A single layer of PVC surrounds the drop stitch nylon core. While these boards are lightweight, they tend to bend in the middle and are far more likely to get a puncture. Also, being very light is great for carrying but you will get blow around in the wind making it more difficult to maneuver. Stingray certainly opted against this cheaper construction as they just don't perform or last. Price range is usually $200-$500, but you may well be throwing money away.
- Double layer construction is a big step up in durability from a single layer board. The inner board is essentially the same as the single layer, but with an additional layer of PVC glued by hand to the inner layer of PVC. The result is a much stronger and stiffer board, however they are heavy and the huge amount of glue used is not environmentally friendly. Price range is usually $500-$800 and the board should last well.
- Double layer fusion (Stingray's Fusion-Tech) is the pinnacle of modern inflatable board construction. Two layers of PVC are fused together by a special heat press without using glue. These boards are super stiff, strong and lighter than a regular double layer. They are pretty close to a high end solid board, but have the strong advantage that they fit in the trunk of a Mini Cooper. Price range is usually $800-$1500. You can tell if a board is genuine fusion technology by the thousands of small indentations on the top and bottom.
The problem we have at Stingray is explaining that our $625-$675 boards are in fact double layer fusion, however our boards do have this accolade but without the price tag. In addition to construction, here are some other factors to consider when purchasing a board:
- Length and width- Depending on your size and weight, and the speed at which you are trying to paddle, you should consider a longer 12.6 board if you are a larger person, or trying to flow quickly through the water. A shorter 10.6 board is ideal for smaller people and a medium 11.6 board is great for a smaller person wanting to paddle fast. Narrow boards are faster, but generally less stable.
- Nose shape- You need to have a think about what you want to do on your board. A round nosed all-round board is pretty good for anything such as yoga, kid’s messing around, taking the 'small' dog (No Great Danes please!), or any kind of recreational paddling. A pointed nose board is faster and cuts through waves far more efficiently.
SUP paddles are not quite the same as boards. A more expensive carbon paddle will certainly be a lot better, but a cheap aluminum one might just do the trick for novices and kids. It’s not quite like a cheap board that might deflate and leave you floundering in the ocean. Aluminum and plastic do a pretty solid job for the price and the gains are marginal as you spend more. The key benefits you will notice with a more pricy fiber glass or carbon paddle are better quality locking rings and a snugger two or three piece fit. One word of caution is that many carbon paddles are not 100% carbon with plastic handles or inner shafts. The Stingray paddle is full carbon fiber! Here are other important factors to look out for with SUP paddles:
- Weight- Aluminum paddles are the heaviest with carbon being the lightest. You will certainly pay more for a lightweight paddle but this will make it easier to maneuver for Elite or smaller paddlers. 3-Piece paddles are heavier than 2-piece due to the additional connector pin. 1-piece carbon paddles are super lightweight!
- Blade size- This is a very important factor to consider. Blade sizes might range from 80-90 square inches for a small blade, 85-95 for a medium blade, and 90-100 for a large blade. A smaller blade is better for an Elite paddler because it will increase the turnover and feathering efficiency, and is also ideal for a smaller paddler as it puts less force through the arms and shoulders. A large blade is better for a novice paddler as it will catch more water with an inefficient stroke. A very strong paddler will also find a big blade faster as it can produce the power needed.
- Blade angle- Something that is less commonly explored is blade angle. A smaller angle of 7 degrees works well for a novice paddler and makes it easier to catch the water. A 10 degree angle is very versatile for all abilities, whereas an Elite paddler might choose a 12 degree angle allowing them to get a longer reach and feather faster.
- Does it float? A simple question, but you don't want your paddle to sink and many do! Stingray paddles do not sink.
At Stingray we believe that our 1-piece carbon paddle is the best in the world and we challenge you to find better, however for 28 bucks the aluminum paddle is a killer deal and does the job well. The fiber glass model is the best all round option and will last longer.
Before you open your wallet give all these factors some consideration, however we hope you will give Stingray a shot for your inflatable paddle board and paddle needs. We are confident you won't be disappointed and your wallet will be happy too.