by Laura St-Cyr Labbé

Buying an Inflatable Paddle Board - Everything You Need to Know!

With an increase of available paddle boards on the market, knowing which one to choose has become a little more ambiguous. Along with big box stores, Amazon, and paddle board schools which sell directly to their customers, there has been an arise of many new inflatable SUP vendors since the start of the pandemic. Each with the same slogan: "the best boards are sold here". Ultimately, what REALLY differentiates one paddle board from another?

From the price to its internal construction or to its accessories, each of these are all important factors to consider when purchasing your paddle board. Our mission today is to help you understand each of these factors.

So what makes TAIGA BOARDS unique?

PRICE

When purchasing a board, the first aspect people most often consider first is price, but know that the price often reflects the quality… You get what you pay for! You'll come across inflatable boards that cost $500 and others, $1,500. Why is that? The answer is simple: the price of the board reflects the research and development, the quality of the materials, and the level of expertise behind its design. Different boards exist for different budgets, but it’s good to know that an inflatable board sold for $500 won’t be of the same caliber (not as efficient) as a board sold for $1,000.

Some lower-end boards may "do the job," but it’s worth assessing your needs and how you plan to use the board first before choosing a board based solely on price. As our ambassador Dom Faucher would say, ''even though Costco paddle boards look like paddle boards, they are not paddle boards''.

AND WHAT ABOUT TAIGA BOARDS IN ALL OF THIS?

Without claiming that we have the best boards in the world, we are proud and confident to say that we offer quality products, and thoughtfully designed and high-performance boards, among the most rigid in Canada. Our team is constantly in research and development mode and is committed to offering the best inflatable boards at a fair price.

RIGIDITY

When shopping for an inflatable paddle board (SUP), the #1 thing to look out for is, without a doubt, its RIGIDITY (how stiff the board is). Too often, this factor is overlooked, especially when the focus is only on price, but its rigidity should be the first thing to consider if you want to get the most out of your paddle board.

If the PSI of the board you’re looking at doesn’t reach 17 PSI, DON'T BUY IT, or it’ll be a waste of money. A SUP with a PSI under 15 will lack in stability and will quickly take the shape of a banana (the tail and nose of the board will curl upward). Look for paddle boards with a PSI of 17 or higher for an optimal rigidity.

As a result of high-quality manufacturing processes and materials, our boards can be inflated up to 20 PSI, a level of stiffness that is greatly appreciated on the water. 

CONSTRUCTION

If a company does not disclose information on their website about the PSI or the internal construction of their boards, beware! We suggest that you reach out to them and ask for more information as their answers will tell you a lot about the quality of the board.

Our boards are built with high quality X-WOVEN DROPSTITCH technology combined with our unique Stringer Fusion Tech, which consists of 2 fiberglass stiffeners fused together on the top and bottom of the board. This type of construction provides outstanding stiffness without compromising weight. According to our tests, our TAIGA boards are twice as stiff as an entry level board. We’ve also added rail bands for improved torsional strength and rigidity.

DROPSTITCH

What is DROPSTITCH technology? Simply put, it’s the main component of an inflatable SUP. Imagine thousands of threads that hold the 2 PVC membranes (top and bottom) of the board together. The thicker the lining and the greater the density of threads, the better the board.

A poor-quality DROPSTITCH is less sustainable and could cause your board to potentially twist, explode, or split if the pressure inside becomes too high. Important: in the summer, under full sun, without a quality DROPSTITCH, the internal PSI pressure of the board can rise significantly and create a thermal expansion that could cause your paddle board to explode. It’s not a risk worth taking!

 

STRINGER

You also need to consider the stringers. Stringers are the 2 strips of fiberglass located at the center of the PVC membrane on the top and bottom of the board. An inflatable board with stringers sets it apart from other boards: it’s twice as rigid as an entry-level board. Why is that? Because the stringers help keep the board’s shape under pressure and therefore remains in contact with the water, no matter where someone is standing on the board.

Overall, it’s a nice addition that will extend the life and original shape of your board, all while offering a smooth glide on the water.

SHAPE

When shopping for an inflatable board, try to find an inflatable SUP with a shape or outline (top view of the board) that is comparable to a hard board. If the shapes aren’t similar, chances are that the company lacks knowledge on the sport and on the design.

Our inflatables paddle boards have an hydrodynamic shape that offer a smoother glide, a better maneuvrability and stability and allow you to go faster.

ROCKER 

The rocker is the curve of the board from one end to the other when looked at from the side. Avoid boards that don’t have a rocker, unless they’re touring boards as these have been designed this way to glide faster and straighter (the pointed shape of the nose will help cut through water).

Avoid boards with rockers that resemble a hockey stick. With this kind of board, you’ll experience more resistance on the water and less of a smooth glide. 

 

What you should aim for is a progressive rocker. This type of rocker on an inflatable SUP requires advanced technologies, more time, and prototypes. As a result, a good rocker is more expensive and therefore often absent on entry-level boards.

The shape and rocker of all our inflatable paddle boards are based on the shape and rocker of our hard paddle boards, a priority at TAIGA BOARD. 

THICKNESS

Boards that are 4" or 4.5" thick and that are NOT built with DROPSTITCH MSL, FUSION or any other type of technology that ensures rigidity should be excluded from your selection. These boards will be floppy and bouncy... They will tend to accumulate water at your feet as well. On the other hand, if the board is built with X-WOVEN DROPSTITCH or X-WOVEN FUSION DROPSTITCH technology, choose the thinnest model! The thinner the board, the closer it will be to the water and therefore better the glide.

Since 2021, thanks to X-WOVEN DROPSTICTH Technology, some of our TAIGA BOARDs now have a thickness as low as 4.75", offering a closer contact with the water. Combined with increased rigidity, the glide of our inflatable SUPs comes close to that of a hard board...you’re going to love it! 

DECK PAD

An ideal deck pad is comfortable and non-slip. Most of us practice the sport because we enjoy the calming sensation of floating on the water, not necessarily falling in it! 

Some deck pads have patterns that allow water to accumulate on the surface, making it more difficult for your feet to stick to the paddle board. A deck pad with a crocodile pattern will offer the perfect balance between comfort and grip. 

Our EVA DECK PAD technology is a crocodile patterns ideal for grip and the comfort of your feet. Some of our models are equipped with a Kick Tail deck grip for SUP surfing. 

FINS AND THEIR PLACEMENT

Another thing to pay attention to is the materials used for the fins. A center fin made with soft plastic or cheap materials is a common way to save costs.

We strongly suggest investing in higher-quality fins that won’t vibrate and that will help your board keep a straight line. Also prioritize US Fin Boxes as they’re the most popular and most reputable according to SUP standards. This type of fin box can be replaced very easily at any good surf shop.

Our 9" fins are made of high-quality fiberglass and nylon to ensure the necessary rigidity to stay on course. All our products are equipped with US Fin Boxes that allow you to easily remove or replace your fin in case of loss. An added bonus you'll love when you pack your paddle board into its carrying bag is our EASYROLL technology, which finishes rolling and unrolling so that the center fin box arrives in the right place when you roll it.

Avoid special fin box systems, as you risk having a hard time finding replacement fins. See the picture below for an example of a special fin box to avoid:

Avoid fins that are too small. They're not the most efficient and helping you keep a straight line in the water.

The placement of the side fins is also important to consider. If they are PARALLEL to the center fin, it’s a sign of poor design. Fins should have a slight inward angle, like on a surfboard. This will improve overall maneuverability.

Some of our models are equipped with side fin boxes that use standard removable Futures side fins. 

New for 2022: our side fin boxes are now adapted for FCS type fins, the most standard fins on the market and the ones we use for our rigid paddle boards. Again, these are optional depending on how you use your board and can be replaced easily.

ADD-ONS

A quality board is not only about the board itself, but also the little add-ons included with the board. A practical addition like the carrying handles that allow you to easily transport your board, the neoprene center handle that can be easily removed for SUP yoga, the bungee(s) that can hold your PFD or dry bag, or our specialized models for SUP yoga that include a D-Ring to strap your paddle or your SUP anchor. We even offer TRACTION EDGE technology on our Akoya Air 9'5. 

TRAVEL BAG

Most inflatable boards are sold with a travel bag. Some are made of low-quality materials and thin canvas, which is not at all ideal to protect your paddle board. Take the time to examine your travel bag well before buying. 

Avoid bags that have a top entry and no zipper. Once your board is folded, you may have trouble getting it inside. Your board is not like a sleeping bag that you can compress to fit in its pouch. 

Instead, look for an inflatable paddle board that comes with a travel bag made with durable fabric, a padded lining for air travel, wheels, padded shoulder straps, comfortable handles, air vents for moisture control and several pockets to hold your accessories. 

We developed a DELUXE BOARD BAG with ease of transport and proper board protection in mind. Our travel bags are made of high-quality fabric and padding, and include UV protection in addition to several pockets, handles and air vents. We also have your comfort in mind! Dubbed shoulder and waist straps, and wheels make carrying your bag a breeze!

PRODUCTION

Some companies will lead you to believe that their boards are made in Quebec. However, the reality is that 95% of inflatable boards are made in Asia and 5%, in Europe. In North America? Nada. These boards may be designed in Canada, but they are most likely produced in Asia.

Myth: it's false to say that all SUPs are made in the same 3-4 factories, that they are all made using the same techniques or technologies, that environmental standards are poor and that workers are treated badly. There are hundreds of factories in Asia, and not all are equal in terms of quality.

The choice of our production partner is the result of several trips to China. The TAIGA BOARD team regularly travels there to develop new constructions, to search for the best possible production quality and the best use of materials. 

COMPANIES

In the paddleboard world (especially with inflatable SUPs), there are many companies start to slack off and eventually disappear every year. This is mostly because production of inflatable boards in Asia is extremely easy. The big problem with this is that these companies don’t really understand the sport itself: they simply sell inflatable SUP kits at reasonable prices.

Prior to purchase, inform yourself of these companies. Check out their website. How long have they been in business? What is their expertise? Who is behind the creation of the company? Who develops the products? These are all legitimate questions to ask yourself.

WARRANTY

Choose companies that offer warranties with a duration of 1 year or more. A manufacturing defect or a shipping glitch can happen. Think about it, what recourse will you have against Amazon in 1 year if you have a problem with your board? 

At TAIGA, we are proud of the products we create and year after year, we aim to improve our workmanship with the intention of offering you products that continue to surpass our quality and reputation. Our quality control allows us to offer the initial buyer a one (1) year warranty on the quality of your board and accessories. 

WARNING SIGNS:

  • Comments on social media groups: be cautious! Make sure that the comment comes from a knowledgeable or experienced person in the field of SUP who can provide you with comparative advantages vs someone just wanting to sell a specific product.
  • Amazon and no-name SUP companies: if you do a Google search for a brand and nothing comes up, it’s not a good sign. You want to buy from a trustworthy brand that offer reliable products.
  • SUP schools now sell their own boards: some schools order their boards from Alibaba (low quality manufacturer) and simply place their logo on it. Again, take the time to ask questions: who designed the board, who selected the materials, when did they last visit the production plant, etc.? You don’t want to end up with a dupe.

IN SUMMARY: OUR TAIGA BOARDS SIGNATURE

Featuring a timeless design, a neutral-coloured manual pump, a fin pouch, a repair kit, a one-year manufacturer's warranty, and more! Still hesitating on buying a TAIGA paddle board? We have prepared a chart for you to compare our inflatable paddle boards to those on the market:

Finally, our best advice: buying a paddle board is a considerable investment. Do your research and try out several models on the water first. Before buying a new car, you usually test drive a few first, right? Do the same for your paddle board and visit our demo centers.

 See our 👉 inflatable boards collections