Shopping for an inflatable paddle board (SUP) is getting increasingly complex. Along with big box stores, Amazon, and paddle board schools, which sell directly to their customers, many new SUP vendors have seen the day with the pandemic. Each with the same slogan: "the best boards are sold here".
But ultimately, what REALLY differentiates one paddle board from another?
The price, the internal construction, the shape, the rocker, the fins, the travel bag and even the accessories, are all important elements to analyze. Our mission today is to help you sort out all the different options that exist. And what about our TAIGA BOARDs in all of this? Read until the very end to learn what makes our boards unique!
Price is typically the first element considered when shopping, but beware! 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 quality of the materials, and the level of skill behind the conception, research and development. Different types of boards exist for different types of budgets, but it’s good to know that an inflatable board kit 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 deciding based on budget only.
When shopping for an inflatable paddle board (SUP), the #1 thing to look out for is, without a doubt, STIFFNESS. Too often, this goes overlooked when the focus is only on price, but stiffness should be the main thing to consider when 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 your money will be wasted. 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 best possible stiffness.
If a company does not disclose information on their website on the PSI or the internal construction of their boards, be wary! 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.
What exactly is Drop-Stitch 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 Drop-Stitch is less sustainable and could cause your board to potentially twist, explode, or split if the pressure inside becomes too high. Important note: in the summer, in full sun, without a quality drop-stitch, 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!
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 stands out from the crowd: it’s twice as stiff as an entry-level board. Why is that? Because thanks to them, the board keeps its shape under pressure, and therefore remains in contact with the water, no matter where one is standing.
Overall, it’s a nice addition that will extend the life and initial shape of your board, all while offering a smooth glide on the water.
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.
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 are the touring type 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, and more time, and prototypes. As a result, a good rocker is more expensive and, because of this, will often be neglected on entry-level boards.
Boards that are 4" or 4.5" thick and that are NOT built with Drop-Stitch 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 the feet as well. On the other hand, if the board is built with Woven Drop-Stitch or Woven Fusion Drop-Stitch technology, choose the thinnest model! The thinner your board is, the closer it will be to the water and the better the glide will be.
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 adhere to the paddle board. A deck pad with a crocodile pattern will offer the perfect balance between comfort and grip.
FINS AND THEIR PLACEMENT
Another thing to keep an eye out for are 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 are 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.
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. These won’t help you keep a straight line when on 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.
A quality board is also about the little add-ons that make all the difference. A practical addition like a neoprene handle for carrying your board, which can be easily removed for SUP Yoga, is a great example.
You want your experience on the water to be as smooth and simple as possible: bungees at the front and at the back of the board to carry equipment, handles at the front and at the back for easy handling, etc.
Most inflatable boards are sold with a travel bag. Some are made of low-quality materials and thin canvas, 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.
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.
Urban legend: it is 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.
In the paddleboard world (especially with inflatable SUPs), there is the phenomenon of the companies that slack off and thus disappear every year. This is mostly due to the fact that 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.
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?
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 lemon
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.
Our boards are built with high quality Woven Drop-Stitch 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.
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.
Since 2021, thanks to Woven Drop-Stitch 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!
Shape and Rocker
The shape and rocker of all our inflatable paddle boards are based on the shape and rocker of our hard boards, a priority at TAIGA BOARD.
EVA Deck Pad
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.
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.
Side Fins Boxes
Some of our models are equipped with side fin boxes that use standard removable Futures side fins. Again, these are optional depending on how you use your board and can be replaced easily.
the little extras that make all the difference! Whether it's 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 drybag, or our specialized models for SUP yoga that include a D-Ring for your paddle or your SUP anchor. We even offer Traction Edge technology on our Akoya AIR.
Deluxe Travel Bag
We developed a 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!
Our signature TAIGA BOARDs
Feature a timeless design, and include a neutral-coloured manual pump, a fin pouch, a repair kit, a one-year manufacturer's warranty, and more! Still hesitating to buy a TAIGA paddle board? Read this.