Inflatable SUPs: All You Need to Know

Purchasing an inflatable paddleboard is becoming more and more difficult. In addition to the numerous SUP companies in Quebec, large stores, Amazon and paddleboard schools now also process direct sales. On top of that, they all have the same spiel: ‘‘the best boards – we have them!’’

Our mission today: to inform you and to remove any confusion towards the different inflatable SUP options, and to provide you with some tips to consider before making a purchase.

BUDGET

Budget is typically a priority criterion when shopping, but beware! You will definitely find certain inflatable boards for $500 and others for $1,500. Why is that? The answer is simple: the price of the board is directly reflected in the quality of the materials used in production, and the expertise in conception, as well as in research and development. There are in fact, different types of boards corresponding to different types of budgets, but know that an inflatable board ensemble sold as a kit for a $500 value is not at all of the same caliber (nor as high-performance) as a board valued at over $1,000.

Certain boards at a lower price can still get the job done, but it really depends on your needs and usage.

RIGIDITY

When purchasing an inflatable SUP, the number one criterion to consider should be this one: the RIGIDITY. Too often, people think only of the price when really, they should be focusing on the rigidity of the board. This is primarily the criterion that you would have to forgo, should you decide to purchase a lower-priced board kit.

Our recommendation: do not hesitate to ask the paddleboard company in the question how exactly they ensure the rigidity of their board and what materials are used in its fabrication.

Specifically, beware of the usage of low-quality drop-stitch materials (less strings per inch and narrower membrane) or those with only one layer. Observe also the internal pressure of the board. If you are told that the board can be inflated to a maximum of 14 PSI, forget about it. The board will be too soft and will slowly take the shape of a banana (the front and the back of the board will curve upwards). Conversely, a board that can be inflated to 17+ PSI will be very sturdy.

MATERIALS (DROP STITCH)

Drop-stitch technology eats what exactly during the winter? Actually, it is the main component of an inflatable board - its heart. It consists of the two PVC membranes (over and under) of the board, connected together through thousands of tiny strings. The higher the quality of the board, the thicker the membranes and the higher the density of the strings will be. A board from Amazon at $400 will inevitably be fabricated with a less expensive drop-stitch, and will therefore be of lower quality.

A bad-quality drop-stitch will be less durable and could potentially twist, explode or melt if the internal pressure of the board becomes too high. Let us remind ourselves that during the summer, under the hot sun, the internal pressure of a board can increase by several PSI and can cause thermal expansion.

PRODUCTION

Certain companies will lead you to believe that their boards were fabricated in Quebec. However, the reality is that 95% of inflatable boards are created in Asia and 5%, in Europe. In North America? NADA. These boards are perhaps designed in Canada (we simply decided on the colors and placed a logo on the board), but they are most likely produced in Asia.

Urban Legend: It is false to think that all boards are created in the same 3-4 production facilities, that they are all made in the same way, that environmental norms are defective and that all workers are mistreated. Know that you can find hundreds of factories in Asia with each one being completely different in terms of quality.

ROCKER 

The rocker is the curving of the board when you look at it from a profile point of view. Avoid boards WITHOUT rocker, unless they are the touring type, in which case, these have been designed specifically for performance.

Avoid board shapes where the rocker resembles a hockey stick. These boards will offer a higher resistance out on the water, and thus a less smooth glide. 

Obtaining a progressive rocker for an inflatable board requires more technologies, time and prototypes. Consequently, a good rocker costs more and is not normally found with cheap boards.

SHAPE

While shopping for an inflatable board, try to compare inflatables to hard boards in terms of shape and outline (view of the board from above). If the shape of the inflatable board is not similar to that of the hardboard, there is a high chance that this particular company is not fully familiar with the sport as a whole or with its conception details and glide performance. Example: Touring shape (pointed nose), very large with a round tail on a 10’ board, you won’t find that amongst hard boards.

THICKNESS

Avoid boards with a thickness of 4’ or 4’5’’ that are not made with drop-stitch technology (MSL) or fusion, or that don’t possess a rigidity board technology. These boards will be soft, bouncy and will form into a banana shape over time. You will most likely often have your feet in the water. Note: This excludes boards for kids

FINS AND THEIR POSIT,ION

Also keep an eye out for the materials used to create the fins. A central fin made out of soft plastic or of low quality is a method often used to save costs.

We strongly suggest higher-quality fins that will not vibrate and that will keep a straight line. Also prioritize support fin boxes, such as the US Fin Box type, which are the most popular and most reputable according to SUP standards. This type of fin can be replaced very easily at any good surf shop.

Avoid special systems, as you risk having to search near and far in order to find replacement fins. Example of ‘special’ fin system to avoid.

In terms of position, avoid the side fins that are PARALLEL to the central fin. This is a synonym for poor conception. The fins must have a slight angle towards the interior, just like on surfboards. This position will provide you with less maneuverability. Not ideal.

TRAVEL BAGS

The majority of SUP companies will include the travel bag free of charge upon the purchase of a board. Take the time to analyze this bag. Certain models are of very low quality and are made with a small, thin canvas.

Also, avoid bags without a zipper, where the entrance is located on the top of the bag. From experience, once rolled up, you risk having difficulty inserting your board; sort of like a sleeping bag that we try to put away, it is not always simple.

 

Other bags, on the other end, are made out of resistant materials and include double padding for plane trips, wheels, padded straps, comfortable handles, small aeration windows to control humidity and several pockets to store your accessories. Night and day!

OTHER COMPANIES

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. 

A FEW CAUTIONARY TIPS

  • Be careful of comments made in groups and on social media: as a general rule, the people responding to you on these platforms are typically company owners trying to sell you their products or individuals who don’t know their comparatives. Beware! Be sure that the comment comes from a connoisseur or a professional in the domain.
  • Amazon and the unknown SUP companies: if you look up a brand in Google and nothing comes up, you might want to ask yourself some questions. This most likely consists of a company that sees a business opportunity and has decided to sell SUP kits at a low price but knows NOTHING about the sport.
  • Certain SUP schools now sell boards: Without generalizing, certain schools have mostly made their board purchases on Alibaba and have simply placed their logo on them. You should, therefore, ask these schools who produced their boards, who selected their materials, when they went to visit the factory, etc. They will probably respond that they have no idea and/or that they have NEVER been to the factory. Be careful; bad seeds exist.

To finish off, our best word of advice: the purchase of a paddleboard requires a considerable financial sum. Therefore, inform yourself, do your research and jump in your car to go try out several models on the water. Before purchasing a car, you typically try out several models. Do the same for your paddleboard.

 

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AND TAIGA BOARDS IN ALL OF THIS?

Without saying that we possess the best boards in the world, we are however very proud and confident in saying that our products are of high quality, innovative, high-performing and amongst the most rigid in Canada. Our team is continuously in research and development, forever seeking to offer the best inflatable board possible at an honest price. Products that we are proud of and that we utilize on a daily basis.

The selection of our production partner comes from our many trips to China over the past several years. Our team makes the trip regularly in order to develop new production methods and seek out the best possible production quality and materials.

In addition, each little production detail makes all the difference:

  • Rail band for rigidity when twisting
  • EVA 4mm rug with crocodile finish to ensure the highest comfort
  • Bungee elastics in the front and back of the board allowing for transportation of your floatation device and other items
  • Removable central neoprene handles and front hook for anchorage
  • Superior quality fins, standard ‘US fin box’ type
  • High quality travel bag
  • Double PVC membrane on the nose and tail to add more sturdiness and to give it our signature look

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