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  • July 04, 2024 8 min read

    When purchasing a paddle board there are a couple main factors that should be considered, such as quality of manufacturing and price. With a huge number of retailers including big box stores, grocery stores and specialty shops, it is easy to assume that all retailers carry a similar quality and price for paddleboards, however in our experience specialty shops will carry a range of prices and higher quality products in comparison to food and home stores. Price is always reflected in the quality, and the average price of a paddle board including what people assume a paddle board should cost set a lot of the market on paddle boards. Following the pandemic there was a large push for people to be outdoors and recreational activities were suggested so naturally there was large retailers that bought seasonal recreational products to match the demand. We have found that many new manufacturers arrived or transitioned into the marine and paddle sports industry and many of them offer products that are lower quality or bulk sales to large retailers. What this has done is filled the market with many different price points for paddleboards but has masked the standards and quality for what the customer requires and disserves in their purchase. Specialty shops offer expertise and experience within the specific paddle sports industry for the best product and best purchasing experience in comparison to a big box or food warehouse retailer, this service and experience is valuable to the customer because they receive guidance on choosing the correct paddle board for their price point and their activity with a quality product.

    To begin we should discuss the price range of inflatable paddleboards and how this affects their quality. Not all paddleboards are made with the same material, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a plastic impregnated fabric that is commonly used in the inflatable kayak and paddle board industry. There are many different manufacturers of the PVC fabrics and they range in expected life span, how many times can they be inflated and deflated, how many strands per weave of the fabric and how much UV stability does the fabric have. Generally, the higher quality boards have a higher-grade PVC fabric which offers longer life span of the board without the risk of puncture, seam delamination or UV damage. The next main factor in price point affecting quality is the adhesive that is used for the construction of paddle boards and how many layers of PVC are in the construction. Another factor with the paddle boards is the valve system (or over pressurization vents for high quality boards) since the cheaper valves are prone to losing their gasket seal or delaminating from the surrounding PVC (glue issue or over pressurization) and are not easy to repair. The final factor in the price is what is offered alongside the paddleboard in the kit, is there a carbon fibre paddle or aluminum nylon paddle, repair kits, composite or nylon fin, dual action or single action inflation pump, bag quality and foam pad quality. There is always value added when purchasing a board with a good durable paddle and convenient inflation pump and bag since this will affect the paddlers use and experience when using the product.

    PVC is tested like all fabrics, with rub testing, fold testing, stretch, UV stability, weaves per inch, thickness of pleat and cold crack testing. The thinner the PVC and the less weave per square inch the more risk of puncture, cracking when folded and more stretch. PVC materials, for example, like Apollo 81 has 17x18 strands per square inch, with a cold crack of -40 Celcius and 40.5 ounces per square yard and UV resistant for 1000 hours. This is a thick, high durability PVC used in the marine and RV industry. The thinner PVC material would be, for example, less threads per square inch and thinner overall ounces per square yard. Manufacturers will not necessarily show this information, and are not required to share the manufacturer information on their construction materials. However, it is clear that there are many different grades and prices of these raw materials and that cost of manufacturing will affect retail price.

    Another part of the inflatable paddle boards construction is the use of drop stitching to create rigidity in the board, and limiting the pressurization required for stiffness. Drop stitches are thin filaments that are sown from the deck (top) to hull (bottom) of the board. The drop stitches force the PVC fabric into a shape that cannot keep expanding, unlike an inflatable balloon, and when the space is confined the pressure will greatly increase. Different manufacturers use different amounts of drop stitching, and the stitches may only go through one layer of PVC or multiple layers depending on the manufacturer. The more drop stitching the stiffer the board will be and the less pressure required for rigidity. This is a main determining factor on how paddle boards are weight and volume rated, with will determine the paddler weight. Most low drop stitch boards are limited to 100 KG (220 pounds) at 15 PSI (Bestway Hydro-force Aqua Journey 9’ Inflatable) when the Kahuna Wahine 10’6” at 12 PSI has a 150-200 pound capacity and at 15 PSI is 225+ pound capacity. Drop stitch counts are not required in the product specifications, however, it is good to be aware of how the construction will affect the stiffness of the board when comparing price points and qualities of paddle boards.

     Many of the value paddle boards are one layer of PVC on the deck and one layer on the hull with one seam around the water line with a thin piece of PVC tape over the seam. These paddleboards require far more pressure (18-30 PSI) to be rigid and have a are constructed with less PVC material than boards at a higher price point. These boards are hard to repair because there not many layers of material to correct a puncture, so often patches have to be added to the outside or new boards have to be purchased when issues arrive. There are manufacturer warranties for the boards, but have heard of challenges when dealing with Amazon, Canadian tire and other large retailers when issues arrive. These paddle boards retail for $250-899 without shipping costs. Aluminium paddles, repair kits, basic bag, Nylon fin and leash are offered in the kit. For a first-time paddler, or limited use paddling (once or twice a year) these boards are sufficient due to the cost per use and risk of damage for a first-time paddler. These boards are often all-round design (round nose, wider construction, flat deck, small fin, multi-purpose and many different weight capacities) and the design of the board is to allow the average first time paddler, or multiple people with different weights to have a decently stable board for floating or short distance paddling. This is the price point and style of board that most people assume is the quality boards since they are most commonly found at big box retailer, and this price point is set by the large numbers of people purchasing boards through these retailers.

    There are two factors to be aware of when buying boards at this price point, one is that the materials and glues used will be lower quality, the second factor is the construction of the board limiting its functionality for larger paddlers or how many times the boards can be folded before creasing and cracks occur in the PVC leading to leaks. As we mentioned above, lower price boards will have less build materials, less drop stitching (structural stitches that run from the deck to the hull to create rigidity), cheaper valves and pumps and less adhesives in the joints. The other factor to be aware of is the weight and carry capacities of these boards is often lower than people expect, and therefore, the board flexes, sits too low in the water or feels soft under the paddlers’ feet. The boards being flexible in the water makes them slow and less stable because the paddler cannot stabilize their body against the board surface. For larger paddlers the boards end up bending like a banana, with the paddlers’ feet submerged in the water and the bow and stern sticking out of the water. The solution to this softness is to increase the pressure in the board, but over pressurization and direct sunlight on the boards can cause seam delamination or valve delamination. The other limit of these boards is how many times they can be folded, creased and cold weather winterized before the PVC begins to fatigue. This is something to be aware of when winter storing the paddle boards and the expected lifespan of these boards.

    Mid range and certainly higher price point paddle boards have much more invested in quality because any blemish on a high-quality board will be a deterrent and question the quality of the board. The materials used will be multiple layers, with multiple taped seams, and in the case of Kahuna Paddle Boards, Carbon fiber and Kevlar are used in the lamination. Carbon fibre is a puncture resistant, stiff and ultra light material that Kahuna uses in the rail around the board to resist paddle strikes, impacts on the edge, scuffing and scratching during carrying and reduction of creases in the PVC when folding and packing. Kevlar is a heat tear and puncture resistant material that greatly reinforces any other layers when added. The higher priced boards will have a higher level of scrutiny and specifications during their manufacturing, which ultimately gives the customer the best board at that price.

    The over all cost of a paddle board is not limited to the board itself, but most boards are sold as a kit by a retailer. This kit often includes a paddle, repair kit, fin, pump, leash and bag. The largest discrepancy in the price of a paddle board is the value added in a mid to high price paddle board with the quality of the paddle, fin and bag. Most price point boards will have an aluminum paddle with nylon blade, or in some cases the paddle is sold separately. These paddles are durable but noticeably heavy when comparing them to fiberglass or carbon fibre paddles. Kahuna offers full two- and three-piece carbon fibre paddles with the board. This is a value added of $400 in the purchase of the board. One of the largest benefits to using a composite paddle is they are very light and stiff, making paddling easier on the user. The pump offered by the manufacturer is also a factor, since some pumps are foot pumps, two stroke manual pumps or electric pumps. Not all manufacturers offer quality pumps and valves on their boards. The value of dealing with a specialty retailer versus a big box store or food store is that the retailer will take the time to discuss all that I have discussed in this blog post. The specialty retailer will ask questions about quality, intended use, warranty and safety information about paddle boarding to ultimately match you with the correct paddle board for the individual. When purchasing from a big box store, you will not likely receive customer service or warranty services, so you just purchase what they offer and decide without supplementary information if the paddle board is the right one for you. Paddle shops are locally owned and hire passionate paddlers and builders to offer the best buying experience and knowledge of what products to help you find.

    Repair kits for paddle boards are often a single part adhesive and patch, or an adhesive backed patch for field repairs. The single part contact cement offered by the manufacturer has a shelf life and should be used or replaced before the expiry date. Two-part adhesives for PVC are available at marine retailers, but they can be expensive ($45-99) for the adhesive. This is always a challenge when talking to individuals that want to repair the price point boards is the cost of the adhesive is half the price of what they spent on the board, once again lowering the value of the price point boards. If the cost of replacement is only twice the cost of a new board most people will continue to purchase the price point boards versus purchasing a higher quality board.

    These are all factors that decide the price point of a board and the quality of materials in that board. I hope this serves as a guide so that you purchase a paddle board that serves your paddling experience, long lifespan and price point expectations. The goal of the specialty retailer is to provide information and discussion on paddle boarding to make sure the paddler has the best experience and proper board for their chosen activity.

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