Read this before you buy an isup !
Are you confused with the vast array of boards, prices and confusing marketing ?
Here is a quick guide that might help you.
ISUPS ARE NOT ALL THE SAME !
ISUPs vary hugely in the quality of the materials used to manufacturer them, as well as the manufacturing techniques. On face value most inflatable paddle boards appear to look all the same but this where the similarities end.
The accessories that are supplied with board packages play a key role in the the overall experience of the package and is a common way brands/resellers save money .
We have set up this basic guide to run through the key points and debunk all the confusing marketing.
DON'T GET FOOLED
We see more and more false advertising with stand up paddle board packages on a daily basis. This is becoming a real problem in the industry and one of the reasons we created this guide.
While shopping around for a new paddle board you will see brands and sellers commonly use phrases like 'High quality Dropstitch' and 'Premium accessories'. In fact most of the time the product is made with the most basic Dropstitch material available and the factory standard, lowest quality accessory pack.
Don't be taken in by a flashy looking board. The design printed on a board has no impact on the quality and construction it is made with. Always check the description carefully
Another thing to look out for is very overpriced board packages. The price does not always determine the quality of the equipment. Some companies are now selling packages at an extremely overinflated price, which are no different in terms of quality to a board half of the price.
It is very important to know the difference in materials and look carefully at what accessories are included.
Dropstitch is the name given to the main material needed to build an ISUP. This material creates the deck and underside of the board and gives it structure. To keep the explanation simple, thousands of high tensile threads are mechanically sewn onto two sheets of polyester fabric then a sheet of PVC tarpaulin is attached on the top and underside. These high tensile threads are what gives an ISUP the little dimples on the surfaces of the board, this is only seen when the board is inflated.
There is actually many different types of Dropstitch material available to build an ISUP. All options effectively do the same job but there is a vast difference to the quality ,rigidity and cost.
Here is a basic overview for the different materials available in ascending order in terms of quality and cost. There can be other variants of each material but to keep this guide simple we have not gone into too much detail.
SINGLE LAYER DROPSTITCH
This is the most basic material used to build an ISUP. Single layer means there is only one layer of PVC tarpaulin over the polyester fabric. The only reason why brands use this material is because it is very cheap and lightweight, resulting in a final product that seems very good value. In our opinion we would never use this material to build an ISUP as it makes the board very bendy and hard to use, it also punctures far more easily. Unfortunately most single layer boards are falsely advertised so people buy them and soon realise their mistake. Some companies use terms like 'double walled' to try to fool consumers.
GLUED DOUBLE LAYER DROPSTITCH
This is the most commonly used material and it has been available for many years. This material is made by taking single layer material and manually gluing a second layer of PVC tarpaulin on top making it double layer, this is still a relatively low cost option. This material is probably the most durable construction for an ISUP and the boards are fairly rigid. The main downsides to this type is that the board becomes very heavy and is hard to carry about. The large amount of glue needed to make this material is not great for the environment or the workers in the factory.
This is fast becoming the most popular choice of material. It is made with the second layer of PVC pre laminated from the Dropstitch Manufactures, giving the board the same rigidity as a traditional double layer board without all the disadvantages. It is better for the environment, lightweight and in the recent years the cost has come down. The quality of this material can vary slightly
WOVEN FUSION DROPSTITCH
This is ultra high quality performance material where the high tensile thread count is far greater than common Dropstitch. The high tensile threads themselves are better quality ,the thread count is much higher and a woven base cloth is used. The result of using this construction is the boards are extremely rigid and even lighter. This material is one of the most expensive and not many brands use it due the the additional cost, also the manufactures usually require high order volumes to use this material. Again there are a few versions available.
ACCESSORIES ARE KEY
The accessory kit supplied with board packages are often overlooked. This kit is actually just as important as the board itself. Many brands save money by just opting for the most basic factory standard kit to be included with their packages. Upgrading to good quality accessories can increase the cost by quite a large amount. Purchasing a board package with a budget accessory kit is actually a false economy. Customers will quickly upgrade parts of the kit resulting in much higher costs than if they purchased a good accessory kit with the board package in the first place.
Here is a quick guide to the accessories and what you need to know.
This is just as important as the board itself. Many paddles supplied as standard are quite frankly very cheap unusable Aluminium paddles .
Aluminium Paddle - The most basic cheap paddle available and are often unusable due to poor design.
Glass fibre shaft nylon blade Paddle - The better option for a basic paddle but the design of the blade is also important
Carbon shaft nylon blade paddle - Not too dissimilar from glass fibre but slightly better. Again the blade design is important
Full Carbon paddle - The best option for a SUP paddle but not commonly found as standard equipment due to the cost. The difference between full carbon paddles can be huge depending on multiple factors.
Pumping up an ISUP is not an easy task so having a good pump is essential.
Single action - This is not very common and is the basic of basic, only really found with budget kayaks.
Double action - This is the most common type that is supplied with the majority of ISUP packages. This style can vary in quality and some more advanced versions are available now, most are very basic and are very tiring to use.
Triple action - This is the top of the range pump and is the quickest and easiest way to inflate a board by hand. It has two chambers side by side giving it twice the capacity of a standard pump. This design effectively makes pumping up a board twice as fast as a double action pump. The only downside to this style is the size .
Bags come in a variety of sizes and quality. Sometimes the basic bags are too small and packing a folded ISUP back in is almost impossible. Having a bag with built in wheels really helps, the bags themselves are usually better quality also.
A good quality coiled leash with two swivel joints is an essential piece of safety equipment. Some leashes are not good and the rubbers corrode and snap. A quick release waist belt should also be included, this is now a key safety device that should be worn instead of an ankle leash.
There are many designs of fins and fin boxes but we recommend a US style fin box. The US style fin box is very commonly used and there are hundreds of compatible fins available. Other styles of fin boxes will really reduce your options in the future if you require a different fin style.