From the outside, a paddle board may look like the most non-complex piece of water sport equipment, especially when compared to something like a kayak. However, the reality of the manufacturing processes (and the associated cost) paints a different picture.
Paddle boards are more expensive than kayaks because they are made out of more complex materials than kayaks. Kayaks are typically made entirely out of plastic, while paddle boards require fiberglass, epoxy resin, a foam core, and other expensive materials.
Keep reading if you’d like to see me break down the costs of a paddle board and help you understand why it’s more expensive than a kayak.
The Cost of Paddle Boards
Paddle boards are available at varied price points. You could find one for as little as $200 or spend up to $2,000, or even more. A paddle board can be broadly categorized as:
- epoxy board
- inflatable board
And there are price disparities between the two.
Epoxy SUPs (stand up paddle boards) are usually the pricier type, with prices falling in the $700 and $2,000 range. They are expensive because making and shipping them costs more money. However, for the premium price, you get a board that’s fairly more rigid and designed to offer optimal performance in different waters.
Inflatable boards, on the other hand, could be priced anywhere between $180 and $1,300. Besides other factors, these are cheaper as they are easier to procure online.
Unfolding the Paddle Board Price Mystery
As mentioned above, the price of a high-quality beginner’s paddle board starts at around $700. You can certainly get paddle boards for cheaper than that, but then the quality could go down. Let’s try to understand the various aspects of making a paddle board and how they affect the price.
Design and Manufacturing
Paddle boards could be factory-produced or made by hand. The handmade ones are the expensive ones since the effort involved is a lot, and also artisanship always comes with a higher price tag. That said, a lot of effort and time goes into those assembly line boards as well.
The design for the factory-made boards is conceived using computer programs. Once the designs are finalized, they get passed on to CNC (computer numerical control) machines, which cut and shape blank polystyrene (PU) boards based on those blueprints.
Certain brands prefer that their boards have a unique design language, for which they have molds in place. These molds are not cheap, going up to tens of thousands of dollars. It goes without saying that these design costs reflect in the board’s retail price.
Manufacturing the boards in a low-cost labor country is an option for manufacturers to cut down on the costs, which most apparently do. But then the benefits (if any) of inexpensive labor get offset by the costs of shipping in the finished boards. Not to mention, manufacturing the board in a developed country like the US would always be a less attractive option since the labor costs are high in first-world nations.
A paddle board could be made of different materials. The cheaper boards, such as paddle boards for beginners, could be made of polystyrene. PU is a fairly durable material for basic paddle boarding. However, it isn’t biodegradable. The more durable and also expensive build materials used are extruded polystyrene (XPS) and expanded polystyrene (EPS).
The cost of XPS/EPS increases further as they could be fiber-glassed only using epoxy resin, which is usually twice the cost of polyester resin used for PU. Epoxy resin is expensive for its formulation and the strength that it lends to XPS/EPS plastics. Besides the materials used, a lot of R&D also goes into understanding the build materials and the kind of construction needed to make high-quality boards. That element gets added to the cost too.
A paddle board is not a one-piece construction or a unibody build. Invariably, multiple layers go into its making, which includes multiple fiberglass layers wrapping around the primary or base material. High-quality materials such as Kevlar or carbon fiber are used to ensure the board is both lightweight and durable.
Needless to say, these materials are relatively expensive, and the extra costs get transferred to the buyer. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or wood can also be used to fortify a paddle board, which could also push up the prices.
The paddle boards that cost upwards of $1,500 are priced high due to their premium wood veneer finish. The wood in “wood veneer” is usually from pine or bamboo. Paddle boards cheaper than $1,000 are unlikely to have genuine wood veneer finish. If they appear to do so, it is most likely faux graphic paper giving the less expensive boards a wood veneer appearance.
Paddle boards could also be categorized based on their use types. The shapes and sizes change accordingly. For instance, the hull could be displacement or planing.
A displacement hull comes with a pointed nose, which makes it ideal for racing, SUP touring, and fitness paddling. A planing hull, on the other hand, is wide and flat, which makes it suitable for leisure paddling, SUP yoga, surfing, and whitewater.
Paddle boards could also have stringers. These are basically thin material strips – the material could be Kevlar, balsa, carbon, or PVC. These stringers help a board carry out certain uses, adding to the board’s overall structural integrity.
Which Paddle Board Is Right for You?
You have the option to choose between epoxy and inflatable SUPs, based on your requirements and budget.
If you are a recreational paddler, an epoxy SUP that starts at around $700 would be ideal. If you want a paddle board for long-distance touring, you may go up the price ladder a bit. However, the $700 or sub-$1,000 would still cater to your requirements just fine.
In fact, lower-priced SUPs could be quite versatile. The broad deck pads and additional stability of these SUPs make them suitable for a range of popular paddle board activities such as SUP yoga, SUP surfing, and SUP fishing. The Isle Versa SUP is one such relatively cheap and versatile epoxy SUP that would be suitable for both leisure paddling and fast-paced, exhilarating stuff.
If you go up the price range, the epoxy SUPs you’ll find will most likely be specialist boards, or they’ll serve a specific variant of paddle boarding, such as wave surfing or SUP racing. These boards will not do the job if you take them out on leisure flat water cruises.
An inflatable board’s lower starting price point makes it ideal for beginners or families. These boards are easier to carry and stow, too, since they could be reduced to a sack. And if you go up the price point, you will come across super-durable inflatables that could last you several seasons.
The pricier inflatables could, in fact, be just as durable as epoxy SUPs, thanks to the multi-grade PVC layers used in their build. The precision machine-laminated bonding and seams and drop-stitch technology add to the rigidity too.
A paddle board’s costs could put off some people who are keen on taking up the sport. If you are just getting started and would like a board to learn the sport, you need not spend north of $1,500 or even $1,000. There are boards you can buy for less than $500 or for even under $300. The FunWater SUP and the Ancheer SUP are some budget-friendly options.
However, be wary of the fact that these inexpensive boards may not be comparable to the more expensive choices in the build, design, longevity, and feel departments. These cheap boards would be fine if you are just testing the waters. If you are already a skilled paddle boarder and want a board with increased staying power, it’s recommended you save some cash and invest in a higher quality board.