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We’ve all been there before: You decide you’re going to try out something you’ve never done before, such as SUP surfing, and you start to look up the necessary gear for your new hobby.
Seems simple enough, right? Just walk on into a surf shop or go to your favorite online store. The second you see the price tags— $800, $900, even $1000 and up— you realize this might not be as simple as you first thought!
? Should you bother dishing out the money for one? A lot of things go into making paddle boards and once you understand that, you’ll see why their price tag can be so high.
The reason for the higher prices doesn’t boil down to one simple factor. More goes into the construction of a paddle board than just making a piece of foam that floats.
Shape, size, and construction varies, as do materials, some of which can be quite expensive. Paddle boards also have a variety of uses and the specific use you’re looking for will affect the price, in addition to all those other factors.
You can, on average, expect to pay at least $700 for a beginners paddle board. Once you’ve moved on and become a more advanced paddle boarder, that price increases to $1500-$2000. So why exactly are these paddle boards so expensive?
Some boards are designed “by hand”, but nowadays many are designed with computer programs. These designs are then sent to a CNC machine and cut and shaped into a “blank” board made of polystyrene. Other paddle boards are made out of specific molds that have been designed for a certain brand. These molds are expensive, costing in the tens of thousands at minimum, but that price can be up in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This cost of designing the boards is going to be passed on to the consumer.
The boards that are designed by hand take much longer than using a machine or a mold. This involves a higher labor cost. Boards made outside of the US tend to have lower labor cost, but a higher shipping cost in order to send them to the US. On the other hand, boards made locally in the US are not going to incur that higher shipping cost but again, the labor cost is higher.
Larger boards are going to be more expensive than smaller boards, simply because they require more materials and more time goes into completing them. So you’re in luck if you need a smaller board, as you’re going to pay less on average.
There is more than one option when it comes to what material is used in the construction of paddle boards. The less expensive boards, including beginners paddle boards, may be made from Polystyrene (PU).
This material is durable enough for entry-level paddle boarding, but not as environmentally friendly, buoyant, or water resistant as more expensive materials like Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and Extruded Polystyrene (XPS).
The price of using EPS or XPS goes up even more due to the fact that these materials can only be fiberglassed with epoxy resin and this is twice as expensive as the polyester resin used for PU.
Paddle boards are made up of multiple layers, including layers of fiberglass wrapped around the base material. More layers equals more durability.
If you want a board that is both durable and lightweight, higher quality materials like carbon fiber or kevlar need to be used. These materials can be very expensive and this additional cost adds on to the overall price you pay.
Adding wood or PVC will also add additional strength to a paddle board while increasing the price even more.
Outside of the actual material used, research and development is needed to understand the materials and the construction needed to create high quality paddle boards. This also adds to the cost.
Those paddle boards you’re finding in the $1500+ price point are more expensive because they’ve likely been finished with wood veneer. Bamboo and pine are used most often, as they are both light and durable. These materials create a more stable paddle board. Are you finding less expensive boards that appear to have a wood veneer? Be careful; it’s highly unlikely that a new paddle board selling for $800 has a real wood veneer. Instead, it has most likely had a faux graphic paper applied in order to give the appearance of a wood veneer.
Are you intending to race with your paddle board? You may want to invest in a specialty board, which will have a higher performance than a basic board that can accomodate more than one use. You can also find boards made specifically for surfing and flat water. What the board is for will contribute to the price.
Paddle boards may also have stringers, which are thin strips of materials including balsa, kevlar, PVC, and carbon. These stringers aid in making a board perform for a specific use and add to the overall structural integrity.
The high cost of paddle boards can put off those who want to take up the sport. You can get a paddle board for as little as $300, but these just aren’t going to be made from higher quality materials or perform as well as more expensive boards.
If you’re looking to really get into paddle boarding, you may want to invest in something with more staying power.
When you’re researching boards and figuring out what kind is right for you, start off by going toa local surf shop or SUP shop if one is near you. Talk with the people who work there; they’ll be able to help you decide on a board based on what kind of riding you want to do and your budget.
You might even be able to get a free demo to further help you decide. Everyone is different; what kind of paddle board works for your friend might not work for you, so it’s important to speak with professional dealers in order to find the right kind of board. As you’ve seen, paddle boards can be expensive and you don’t want to invest in the wrong one.
Not finding a paddle board in your price point at any of the stores in town? You should still probably go speak with someone to figure out what kind is right for you, but you can also look online.
As with most online shopping, you’re going to find lower prices for even the highest of quality paddle boards, since you’re usually buying it straight out of a warehouse and not from a shop acting as a middleman.
If you don’t have a shop near you where you can look at boards, you’ll need to ensure that you do your research and carefully look over the paddle board’s specs before you buy it, though. You’ll want to look at things like maximum weight capacity and volume to make sure you get the right size paddle board for you.
Still not finding a new paddle board in your budget? Be on the lookout for sales. As newer models come out, older ones may go on sale. You also have the option of buying a used paddle board, but do keep in mind that you might not find an option that is “made for you”.
The increasing popularity combined with the current oversaturation of low-quality, cheap boards in the market may eventually lower the overall price of boards, but not by much.
The higher-quality boards will try to keep up in price with the lower-quality ones, but those cheap boards are going to be weeded out at some point.
The advancement in technology is also going to keep creating higher and higher quality boards with more durability, better functionality, and the ability to last for years and years without any decrease in performance.
To sum up, why are paddle boards so expensive? Because it’s worth it to get a board that will not only last you for a long time, but that will fit you individually and work for whatever purpose you’re wanting it for.
About the Author Chet Thornberry
My name is Chet and I'm a surfer living in Brevard County. I created this blog to put my experience with surfing, skimboarding, bodyboarding, and paddleboarding to good use (pretty much all things water sports).
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