How to Tell if an Inflatable Paddle Board is Poorly Made
Confused on whether the inflatable paddle board you are looking at is made with quality or shoddy materials? We clarify things for you here.
The world of stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has seen a massive increase in popularity, and with it, the demandfor high quality inflatable paddle boards has risen. Inflatable paddle boards provide a portable, convenient, and budget-friendly option compared to traditional hard paddle boards. However, the market has become saturated with substandard products, and it is essential to know how to recognize a poorly made inflatable paddle board before making a purchase. This article will discuss the key signs of a low quality inflatable paddle board and how to avoid buying one.
Evaluating the Materials Used
The first step in determining the quality of an inflatable paddle board is to examine the materials used in its construction. Top-quality boards are generally made from multiple layers heavy-duty PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and of woven drop stitch material, providing durability and rigidity when inflated.
Thickness of PVC Material
A well-crafted paddle board should have a PVC layer with a thickness of at least 0.7mm. Paddle boards with thinner PVC are more prone to punctures and wear and tear.
Drop Stitch Construction
Drop stitch technology is crucial for maintaining the shape and rigidity of inflatable paddle boards. High-quality boards feature thousands of tightly woven polyester threads, keeping the board's shape intact when inflated. Since the drop stitch fabric is inside the paddle board, ask the manufacturer if they are using knitted or woven drop stitch construction. If they say "knitted" run away quickly.
Inspecting the Seams and Welds on Inflatable Paddle Boards
A well-built inflatable paddle board will have strong seams and welds, ensuring the board remains airtight and withstands pressure. Examine the seams and welds for any signs of weakness or damage, such as:
While glued seams were once a common feature in inflatable paddle board construction, they are now considered a sign of inferior quality. Heat-welded seams are more robust and reliable, reducing the risk of leaks or seam failure. Weld technology is also referred to as "fusion".
Inconsistent Welding on Inflatable Board
Check the seams for inconsistencies in welding, such as uneven lines, gaps, or visible glue residue. Poorly welded seams can lead to leaks or even catastrophic failure during use.
Assessing Valve Quality
The valve on an inflatable paddle board is an essential component, responsible for maintaining the board's air pressure. A faulty valve can result in air leaks and reduced performance. Evaluate the valve for the following indicators of poor quality:
A high-quality valve will be made from strong, durable materials like stainless steel or reinforced plastic. Avoid valves made from cheap plastic or other low-quality materials.
Inflate the board and listen for any hissing sounds near the valve. This may indicate a slow leak, negatively impacting the board's performance. There should be a valve wrench in the repair kit of your inflatable paddle board for tightening the valve.
A well-designed valve should be easy to use, allowing for quick inflation and deflation. Avoid boards with valves that are challenging to open, close, or twist.
Examining Fins and Accessories
The fins and accessories on an inflatable paddle board contribute to its overall performance and functionality. Poorly made fins or accessories may not only affect the board's performance but also signal a low-quality board overall.
High-quality inflatable paddle boards often have removable fins for easy storage and transport. Ensure the fin system is well-constructed, with secure attachment points and a reliable locking mechanism. Also, make sure that the fin box is a U.S. Fin Box that will accommodate most fins on the market rather than the proprietary fins that the paddle board manufacturer might be the only vendor of.
Accessory Quality of Inflatable Paddle Boards
Inspect the included accessories, such as the paddle, pump, repair kit, kayak seat, carry strap and carrying bag. These items should be made from durable materials and demonstrate excellent workmanship. Low-quality accessories may suggest a poorly made paddle board.
Testing the Board's Performance and Stability
The ultimate test of inflatable paddle board quality is its performance on the water. Before purchasing a board, it's crucial to try it out or at least read reviews from trustworthy sources. Focus on the following performance aspects to assess the board's quality:
When fully inflated, a high-quality paddle board should feel rigid and firm. If the board feels soft or has noticeable flex, it may not provide the stability and support needed for a comfortable and enjoyable paddling experience. Independent test websites typically rank Glide's inflatable paddle boards as extremely rigid.
A well-made inflatable paddle board should offer good stability, making it easy for beginners to learn and for experienced paddlers to maintain balance. If the board feels unstable or tips easily, it could be a sign of poor construction or design.
Tracking and Maneuverability
Quality boards should track well in the water, maintaining a straight course with minimal effort. They should also be easy to maneuver, allowing for smooth turns and responsive handling. If a board is difficult to control or doesn't track well, it may not be well-constructed.
Investigating the Brand and Warranty
Lastly, consider the reputation of the brand and the warranty offered on the inflatable paddle board. A reputable brand with a strong track record of producing quality boards is more likely to provide a reliable and well-made product.
Research the brand to learn about its history, manufacturing processes, and customer reviews. Look for companies with a reputation for producing high-quality, durable, and reliable inflatable paddle boards, like Glide, which uses military grade PVC material and woven drop stitch construction in their inflatable boards.
A good warranty is a strong indicator of a brand's confidence in the quality of its products. Look for boards with a comprehensive warranty that covers defects in materials and workmanship. A warranty of at least 5 years is recommended. Glide offers a limited life time warranty.
Recognizing a poorly made inflatable paddle board can be challenging, especially for those new to the sport. However, by carefully evaluating the materials used, seams and welds, valve quality, fins and accessories, and testing the board's performance, you can identify signs of poor construction and avoid purchasing a subpar product. Additionally, investigating the brand and warranty can provide further insight into the quality of the board. By taking the time to assess these factors, you can invest in a high-quality inflatable paddle board that will provide years of enjoyment on the water.