Standup paddling could be described as many things. Our sport is humbling and rewarding, inspiring and thrilling, challenging and relaxing. But for all the things that our sport is, the one thing it’s not is cheap. Top equipment can set paddlers back several thousand dollars and once you add on travel and race costs, the sport can be tough on the wallet. However, there are plenty of different ways to save money and still be able to enjoy this incredible sport.
Don’t Buy the Cheapest Board
While it may be tempting to ask Google to find the cheapest standup paddleboard on the market, we wouldn’t advise it. Not because Google won’t be able to find boards well under a thousands dollars – there’s no shortage of “bargain boards” out there – but because of the old adage: you get what you pay for.
Scoring a paddleboard for under a $1000 may seem like a steal, but you may come to regret this decision as soon as you try to pick the thing up. Budget boards are usually mass produced and don’t offer much in the performance department – heavy and slow rather than light and nimble. Likewise, cheap inflatables may do the trick for your first few sessions but the low-cost materials aren’t built to last for the long run. Plus, if the board fails or doesn’t provide you with the paddling experience you hoped for, all that money will be down the drain with nothing to show for it.
Look for Used Boards, Skeptically
Alright, so you’re not going buy a pop-out board and instead want to opt for a “lightly-used” performance board. This route also features a few dangerous pitfalls, but can save you hundreds of dollars if done carefully. The used board market is a mixed bag of everything from waterlogged pieces of junk to top-of-the-line boards going for way less than retail. The trick is to snatch up one from that latter category or not get stuck with a lemon.
Craigslist may be filled with schemers, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of honest folks either. The best way to sift through this online free-for-all is to be skeptical of the deals you find, ask questions and use common sense. Look out for waterlogged boards with sloppy repair jobs and over-priced “performance boards” from knock-off brands. Another point worth noting, good deals go quick on Craigslist. Just be patient and check regularly so when an actual deal pops up, you won’t miss it.
End of Season or Off-Season Sales
Allow us to clue you into the easiest way for paddlers to save money: shop during the right time of the year. No, that doesn’t mean you should stroll into your local SUP shop at the beginning of the season in early spring, but rather, check out what deals they have cooking during the off-season (November through February).
It’s during this time of year that brands are trying to dump their previous year’s models and we’re willing to bet you’ll find a screamin’ deal on a top-notch board. Don’t believe us, just check out this deal going on right now from Infinity.
Rent, Demo or Borrow Boards
Before you sink a couple grand into your first board, you should first figure out what you want to get out of your SUP experience. Some paddlers only want to SUP surf, others would rather do flatwater SUP racing, and some just want to cruise in a harbor or lake. Of course, it takes more than one session to figure out where you’ll land on this spectrum. Instead of purchasing the first board you come across, we suggest getting a feel for different types of boards.
Renting boards is a great way to get a feel for being on the water, though often these tend to be old beater boards that are heavy and lack the speed and performance of most newer boards. Another option would be to demo boards from a local SUP shop or race that offers a free demo zone. This will give you a chance to get on the water with a high-quality board and feel what a difference good equipment makes.
The best option of all would be to find a local paddling group and let them know you are interested in paddling. The SUP community is incredibly welcoming and most likely would be happy to let you borrow an extra board for your first couple times. Not only that, but veteran paddlers can guide you towards purchasing the right board for you, or even better yet, may sell you one of their old boards for a great price.
Repair Your SUP Equipment
For paddlers who already own a SUP, saving money is as easy as learning to repair, rather than replace. If your board gets a ding, there are plenty of tutorials and tips online about how to pull off a successful repair job. But even if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you should be able to find a local shop that can do a professional repair job for $50 to $100, depending on the severity of the wound.
Obviously, this strategy will save you lots of money in the long run so that when you are ready to splurge on a new board, you can get the one you really want (preferably when those off-season sales begin).