This is an excellent question, and I wish I had a simple, definitive answer. But as you’ve probably noticed, quality iSUPs come in a variety of brands, all with different qualities and construction. They also come in a range of prices. Good quality boards will cost around $500 and up. Nobody wants to buy something that costs hundreds of dollars only for it to break. The main factors that go into a board’s longevity are its construction, how you care for the board, and the brand.
Multiple layers vs. Single layer
More durable inflatable SUP boards are made from multiple layers of mil-spec PVC. They can withstand extreme pressure; some can even handle a jeep driving over them. Boards that are dual-, tri-, and quad-layer will last longer than boards that are single layer.
That multilayer design also helps to protect the board from punctures and tears. On the other hand, single layer boards don’t have the additional layers to rely on when something scrapes the bottom of your board, which can be bad news if you’re out in the middle of the lake.
Another aspect to look at is how the seams are joined. A lot of inexpensive boards use seam glue to join the seams. It works, but water, air, and UV radiation eventually will degrade the glue, and the seam can burst. It is harder and more expensive to repair than the board is worth after shipping and repair.
The best option is to have a mechanically welded seam. The most popular methods are heat and ultrasonic welding of the seams which create the mechanical seal. The benefit of having this type of seam is that it will last just as long as the PVC material. There isn’t anything to degrade otherwise. These seams will last the longest and are often considered stronger than glued seams.
Many board makers now include a UV protective layer. This repels UV radiation and prevents it from degrading your board. In essence, its sunblock for the board. Boards with a UV coating may last longer through extended use. But, that doesn’t mean that you can store your board outside or leave it in direct sunlight for extended periods. Just like using sunblock once won’t protect us forever, the UV coating can only last so long before its effectiveness diminishes.
How long a SUP board lasts also depends greatly on how well you care for the board. As already discussed above, if you leave your board outside in the sun, then it’s not going to last that long, but if you fold it up and place it in its protective bag, it’ll last much longer.
The UV radiation that is produced by the sun degrades a lot of things. An iSUP is no different. It usually isn’t a problem when you’re out on the lake using your board because the radiation’s vectors are constantly changing. But if you just let your board sit in one spot in direct sunlight, then there’s no guarantee that your board will last.
Clean Your Board
Water is known as the universal solvent. It can break down a lot of materials over time. So it’s a good idea to dry your board before rolling it up and storing it. That’ll keep the board dry and prevent water from being trapped and causing mildew growth or other damage to your board.
Dirt and Sand
It’s also a good idea to make sure that all the dirt and sand are off your board. During transport, the sand and dirt can rub and wear away at your board. This won’t do much at first, but if you constantly tote around a dirty board, you’ll see the areas that are being affected start to wear away. The best way to get dirt and sand off of your board is to use a hose and spray the board off and dry it after. I bring a gallon jug with me that I use to rinse off the board before I pack it right by my car.
The last thing we’ll look at in terms of how long will your inflatable paddle board last is the board’s brand. Many great companies produce some amazing boards that won’t break the bank. A lot of these boards have been thoroughly tested and refined to be durable. What we advise against is buying a $300 dollar no-name brand on amazon. Go with some of the bigger brands, and you won’t be disappointed.
It is good to look at a SUP board as an investment that’ll bring you some relaxation and fun outdoors. To get a quality board from a reputable company, you’re going to spend $500 dollars on up. This’ll ensure you get a multilayer, mil-spec PVC, board with robust mechanically joined seams. It will be worth every penny.
It’s also a great idea to look at the board’s warranty. The longer the warranty, the more confidence the company has that their board will last. Some manufacturers offer up to a 5-year warranty. What this says is the company is confident that their boards are robust enough that they won’t break down within those five years or else it would cost them dearly.
To answer the question of how long an inflatable paddleboard will last, I have to say that it depends. It depends on the construction of the board, how well you take care of it, and the quality of the board you buy. A high quality inflatable can last you a decade if you care for it well enough. That same board can last you one season if you mistreat it.