Used iSUP Buying Guide

When you look at the prices of new inflatable stand-up paddle boards (iSUPs), they can seem a bit eye-wateringly expensive. An excellent alternative to shelling out all that excess dough is to pick up a used board. I got the opportunity to do just that over the summer and came away with a great board and an education in what to look out for the next time around. 

The following are my recommendations for someone who is looking to buy a used iSUP. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't find anything like this online when I was considering buying a used board. I hope it helps and informs.

Some of the following advice applies to the purchase of anything used, and would seem common sense, but as you can see from some of my observations below, common sense can get thrown out when you’re excited about acquiring a new toy (I just had to have a board and was a bit impatient in wanting to complete my purchase).

If the board you are looking at buying is an ex-rental board, it’s bound to have some wear on it, and some of the recommendations below revolve around what to look for, and they aren’t necessarily insurmountable.

(N.B., None of these observations are to be taken as a criticism of the seller, as he was very helpful in resolving some of the issues I subsequently had, and was an honest broker throughout!)

 

1. Don’t get too excited about your potential purchase...

Many of the following recommendations fall out of this one. I was so stoked about getting my own board and being able to use it outside of our local rental place's normal working hours, I didn’t think critically about anything except the bargain I was getting. (And despite some of the following issues, it was still a bargain for me.)

When all is said and done, it is still a toy (an expensive one), so staying calm throughout the process gives a bit of perspective. I was given a price which was less than what similar boards had been selling for, and I jumped on it without thinking too much about what I was purchasing, or even looking closely at it. If I had been a bit cooler, and armed with a bit more knowledge, I may have been able to negotiate a little bit further.

2. Look at the state of the fin box.

I didn’t realise until after I bought my board that there was a bit of give in the US-style fin box, where the fin was able to slide backwards and forwards with the motion of the board. It definitely caused some tracking issues when I was out on it. 

I thought I was going to have to replace the fin box (which is possible, there are after-market replacement parts available). The seller, however, explained to me that the give came from constantly rolling the deflated board up and putting it away. Which makes a bit of sense. Particularly on something that had been as well used as a rental board.

He did however, give me a great tip on how to work around it. Duct tape is your friend.

By wrapping three layers of duct tape onto the fin, on the bit where it slides into the fin box, there is absolutely no play in the movement of the fin once it is in. This solution has held up really well over the past couple of months, with no problem. Had I known what I know now, I might have waited around for another board or negotiated further on price, just because it ate up a bit of headspace on my part - but it had no bearing on using the board itself, albeit with a bit of kinky tracking when I was paddling hard.

I can't give much advice on other styles of fin box (I am a kook, after all). I have limited experience with FCS finboxes on my daughter's surf board, but that's about it. Just make sure you learn a little about the type of fin box on your potential purchase to be able to look for the ins and outs of that particular box and what to look out for, and what is repairable.

3. Look at the state of the fin(s).

If it's an ex-rental, chances are the fin(s) has been bashed to hell and back, particularly on the shingle beaches we have here on the South Coast. Luckily, I was provided with a spare, unused fin. But even a beat-up fin isn't a deal breaker, but potential for negotiation. Perhaps, if the supplier runs a rental and/or retail business, the supplier has a newer fin lying about that they can throw into the deal. Or if you have to buy an after-market fin, you have leeway to discuss the overall price. (Make sure you have a good idea of what a reasonable cost for a new fin is before taking this tack.)

4. Look at the state of the deck pad.

My deck pad was all right, but I have seen what a well-used deckpad looks like: it can be a bit manky, particularly if the old yellowed adhesive is showing up in the gaps. If there are largish bits missing, you may want to reconsider the purchase altogether, because the rest of it is going to want to come off at some point. I understand that after-market deckpads are available, but I imagine the trouble of removing what's left of the old pad from the PVC, cleaning the board, and then applying suitable cement to put on a new pad is just too much time to be out of the water and not enjoying the board. Best avoided, unless you are getting a really good deal on the board.

5. Check the Leash plug / D-ring.

Have a look at the state of the patch that holds the leash D-ring. The place where your leash attaches to the board is probably one of the most important safety aspects on your board. Look for any wear on what connects the D-ring to the board. If there is clear wear, avoid it, or find out if a replacement part is available - some manufacturers are more forthcoming than others in providing replacement parts, and there are a limited amount of after-market D-ring patches available on the British market, from mostly kayaking suppliers. There are US suppliers who have a bigger variety, but there are significant postage charges involved.

If the board is still in warranty, then there may be space for getting a warranty replacement part. However, some warranties are dealt with via the dealer to the manufacturer rather than directly to the manufacturer, and it may take time to get a satisfactory resolution.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Still sorting it out, but on my way to a satisfactory resolution through the manufacturer’s warranty process.

There was a little bit of wear on the nylon holding my D-ring to the board, and I wasn’t too worried about it when I bought it, as it seemed robust enough. Then I was in the surf zone at West Wittering, lost my balance on the board: the board went one way, I went the other, and the nylon bit snapped and my leash was no longer attached to a board but to a loose D-ring. Luckily there was no one in the path of the very large projectile my board had become and I was able to recover it quickly. But refer to point 1, above: don’t be so stoked about getting your own board that you overlook key safety features.

6. Check the Cargo Line/D-rings/Anchor Points

Many boards have a line held in place by 4 D-rings or loops or anchor points in a criss-cross manner toward the front of the board to help hold down cargo. Just like the leash D-ring, these can be subject to wear, or may be broken altogether. There are after-market solutions to this, that are easily found in the UK, so not a big deal, but maybe worth attempting to negotiate a little on the price if it is clear you will have to replace or repair them (of course, this would require knowing how to remove the originals from the board itself, and I'm not quite sure how to do it, but will find out eventually as there is a bit of wear in my current set).

7. Where to find used iSUPs

One of the main sources of used iSUPs are places that do rentals. At the end of the season, or when their inventory is about to change for newer models, they will look to get rid of their old stock. It doesn’t hurt to ask your local rental place if they plan on getting rid of any of their old stock; you may find something right up your alley for a good price.

There are also Facebook groups where used SUPs are advertised. Check them out, and have a good idea of what you are looking for, and how far you are willing to travel to get a board or have it delivered.

8. Negotiations

I have given little potential points for negotiation above. I’m not a good negotiator, but it’s useful to bear in mind that if you are dealing with a local small business owner, you want to get a good deal for yourself but they need to profit from the transaction, as well. There’s no need to be a butthead about things, because you may just want to do business with them again.

For private sales, maybe the same principles hold, but make sure you get a good look at the board, and perhaps a chance to try it on the water.

9. Maybe a New Board is Better

The reason I say this is that about two weeks after I bought my board, the 2016 versions came out, and it was a real step change in design - the boards now seem to be half as light with as much rigidity as the 2015 boards. I think I would have been content to wait another month or so and shell out the difference. You live, you learn.

Also, with a new board, you know that you are the only one who has owned it and paddled on it. Warranty issues should be easier to sort out.

I still love the board I have, but I am suffering from kit envy over the 2016 line, and I may end up getting one next year any way.

 

I hope the above has been helpful. Like I said, I couldn’t find anything like this when I was looking. This is not a complete list, and I welcome others to come forward and offer any other tips, either in the comments or via e-mail. And feel free to share this!