Best Inflatable SUP

Here's the inside scoop on inflatable paddle board reviews

You've got to take most of best inflatable paddle board reviews you find online with a grain of salt. I'm not exaggerating. Most of them. 

As the founder of Tower Paddle Boards, I've been an executive in the online business world since 1999. I've seen the evolution, and often times corruption and manipulation, of the online space in many areas over the past 20 years. While it's pretty easy for people in the space like myself to spot less than truthful websites, fake reviews, and generally misleading information about the best stand up paddle boards, it's not so easy for the average consumer. To worsen the problem, consumers think they understand what's going on when they generally have little clue. Unscrupulous marketers prey on this consumer naivete daily. I've detailed some insights below to help you navigate the sea of misleading information and fake reviews online in the inflatable stand up paddle board space. 

Top 5 or top 10 lists are almost always BOGUS

If you search "best inflatable paddle boards" you'll likely be inundated with a laundry list of web pages promising "the 6 best inflatable sups" or the "top 5 inflatable paddle board reviews: READ THIS FIRST" or the "Top 10 iSUPs". Usually, these are just made up listings by Amazon affiliates or affiliate marketers with no basis in reality... and you can see this as they only list randomly selected products all sold on Amazon, or only products with affiliate marketing programs (so they earn money when you find their site and click thru and buy). Their list of the best inflatable paddle boards isn't based on any legitimate product study at all. Rather, they're just made up and/or intentionally misleading to maximize profit to whomever made up the web page. I'm saying this as a brand owner that is frequently listed on these sites, and as a brand owner that's been approached to be listed for a fee or affiliate earnings. 

The online marketing manipulation world is all very sketchy, so I refuse to take part in it. Sometimes these best inflatable iSUPs sites list us anyways, which I'm fine with. But I see them and understand it's not based in reality. Still, we've been one of the leading brands sold on Amazon for years so we're frequently on these "top 10 inflatable paddle boards" lists, so inflatable paddle board review sites believe we'll be a good "earner" for them. But this in no way is a true "top 5" list. It would be more correctly titled "The top 5 inflatable paddle board links that will make me [whoever made up the page] money by pretending to be a curator of quality for unsuspecting shoppers like yourself". 

Best Inflatable SUP Review Sites

Top 5 or top 10 lists are almost always BOGUS

A large chunk, perhaps a majority, of reviews on Amazon these days are FAKE or heavily manipulated these days

There was a golden era when you could rely on the quantity and average rating of reviews on Amazon to select top products, things like the best standup paddle boards. Those days disappeared several years ago. Today, the Amazon marketplace is like the wild, wild west. It's overrun with Internet marketing manipulators, Chinese non-brands, fake reviews, and even counterfeit product. A product listing (or questionable quality product) from a Chinese non-brand pops up one day, partners with a shady internet marketing freelancer the next, and a few weeks later it has 2000+ "5 star" reviews. If they get caught creating fake reviews or selling shoddy product, they get removed, and another product from the same or another shady company will replace them within 24 hours. On the other side, legitimate brands are attacked by 1 star reviews by these same nefarious entities and legitimate brands have to fight them off. Amazon takes a fixed % of the sale regardless of who you buy from, and ad spend on top of that, so they aren't really motivated to stop any of this, and subsequently seem to be doing a worse and worse job of it. 

I was quoted a quite shocking stat the other day that in 2016 roughly 85% of the products sold via Amazon were from an American owned brand. Note, of course, that most of their products were made elsewhere, but it was an American company you were buying from, just thru Amazon. In 2019, that number of the products sold thru Amazon which were from and American brand or company reportedly dropped to 45%... in 3 years. You can see trajectory. So that would mean the majority of products you are buying on Amazon are not only not made in the US, but you're not really buying them from a US brand or company. The entire US economy has been opt-ed out. Just one company, Amazon, and and army of foreign entities taking all revenue and profit from a an increasingly monopolistic percent of all online sales in the consumer driven US economy. That doesn't end well... for consumers or the US economy. 

Question any SUP brand claims to be the "#1 SUP brand in the world"

This one makes me chuckle. Right now I can visit three different inflatable paddle board sites (some which are clearly NOT) and read their self-proclamation about being "#1 in the industry" or the "#1 brand worldwide." Seems unlikely that they're all #1 doesn't it? I bet they get great reviews for their own products on their own site. 

Question the source of even seemingly "professional" inflatable paddle board reviews

Anyone can slap up a top 5 inflatable paddle board list and link out to Amazon to earn affiliate revenues, and so a lot of people do this. Some "professional review sites" do this across 100s or 1000s of product categories. They could just make it up, they could have an intern spend an hour doing online research, or they could painstakingly review the industry, try every product personally, and do something close to a legitimate product review process. The problem is, you don't know which and I've never personally witnessed someone doing the last option in the rating of best stand up paddle boards space (and I assume it's similar in other spaces), so the best thing you can do is look at the source. 

I don't mean to pick on this specific "best reviews" site here, as there are hundreds of these types, but as you can see they only seem to list products sold on Amazon. You guess why? It's affiliate revenue. So that tells you this isn't really a legitimate list of the "best inflatable stand up paddleboards" (as they claim)... because some iSUPs aren't sold on Amazon at all. 

Question the Motives of "Professional" Review Sites

The next problem is that some of these sites syndicate their "reviews" to legit sites to add more confusion. As you can see below, they syndicate to the Chicago Tribune, a trusted 150+ year old news brand. So you see the problem. 

Question Syndicated Content, Even From Legit New Sources

So How Does an Unsuspecting Consumer Tell? 

It's challenging. My advice is first you heed the warnings above. Then I'd recommend you visit their brand website and then actually call them on the phone. If it's only a brand sold on Amazon and you can't find a website, maybe that's not really a leading brand or a trustworthy product, regardless of the # and quantity of Amazon reviews. Going old school on an internet purchase of something like an inflatable paddle board may seem counter-productive, but it actually helps cut thru the scammers. If you can't get someone on the phone that's also a warning sign. Not to mention that if anything goes wrong with your order or product, you can bet you can't get them on the phone then either! Today's best brands will answer the phone, or call you right back, and can speak intelligently about their inflatable paddle boards, and inflatable paddle boards in general. Ask a person. You can also Google the brand name. Read their press page. Learn about their history. Good brands endure and tend to have a history. Others... not so much. 

Inflatable Paddle Board Reviews for Tower Paddle Boards

Tower has been a leading SUP brand for a good part of the last decade, and was one of the pioneers of modern inflatable paddle boards. In 2012, we developed and sold one of the first 6" thick inflatable paddle boards. A year later we came out with the first 8" thick inflatable paddle board. Naish SUP came out with a 6" thick one about the same time as us, but they were a retail store only brand so ours sold for roughly half the price of theirs (even though they were pretty much identical in quality). 

Prior to these 6" thick iSUPs, all inflatable paddle boards were 4" thick and rode thru the water like a banana. They sucked. A fellow San Diego company called Uli had been making inflatable surfboards and 4" thick inflatable paddle boards for years. A company called Sevylor had sold inflatable paddle boards for years as well. But these 4" thick inflatable stand up paddle boards were awful. They were just a travel novelty and thus inflatable paddle boards represented less than 1% of the paddle board market. 

The simple innovation of increasing the thickness 50% (from 4" thick to 6" thick) increased the rigidity of the boards 400%. Overnight inflatable paddle boards were almost as rigid at hard boards. When inflated, most people couldn't even tell it was an inflatable paddle board by looking at it. Better yet, they were portable, easy to store, and nearly indestructible... while hard boards are pretty delicate and easy to damage. Today, 8 years later, inflatable paddle boards have taken over the paddle board market and represent over 70% of sales. 

As one of the first brands selling these 6" thick inflatable paddle boards, Tower saw great success. As of 2020, we've done over $36 Million in sales and we're Mark Cuban's best investment of ABC's Shark Tank. A lot of people noticed, and a lot of people tried to copy what we were doing. Today there's a wide array of quality and construction types on inflatable paddle boards, many not ideal and the quality is tough to differentiate just by looking at them (especially online) so it makes it even harder for consumers to find a quality product from a brand they can trust. 

I can't speak for any other brand, but what I can promise you is that if you buy an inflatable paddle board from Tower, you are going to get best in class quality and an incredible deal because we only sell direct to consumer. Our reviews are real - here's one of our favorites from a leading taste maker publication for luxury goods, the Robb Report. Here's their list of the best stand up paddle boards

They ranked our Chris Craft / Tower co-branded inflatable paddle board collaboration as the #1 stand up paddleboard in the world, ahead of the runners up showings from leading retail brands Starboard (at $3399) and Naish SUP (at $2439). The funny part was that they listed our Chris Craft / Tower co-branded iSUP at a price of $1785... when we really were selling it direct to consumer for $649. We no longer carry this Chris Craft model, but it's basically a color variation of our best-selling inflatable sup, the Adventurer 2, and our women's paddle board, the Mermaid. 

That's the power of our direct to consumer business model paired with the quality of the Tower brand. That's what made us the #1 fastest growing private company in San Diego in 2014, and ranked us #239 on the INC 500 list of America's fastest growing companies in 2015... not to mention our inflatable paddle boards being singled out as one of the 10 most impressive products off the entire INC 500 list that year. 

Quality + value. Welcome to Tower.

Stephan Aarstol
Founder & CEO
Tower Paddle Boards