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Understanding SUP Reviews Online

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 corruption and manipulation, of the online space in many areas over the past 20 years. While it’s pretty easy for people like me to spot less-than-truthful paddle board websites, fake reviews, and generally misleading information about finding the best blow-up paddle board, it’s not so easy for the average consumer. Unscrupulous marketers prey on consumer naiveté 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 Usually Unreliable

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 because they only list randomly selected products all sold on Amazon or products with affiliate marketing programs (so they earn money when you find their site and click through and buy). When you view a list that claims to have the insight into the best inflatable stand-up paddle board, know that their list isn’t based on any legitimate product study at all. Rather, they’re just made up and/or intentionally misleading to maximize profit. I’m saying this as a brand owner frequently listed on these sites and as a brand owner who’s been approached to be listed in exchange for a fee or affiliate earnings.

Sometimes these best inflatable ISUPs sites list us anyway, which I’m fine with. But I see them and understand it’s not based in reality. 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 list detailing the best blow-up stand-up paddle board options.

Bogus SUP Review Websites

Reviews on Amazon Are Often Fake or Heavily Manipulated

There was a golden era when you could rely on the quantity and average rating of reviews on Amazon to select top products, like the best inflatable stand-up paddle board. Those days disappeared several years ago. Today, the Amazon marketplace is overrun with Internet marketing manipulators, Chinese non-brands, fake reviews, and even counterfeit products. 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 2,000+ “5-star” reviews. If they get caught creating fake reviews or selling shoddy products, 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 with 1-star reviews by these same nefarious entities. Amazon takes a fixed percentage of the sale price regardless of who you buy from, so they aren’t really motivated to stop any of this, and they subsequently seem to be doing a worse and worse job of it.

Question Claims From the “#1 SUP Brand in the World”

This one makes me chuckle. Right now, I can visit three different inflatable paddle board sites and read their self-proclamation about being “#1 in the industry” or the “#1 brand worldwide.” Seems unlikely that they’re all #1 and have the best inflatable SUP board on the market, doesn’t it? I bet they get great reviews for their own products on their own site.

Question the Source of “Professional” Inflatable Paddle Board Reviews

Anyone can create a top 5 best inflatable SUP board list and link out to Amazon to earn affiliate revenue, and so a lot of people do this. Some “professional review sites” do this across hundreds or thousands of product categories. They could just make their choices randomly, 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 they did, and I’ve never personally witnessed someone doing the last option in the rating of best ISUP paddle boards, so the best thing you can do is look at the source.

Fraudulent Paddle Board Review Sites

I don’t mean to pick on this specific “best reviews” site, as there are hundreds of these types, but as you can see, they only seem to list products sold on Amazon. Can you guess why? It’s affiliate revenue. So that tells you this isn’t really a legitimate list of the “best inflatable stand-up paddle boards” because some of the best ISUPs, as many (and perhaps most) of the best iSUPs aren’t even sold on Amazon at all. The next problem is that some of these sites syndicate their “reviews” to legit sites to add more confusion. So you can be looking at a really reputable website and still get a bogus list of the "best paddle boards". It's a confusing landscape in the world of online information. 

How Do You Identify Legit SUP Reviews?

It’s challenging. My advice is to heed the warnings above. Then, I’d recommend you visit their brand website, and then, actually call them on the phone. If it’s a brand sold only on Amazon and you can’t find a website, maybe that’s not really a leading brand or a trustworthy product, regardless of the quantity of Amazon reviews. Going old-school and calling on the phone to purchase something like an inflatable paddle board may seem counter-productive, but it actually helps cut through the scammers. If you can’t get someone on the phone, that’s also a warning sign. Today’s best brands will answer the phone and can speak intelligently about their inflatable paddle boards. You can also Google the brand name, read their press page, and 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-inch-thick inflatable paddle boards. A year later, we came out with the first 8-inch-thick inflatable paddle board. Naish SUP came out with a 6-inch-thick one around the same time as us, but they were a retail-store-only brand, so ours sold for roughly half the price.

be suspect of all paddle board review websites

Prior to these 6-inch-thick iSUPs, all inflatable paddle boards were 4 inches thick and rode through the water like a banana. The simple innovation of increasing the thickness 50% (from 4 inches thick to 6 inches thick) increased the rigidity of the boards 325%. Overnight, inflatable paddle boards were almost as rigid as hard boards. When one of these ISUPs was inflated, most people couldn’t even tell it was an inflatable paddle board by looking at it. Better yet, the boards were portable, easy to store, and nearly indestructible, while hard boards are pretty delicate and easy to damage. Today, inflatable paddle boards have taken over the paddle board market and represent more than 70% of sales.

As one of the first brands selling these 6-inch-thick inflatable paddle boards, Tower Paddle Boards saw great success. As of 2020, we’ve done more than $36 million in sales, and we’re Mark Cuban’s best investment on 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, many not ideal, and the quality is tough to differentiate just by looking at them, so it makes it even harder for consumers to find the best all-around inflatable paddle board 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 the best stand-up paddle board made with great care and quality. Our reviews are real: We even got a glowing review from a leading taste-maker publication for luxury goods, the Robb Report. They placed us on 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 paddle board in the world, ahead of models from leading retail brands Starboard (at $3,399) and Naish SUP (at $2,439). We no longer carry the 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.

Our dedication to quality is 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 that our inflatable paddle boards were singled out as one of the ten most impressive products of the entire Inc. 500 list that year.

Quality + value. Welcome to Tower.

Stephan Aarstol
Founder & CEO
Tower Paddle Boards