Every spring, Costco stocks a number of paddleboards for sale. Paddle boards have been a recurring element in Costco spring range for quite a few years now. As always with low-cost stores and chains of stores, there is an excellent reason to question how good these boards really are.
So, are the paddleboards sold at Costco any good? Yes, indeed they are. The boards sold at Costco are comparable to other boards. Costco has a number of different paddleboards on offer, some of them even offer innovative technology to boot.
All in all, Costco sells eight paddleboards. From low-cost boards to a four-person inflatable. Keeping true to the warehouse club idea that was the original concept behind Costco, they offer these boards at very low prices. Today we will go over the boards on sale at Costco and see what it is they offer. For those of you who can’t visit a local Costco, I’ve listed online ordering alternatives similar to each Costco board.
Costco is also often out of boards online and in-store. If you find that to be the case, check out the iRocker Nautical or the review of inexpensive boards. Finally, Decathlon competes directly with Costco on price and has a slightly better reputation. With the current shortage of boards and the high backed up demand, you may need to check several sources to get a board in 2020.
Costco the preeminent company of selling lots of stuff at low prices in a warehouse. They were the first and are still one of the major actors in this industry. Costco buys the goods they sell at cheap wholesale prices and deliver some of these reductions to their customers.
Costco has added some paddleboards to their spring lineup of hobby equipment.
Reading reviews on Costco products online can, unfortunately, be quite difficult. Their strong market share of paddleboarding beginners leads to many reviews made without greater insight into the hobby. Many reviews state “I like it” and most will enjoy the hobby, so this is not strange. That statement is in turn, followed by the repetition of Costco marketing material.
This tendency to repeat advertising wording leads to some rather blatant errors. One review stated that a foam board is more durable than a fibreglass board, which of course is not true. Another stated that a particular kind of inflatable board was special and extra-durable since it was made with the drop-stitch method. All inflatable boards are made with drop-stitch, so quite misleading.
We will continue with a general overview of the boards offered by Costco and some details about them.
Costco has two entry-level boards, the Wavestorm and the Lifetime Horizon. Both of these boards are made using two techniques of construction that are not generally used for anything but entry-level boards, so they should compare well.
Costco entry-level boards
- Lifetime Hardshell
In the middle price-range at Costco, we wind three inflatables, two all-round boards and one intended for yoga.
Costco intermediate boards
- Body Glove Performer
- Body Glove Oasis
- Hyperlight Admiral
In the high price range at Costco, we find two fiberglass boards. Naturally, given that Costco is a low-price store, their most expensive boards are not really that expensive!
- Scott Burke
- Hyperlite Alki
Costco also sells the Body Glove Crusader, a 4-person SUP.
So, let’s go over these boards and see if they are any good!
The Wavestorm brand comprises Costco’s entry-level budget board. The manufacturer of Wavestorm retails these boards exclusively through Costco and typical in-store only. For those of you who need to purchase an inexpensive board online, consider the Fbsport Premium 10’ SUP from Amazon in 5 beautiful blue color schemes or the Maxcare 10’ board with 330 pound capacity.
Wavestorm is a pure foam board with a soft-top. That is created using foam, expanded styrofoam to be exact. This is the most common core material for the core of fiberglass paddleboards and surfboards. The difference is that instead of covering the core with fiberglass and resin, it is covered on the bottom in an HDPE plastic skin and a grip enabling proprietary skin called IXL on the top.
This is indeed a very interesting construction for the budget market. It is very cheap to build this way it makes the hobby very accessible to new paddlers. The drawback is, of course, durability.
The construction itself is mechanically very good. The board is stiff and does very well in the water. The core material is, however, very sensitive to leaks. Expanded styrofoam acts like a wick and one small hole in the top or bottom skin will ruin the board. The operative word is will. One leak and that’s it!
There are some reviews out there of these boards breaking, and several people say it’s a bad board for this reason. The base construction of the board is outstanding. Unless you go hurtling down some river rapids or surf beach breaks (dangerous stuff), the board won’t break. But if there is a leak, the leak will pull water in, and the water will weaken the board and crack, broken board.
There are also some reviews that call this type of board “More durable than a fiberglass SUP”, which of course is absolute nonsense. A soft foam board without a skin is less durable than a Wavestorm. All other boards are more durable than a Wavestorm. Fiberglass SUPs may get dings and scratches, but they can be fixed.
Unfortunately, some of the stats for the board are also quite a bit overstated. This is, of course, very common in the low-price market in general. The number one overstatement made is the carrying capacity of the board. It is listed at both Wavestorm and Costco as 275 lbs.
Looking on Wavestorms own website we can see that the volume of the board is only 195 liters. The low volume is not as strange as the board is only 9’6” long. For a beginner board, this is an overstatement of carrying capacity by 80 lbs. Remember a beginner board can carry 1 pound of weight per 1 liter of volume.
This is, of course, very unfortunate as the market power of Costco has made the Wavestorm the number one paddleboard for new users. For riders over 195 pounds, it will not offer a stable beginner paddle platform to learn on.
If you weight less than 195 lbs, however, the Wavestorm is an excellent intro to the hobby. Take extra care not to scratch or ding the board and stay away from sharp things, and it will last a good long while as well.
Wavestorm behaves more like a solid board than an inflatable. If you get used to it, you will probably not want to go for an inflatable later. It is a very cost-effective way to get into things like surfing and yoga where the added rigidity will pay off in your experience.
- Behaves like a hard board
- Very cheap
- Not very durable
- Overstated capacity
Lifetime Horizon – Hardshell
The Lifetime Horizon is another less common construction, only seen in budget boards. It is made out of HDPE plastic, High-Density Poly Ethylene. This construction is very common for small canoes and kayaks. Specifically for the highly manoeuvrable kayaks intended for use in river rapids.
This board fits very well in it’s the price range. It is a very practical board with features like retractable fins and camera mounts.
A somewhat alarming fact is that neither Costco or the manufacturer lists the volume of the board (anywhere). Since Costco overstated the carrying capacity of the Wavestorm, this leads me to be a bit suspicious of this other board with no specs.
The board has an unusual bottom profile. It looks like a combination of a trimaran and a planing hull. I think this is due to the material or perhaps a leftover from kayaks, which the manufacturer has long experience with. The board is also very thick at 7.5 inches. Since the bottom profile is neither a planing hull or a displacement hull, this does not really mean that much. It’s not 7.5 inches everywhere.
But because of the height, the Board is not recommended for yoga. It will work, but this thick board will interfere with balance for Yoga exercises.
The plastic shell also makes it very durable. Where the Wavestorm is the other way around, this board can take a beating. Well, at least theoretically. These plastic boards are probably the most durable of all paddleboards around. They pay for this durability with added weight and are generally heavier than most other paddleboards.
The horizon is a great starter board for someone who wants a more durable board and are looking to do things like river paddling with their board. Beware though that it is a hard board and falling on it may hurt.
- Very Durable
- Lots of features
- Hard surface
- The volume of the board is not listed
All that being said, the Wavestorm and Horizon are the budget line. So let us move on to the more mid-market boards they offer.
Body Glove Performer
The Body Glove performer is an 11-foot all-round inflatable. Body Glove is a brand name that has been around the water and water sports scene for a while. If Costco or Amazon Body Glove boards are out of stock, consider this Connelly Drifter from Redshift Watersports.
The Performer has a hybrid, or at least an attempt at hybrid, hull design. The production method for inflatable paddleboard does not allow a lot of shaping of the hull. The hull on the performer looks a bit like a displacement hull. The intention is for the board to track better than other inflatables and judging by some reviews; it seems like it is working.
A drawback is that all the fins on the board are fixed and small. This goes a bit counter to the hull design as a bigger center fin might have helped the tracking even further. With the small center fin, a lot that was gained in the hull design is lost.
It comes in a complete kit with all the accessories you would expect. The pump gauge on the pump is not the best quality. It indicates that the board is “green” from 12-15 psi. Keep pumping to 15 as this is necessary for an optimal experience! A feature of the pump is that it is both single and double pumping. This is very practical as you can start pumping with dual action, for quick filling, and do the hard work up to 15 psi with the single action.
The hose connection on the board is, unfortunately, a bit tricky and several reviews mention this. While pumping, the hose does tend to come off. It can be fixed by wrapping plumbers tape around the attachment point 2-4 times.
Body glove Oasis
This is Costco’s only purpose-built paddleboard. It is a board designed with yoga in mind, pink packaging and all!
The board is 10 feet long and 34 inches wide. Very good for a yoga board. The whole deck is covered in a traction pad.
Contrary to convention, this board does not have a carry handle. At least not a normal one. The board has velcro straps that attaches around the paddle so that the paddle itself becomes a handle. This is a very nice feature since when performing yoga on aboard a center placed carry handle has a big tendency to get in the way. The center of the board is where you want to center your weight when doing yoga, so this is very nice.
The latter feature is standard on most modern yoga boards, but it shows that this board lives up to its name. For anyone not near a Costco, this wide-platform stable Connelly Nava is designed for yoga. Check out that Redshift Watersports link for specs and price. The BlueFin Aura at 10’ 8” still provides a wide platform for yoga but is long enough for better general purpose use, as well. Check out the BlueFin Aura on Bluefin’s direct site.
Hyperlight is a company that has a long history in making wake-boards, something they are well known for.
The Admiral is a big inflatable board. It’s 11 feet long and 34 inches wide. This is a very stable board for activities like fishing and camping trips and will keep most people afloat. Well, most people and their gear and the odd fish afloat.
The big rocker that is bend in the board helps on rougher waters as well making this board a very nice beginner board for people who are on the heavy side or want to bring things, pets, kids or partners with them on the water.
The board does not have double welded PVC walls, which is a serious drawback, and there are no reinforcements of the side walls. The latter is not so big a problem unless you do a lot of river rafting. You might want to keep an eye on those fish hooks though.
Apart from this, the Admiral is a well proportioned and functional board.
- Big and Stable board
- Single wall PVC construction
This is an 11-foot long fiberglass board, and it is cheap. This is about as cheap as they come. At the time of this review, it is out of stock online at Costco and Amazon. Perhaps a local store will carry it, or recheck the link frequently.
The quality problems that were evident in the Admiral board from Hyperlite seems to have found their way into their Alki board as well.
The Alki is covered with what is called DuraShell on the outside of the epoxy on the board. This covering seems, from several reviews, to be very sensitive to scratches. Epoxy boards are often sensitive to scratching, but the Alki seems to quite a bit worse.
Perhaps the producer of the boards, Hyperlite, might have overextended themselves in making the switch to paddleboards.
That being said, it is a fiberglass board. It handles itself, the water and waves like a fiberglass board should. This is where paddleboarding comes from, and the Alki shines in-water performance.
- One of the absolutely cheapest fiberglass boards available
- All the pros of a fiberglass board
- Sensitive finish leading to easy scratches on the surface
To finish the list off, we go to the Scott Burke 10’6” fiberglass board, or almost fiberglass board. Besides Costco, this board is also sold on Amazon. It is currently out of stock online both places, so keep checking back.
If the Alki was one of the cheapest, this is the most inexpensive fiberglass board out there. Unfortunately, it is not a true fiberglass board. The board is a fiberglass board, but its outer covering is ABS plastic.
This board will not glide like a real fiberglass board, but it can take a proper beating. The combination of the EPS core, fiberglass and hard plastic is very durable.
It is a bit unfortunate that Costco’s marketing implies that it is a fiberglass board when it is not really. It is cheaper than the Alki, and the durability well justifies the price tag. Or lack of price tag, we are still talking Costco here.
It is a light construction as the outer layers of epoxy is normally what weighs the most in a fiberglass board. But since we have the plastic instead, it is very light.
The board is built by Keeper Sports Store that has a wide experience in surfboards and paddle boards. This is a quality board that will give you a lot of fun before it dies, and that will take a while!
When we talk about price, which is Costco’s thing, after all, Costco is cheap, very cheap, and the boards are not bad. All these boards are consistently priced in the low range of similar boards. The Wavestorm and the Horizon, the two cheapest boards, are sold in a package of two boards at about the price of one.
Many of the drawbacks and flaws listed for the boards are not really that serious. With the low-price point and the generous Costco return policy, these drawbacks seem a lot less serious.
You will have fun on them regardless of the price.
The only boards that are missing from Costco’s offerings are the high end touring and racing boards. These are and will be the most expensive boards and are probably outside of what Costco considers their price range.
Costco does indeed offer a way into the hobby that is a bit lighter on the wallet.
Other helpful resources on this site
If you are new to paddleboarding, you should start with my easy to read and thorough Beginner’s Guide to Paddle Boarding with video, images and some startup equipment recommendations.
You may enjoy learning about fishing from your paddle board and how to set it up properly. If you aren’t sure where you can paddle board, check out the post answering exactly that question.
Once you’ve gained some experience, try the challenging but physically rewarding practice of paddle board yoga.
Advanced boarders can read all about surfing with a standup paddle board here with helpful videos and specific board types better for surfing. Depending on your paddle board use, you may want to learn about choosing and changing fins.
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