What are paddle boards made of? Most paddle boards are made of fiberglass and epoxy resin layers over hollow wood or foam cores. Some cheap SUPs are made of all foam development. Some high-quality SUPs are made of carbon fiber over foam cores.
The materials of a stand-up paddle board will greatly impact the board’s performance, durability, and lifespan, but of course, as well as the price. After decades of SUP construction techniques, there has been a lot of improvements and changes over time.
Today, we will be tackling everything you need to know about SUP board construction. This will give you an idea of which board is perfect for what use and for which target audience.
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Paddle boards are constructed from various types of materials that also affect their quality. Solid boards are typically made from plastic, fiberglass, wood, and carbon fibers. On the other hand, inflatable paddle boards are constructed from tough PVC plastic.
As we have discussed in our previous article, there are a variety of SUP boards depending on which activity it will be used for. Evidently, different kinds of SUP boards will also be made up of varying materials. So what are the materials used for SUP boards?
Most paddle boards are built with one of the following main materials:
- Plastic – one-piece plastic SUPs.
- Foam – soft SUP boards are typically made up of foam with some plastic parts.
- Wood – wood SUP boards with a hollow core wood construction.
- Fiberglass and epoxy resin – fiberglass-reinforced plastic with polyester or epoxy resin over a foam core.
- Carbon Fiber – foam cores surrounded by carbon fiber layers instead of fiberglass.
- PVC and Polycarbonate – PVCs and other synthetic plastics are used in most inflatable SUPs
Paddle Board Construction
There are two major categories of paddleboards: solid and inflatable paddle boards.
- Solid Paddle Boards – Solid SUPs are made from a solid construction board that remains the same for use and transport. It is not foldable or foldable. It can be manufactured with numerous materials which we will tackle below.
- Inflatable Paddle Boards – Inflatable SUPs are made to be more portable and more space-saving. It needs to be inflated to its full size before use and deflated when stored and transported.
The most typical paddle boards available in the market are solid SUPs that look similar to big surfboards. They are usually made up of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam in its core. EPS is then usually coated with a variety of layering materials including woodless-dense, and epoxy materials.
What makes a solid paddleboard light or heavy is the foam core density. The less dense the core is, the lighter the paddleboard is. However, although a lighter paddleboard seems to be a good choice, keep in mind that cores that are not very dense are often less tough and more prone to breakage.
Plastic SUP Construction
Plastic SUPs can be made in two ways: rotomolded SUP and thermoplastic SUP.
Rotomolded SUPs are made by rotating a piece of solid Polyethylene plastic and molding it to the shape of a paddle board. On the other hand, thermoplastic paddle boards are made by molding a Polyethylene plastic shell around a foam or hollow core.
Plastic SUP Construction Advantages and Disadvantages
- Cost – Generally, plastic as raw materials are inexpensive. Compared to other types of paddle boards, they are more affordable.
- Transportation and Storage – Believe it or not, plastic solid SUP are heavier compared to other construction materials which result in more challenges when it comes to transport and portability.
- Durability – Plastic SUPs are resistant and it can take dings and scratches and still perform.
- Weight – As previously said, plastic SUPs are heavier than most paddles board’s material.
- Maneuverability and Speed – Plastic SUPs are slower and less maneuverable than the other boards.
Foam SUP Construction
Foam SUPs are made up of molded foam or a foam-based EPS core entirely coated by wood stringers. Then high-density polyethylene foam is heat laminated to the top and bottom of the core.
Foam SUP Construction Advantages and Disadvantages
- Cost – Foam SUPs cost similar to plastic SUPs, which means they are more inexpensive than most other paddle board material.
- Transportation and Storage – Having a low-density foam core means it is lighter than most SUP materials. They are more portable, however, it will still take up some space in storage.
- Durability – As you can imagine, foam cores can get easily dented, scratched, and in some cases break into chunks. However, the foam core is waterproof and more reliable when it comes to buoyancy.
- Weight – They weigh less than plastic and fiberglass SUPs.
- Maneuverability and Speed – Foam SUPs are less maneuverable than most other paddle boards, but perform better than plastic SUPs. They’re also slower than epoxy SUPs.
Wood Paddle Board Construction
Wooden SUPs are made up of a hollow wooden frame with strips of a variety of woods (such as cedar, pine, paulownia, and cypress) glued together to the frame to create the tops and the bottoms of the board.
The entire board is coated with a layer of fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin to make it waterproof.
Wood SUP Construction Advantages and Disadvantages
- Cost – Since wooden SUPs are often custom-made and more complicated when being constructed, they cost more than most paddle boards.
- Transportation and Storage – With just the wooden frame alone, wood paddle boards are evidently heavier than most paddle boards. Additionally, due to the delicate wooden outer layer, it is more difficult to transport and store safely.
- Durability – Thanks to its fiberglass coating of most wooden SUPs, they are relatively tough and durable. However, once the protective layer is dinged and scratched, it is highly likely for the wooden core to get exposed to water, become wrt and get rotten.
- Weight – High-density woof cores make it heavier than most types of paddle boards.
- Maneuverability and Speed – Wood SUPs are typically smooth and fast.
Wood Sandwich Fiberglass Construction
The wood sandwich is the most convenient method in constructing a fiberglass SUP. It resembles a sandwich because multiple layers of materials are used and stacked up together to form the overall SUP.
Wood sandwich fiberglass is made by using PVC construction in the middle of the board where you stand. This will add strength to the section that carries the most weight. Here are the other layers that are “sandwiched” together to form a wood sandwich fiberglass, from the center going outwards.
Advanced Sandwich Technology (AST) Fiberglass Construction
The main difference between a wood sandwich to AST is the PVC presence. Advanced sandwich constructed paddle boards do not use PVC in their construction. It is constructed by stacking multiple layers of EPS foam core sandwiched in fiberglass, wood, and fiberglass again go over the EPS core on the top and bottom.
Fiberglass SUP Construction Advantages and Disadvantages
- Cost – As discussed above, fiberglass SUP construction would require layering of different raw materials, which means it would need meticulous hand labor. Plus the additional custom colors, it would cost more than the other SUPs.
- Transportation and Storage – Fiberglass boards are typically the heaviest, thus the most difficult to transport and store.
- Durability – Fiberglass SUPs are less durable and can be dented and cracked pretty easily.
- Weight – Fiberglass SUPs are usually heavier than carbon fiber and foam paddle boards.
- Maneuverability and Speed – Fiberglass SUPs has an overall smooth performance and above normal maneuverability.
Carbon fiber SUPs utilizes foam cores with a layer of carbon fiber coating. Some carbon SUPs both use carbon fiber and a fiberglass layer to have a smoother finish. A layer of paint is then applied over the carbon fiber shell to reflect sunlight and keep the SUP board from overheating.
Carbon Fiber SUP Construction Advantages and Disadvantages
- Cost – Carbon fiber material is costly, so carbon fiber reinforced SUPs cost remarkably more than other SUPs made of different materials.
- Transportation and Storage – Because they’re so lightweight, carbon SUPs are easier to carry on the beach. Storing this SUP is a breeze as well.
- Durability – Carbon fiber SUPs are more durable and stiffer than fiberglass. But carbon fiber is easily damaged. It’s relatively brittle and needs to be protected with an outer layer.
- Weight – Carbon boards weigh less because it can be single-layered to reinforce the core and still have the same strength as multiple fiberglass layers.
- Maneuverability and Speed – Carbon fiber SUPs can be easily maneuvered and is remarkably responsive because of their stiffness and lightweight build.
Inflatable Paddle Board Construction
Inflatable paddle boards are made up of 2 layers of polyester fabric drop stitched together with thousands of polyester threads. An airtight layer is coated around the outside surfaces to create the inflatable quality.
The sidewalls are made up of polyester fabric that’s coated on both sides. Finally, the wide-seam tape is glued over each seam to make an air-tight board.
Drop-stitching is the process of stitching two separate layers of fabric with the use of up to 400 individual needles on a machine to sew tens of thousands of fine threads. The sheer number of sewn fine threads allow fabric materials to become very strong and expandable to accommodate the shape of the paddle board.
Due to these multiple layers of fabric and fine threads, it is capable of withstanding high inflation pressures needed to make an inflatable SUP stiff enough to stand and paddle on.
There are two categories of drop-stitched inflatable SUPs: single layer and double layer.
Single Layer Inflatable SUP Boards
Single-layer SUP boards are assembled using one layer of a drop-stitch core that is sewn together and then joined with a layer of PVC material. Compared to a double layer inflatable SUP, single-layer inflatable SUPs are lightweight and more affordable
Double Layer Inflatable SUP Boards
Double-layer inflatable SUP boards have the same drop-stitched core, but this time, the first layer of material is reinforced with another layer of PVC. Double layer SUPs are heavier and harder, but age poorly.
Inflatable SUP Construction Advantages and Disadvantages
- Cost – Depending on quality and type of layering, these SUPs can cost as little as foam and low-end fiberglass boards are as much as high-end fiberglass.
- Transportation and Storage – Since inflatable SUPs can be deflated when not in use, they are relatively portable and more space-saving, perfect for transport and storage.
- Durability – Inflatables are pretty durable when used in light to moderate conditions, but like most inflatable objects, once it is punctured, a repair is needed before using it again.
- Weight – Due to the absence of a solid core, inflatable SUPs are lighter than plastic, fiberglass, and wood paddle boards
- Maneuverability and Speed – Because of a hollowed interior and lightweight, these SUPs are in the mid-range of speed and performance.
The construction of the stand up paddle board of your choice will have an impact on durability, weight, performance, and price, with advantages and disadvantages to each of the constructions. If you would like any advice on what SUP to go for, then feel free to send us an email.