What's the Difference? Paddle Board Construction Facts

What You Should Know About Paddle Board Construction

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) offers such a variety of activities that there’s a paddle board to fit everyone. However, the many choices in sizes, designs, and construction materials can be overwhelming. To help you choose a SUP that’s right for you, here’s what you should know about SUP construction. In summary, paddle boards are either traditional hard, lightweight boards with foam cores similar to surf boards or inflatable paddle boards manufactured with durable vinyl outer layers and rigid drop-stitch interiors.

Solid SUPs

Traditional SUPs are solid boards constructed of an EPS (Expanded Polystyrene Foam) core that is shaped and then wrapped in layers of materials including fiberglass with an epoxy resin finish for strength and durability. The dense foam core is what makes a SUP board lightweight, and the fiberglass and epoxy outer layers make the SUP waterproof and durable. Recent technology advancements now include a thermoplastic hard molded PE plastic shell around the foam core. The thermoplastic shell is extremely durable as it can withstand dings and scratches.

The advantages of solid SUPs are that they are easy to handle, are highly maneuverable, and provide excellent glide through the water and waves. This type of construction is ideal for recreational paddling, SUP racing, and long distance expeditions. Those who want to paddle in flatwater such as lakes, ponds, marshes, and quiet bays as well as rougher ocean or river water enjoy solid SUPs.

Inflatable SUPs

In contrast, how are inflatable paddle boards made? To manufacture an inflatable paddle board, a process called drop stitching is used whereby two layers of fabric are stitched together with thousands of polyester threads. Next, an air-tight PVC vinyl coating is applied over the outside surface, side walls with coated polyester material is added, and wide-seam tape is glued over the seams. This process creates an air-tight board that is able to withstand very high inflation pressures necessary to make the board as rigid as a basketball and buoyant to stand on. It also creates a very durable product as the outside layers utilize military grade PVC.


The advantages of inflatable SUPs are that when deflated they roll up like a sleeping bag and are easy to transport and store. All you need is a hand pump and you can take it anywhere. These types of SUPs are ideal for beginners or experts and are extremely versatile, so they are for anyone looking for a SUP that's easy to carry and store. Those who plan to paddle on flatwater conditions found in lakes, bays, and harbors will enjoy iSUPs.


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