When purchasing a Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP), it’s important that you understand the influence the materials used in the board’s construction will have. Not only will these influence the board’s price, they also affect its handling, durability overall performance, and it’s lifespan. That paddle boards now come in a variety of different sizes and construction methods makes understanding the influence these materials more than a little confusing.
In this article, we have done some extensive research into the construction techniques and the materials used in SUPs to help you understand how your paddle board is made. We also look at the advantages and disadvantages of each of these materials and explore briefly how these materials are used in the most common types of paddle boards and the influence of their overall design.
We are confident that by the time you’re finished reading you will have a greater understanding of paddle board construction, which will help you select the best SUP for your needs.
Common Materials Paddle Boards Are Made Of
As we mentioned previously, there are a variety of different materials used in the construction of paddle boards. Inflatable paddle boards are primarily made from toughened PVC plastics while solid paddle boards feature plastic, fiberglass or wood.
Plastic – is primarily used as a material in the construction of one piece roto molded SUPs
Foam – is the most common material found in softer SUP boards that feature smaller parts constructed of plastic
Wood – a hollow wooden core is sometimes used to construct wood SUP boards. They also use wood veneers in SUP construction.
Epoxy resin and fiberglass – is used in the construction of solid sups they usually make these from layers of epoxy resin polyester and plastic are reinforced fiberglass constructed around a foam core
Carbon Fiber – is used in more high-end SUPs because of its lightweight and solid nature. It is usually used to surround a foam core instead of fiberglass.
They construct inflatable Paddle Boards using Polycarbonates and PVC – are the primary material used in the construction of drop stitch technology used in inflatable SUP construction. We will go into greater detail in a separate section later in the article.
Plastic Paddle Boards
They usually construct plastic SUPs in one of two different ways. Thermoplastics are used to construct a reinforced plastic shell of hard molded PE that is built around either a hollow or foam core. Rotomolded paddle boards are constructed by either molding / rotating a piece of solid polyethylene plastic into a paddle board shape. This more affordable type of paddle board is commonly sold in larger big box retailers such as Walmart or Big 5.
Advantages of plastic SUPs
- Plastic SUPs are usually cheaper, making them more available when compared to most other types of paddle boards on the market.
- This type of SUP is far more tough and durable and can easily take several bumps, scratches and dings and still perform as designed
Disadvantages of plastic SUPs
- The single biggest disadvantage of this type of SUP is that they are more difficult to store and transport. They’re heavier than most other solid SUVs and require space and which to store and transport them.
- These SUPs are far less maneuverable and much slower than most other types because of the construction materials used.
Expert tip – If you’re looking for a beginners board all you have a resort or camp looking for several tough and reliable SUPs then you should a plastic one
Foam Paddle Boards
They use this material in a variety of different ways in the construction of SUPs. For example, you can buy one made entirely of foam and these are very cheap but not very reliable. They primarily used foam as a core. But it is occasionally a polyethylene foam to be laminated instead of glued on top and below a solid core to create soft top paddle boards.
Advantages of Foam
SUPs constructive completely from foam are less expensive, making them more available. You see me then widely sold in cheaper sporting goods stores or even in big box stores.
They’re easier to transport because of their lightweight design may weighing much less than fiberglass or plastic SUVs
Disadvantages of Foam
- They still have the same issue as most solid paddle boards, meaning that you need a lot of space to store them
- The far less durable and more easily dented scratched and even have chunks taken out of them when compared to solid SUPs.
- While they might perform better than solid plastic SUPs, they’re much slower than epoxy coated paddle boards and less maneuverable.
Expert tip – Suitable for anyone who’s new to the world of SUPs and plans to stick more calm bays or on the flat waters of a lake.
Wood Paddle Boards
They construct a hollow core made of wood or a wooden frame, they attach strips of a variety of different wood including Cyprus, Pine, or Cedar by gluing these to the frame to create the bottom or top of the board. They then wrap the entire construction in a layer of epoxy resin and fiberglass cloth to waterproof it.
Advantages of wood SUPs
- That most wooden SUPs are custom made they can design them to perform exactly as you want them to.
- Because you have complete control of the design process, this is probably the easiest way to construct an SUP to look exactly as you want it to.
- If you’re purchasing a fiberglass covered wooden core paddle board, it will remain tough as they wrap the wood an additional layer of protection.
Disadvantages of Wood SUPs
Wooden SUPs are always a custom construction, making them among the most expensive paddle boards on the market
Unless they only construct your SUP from a wooden core, they’re probably the heaviest paddle boards you can purchase, making them more difficult to transport
Expert Tip – if you’re looking for a paddle board that offers you additional speed and maneuverability, then look no further than a custom wood SUV
Fiberglass Paddle Boards
If you were wondering how fiberglass paddle boards are made, they’re constructed over a foam core using expanded polystyrene. They wrap layers of fiberglass around the foam blank(core/0 and they secure these using an epoxy resin. Occasionally a wood veneer is placed over it and it is wrapped again in resin and fiberglass. They sandwich these layers in a fashion to offer the key features of a fiberglass SUP which are durability and strength.
They use fiberglass in the construction of two distinctly different SUPs.
A sandwiched wood construction
The wood sandwich construction method is by far the most common when you’re discussing fiberglass SUVs. One of these sandwich layers is a wood veneer. The wood sandwich construction method usually has a section of PVC in the middle of the board around the area in which you stand. This is the weight-bearing part of the board, and the PVC is used to add additional strength. After they add this other layers alternating between veneer wood and fiberglass. Some manufacturers will also add stringers these are strips that are used to reinforce the paddle board they usually run end-to-end and can be made from anything from carbon to wood.
The different Wooden Sandwich Fiberglass layers
- EPS Core Blank
- Wood Veneer
- More Fiberglass
An advanced sandwich fiberglass construction or AST
The key difference between an AST and a wood sandwich construction is that they do not use any PVC. They use the same layered construction method as used in wood sandwich boards, but it’s built around a foam core of EPS. This is then used to sandwich layers of wood and fiberglass repeatedly on top and bottom of the core.
The different AST Layers
- An EPS Core Blank
- There’s a fiberglass are laid with and lengthwise
- They add a wooden veneer to the standing area instead of PVC
- They run lengthwise additional layers of fiberglass to give it more strength, and one of the key differences is that no stringers are needed and this type of construction
Advantages of Fiberglass
They are usually lighter than most other SUPs are carbon fiber-based SUPs
they’re much more maneuverable and faster than the vast majority of SUPs
Disadvantages of Fiberglass
Because of the hands on nature of this construction method it requires more custom labor and painting and because of this they are more expensive. They’re less freely available and usually sold in custom sporting goods stores or by specialized online retailers.
If not carefully transported, they can easily crack and ding so that because they’re less durable
Expert tip – if you are interested in becoming a more serious paddle border and you want to get involved in Long distance racing or surfing then you should consider a fiberglass SUP
Carbon Fiber Paddle Boards
Constructed primarily around a foam core, carbon fiber is used to layer the SUP instead of fiberglass. It’s not unusual to have a finishing fiberglass layer laid on top of a predominance of carbon fiber layers this makes it easier to sand and smooth the board to a better finish. Finally, the latter layer of paint to prevent the carbon fiber in the board from overheating as it helps it reflect sunlight.
Advantages of Carbon Fiber
- Because of their lightweight design they’re much easier to carry and handle on the water, so storing them and transporting them is far more convenient
- Because of their lightweight design and extra stiff nature, carbon fiber SUPs are far more responsive and maneuverable and also faster than all other SUPs
Disadvantages of Carbon Fiber
- As you can probably guess carbon fiber is not cheap and it’s a consequence if you’re considering purchasing a carbon fiber reinforced to send a paddle board they’re usually only available in custom fitting paddle board shops our specialist online retailers.
- Carbon fiber is also much stiffer and stronger than fiberglass however it remains relatively brittle and if not protected correctly and its outer layer maintained it is subject to damage
Expert Tip – Because of the additional expense involved in purchasing a carbon fiber SUP, it’s really only suitable for a serious paddle boarders such as those involved in racing
Paddle Board Types and Materials
When people ask me “What are paddle boards made of?”, I have to discuss the two main types of boards available. Although there are a wide variety of materials used in the construction of sups for buying them, you usually choose from just two types.
Solid Paddle Boards: the word solid is used to describe the construction method. Regardless of the materials used, you will end up with a solid one piece board that requires the same storage transport and offers the same basic usage.
Inflatable Paddle Boards: These are exactly what you think they use air to inflate to its full size, meaning when it’s deflated it’s easier to transport and store
How Are Solid Paddle Boards Constructed?
The most common type of paddle boards appear on the surface nearly identical to large surfboards they’re solid and the vast majority of them use similar materials. The most common are built around an EPS (expanded polystyrene foam) also commonly referred to as a blank.
This core then wrapped in one material listed above such as epoxy, fiberglass or PVC these offer a greater level of durability and strength. It’s the density of the foam core that decides whether paddle boards are heavy or light. A lighter, less dense foam will make your SUP easier to carry, but these form cores aren’t very tough, so the board itself will be less durable.
Because of this, the more durable layers you use around the foam core the better. As you mentioned previously, the most common materials used are carbon fiber wood, solid plastic and foam.
How Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Constructed?
Many people ask me what they make inflatable paddle boards of. I know the primary construction method used in infant Facebook paddle boards as drop stitching. This construction method is used to tie too strong layers of polyester fabric together using thousands of threads of polyester. Over this is added an airtight coating to completely surround the inner top Stitch layer. They didn’t hide a thicker layer of polyester fabric finally the last layer is effectively a wide seam tape that is added over any visible seem to make them bored airtight.
What is Drop-Stitching?
To put it simply as possible drop stitching is a process by which they have attached over 400 needles to a specifically designed machine that can swiftly and efficiently so thousands of threads between two specific layers of fabric
The result is an extremely durable and flexible core that is joined and remains strong, but when inflated and contracts it can create the shape of a paddle board. Define design can deal with the high pressure needed to inflate the SUP but also to keep it solid enough to safely paddle and stand on.
Inflatable SUV boards usually come in two types :
A single layer inflatable
They construct this type of SUP using a single layer that has been drop stitched and joined to a layer of PPC material. Because of the lower level of complexity and materials used, these SUPs are more affordable and lightweight.
A double layered SUP
When constructing a double layered inflatable SUP, they reinforce the first layer of the board using an additional layer of PVC. This edition makes the board harder and heavier however, while they may remain more rigid, they have a tendency to degrade faster.
Advantages of inflatable SUPs
- inflatable SUPs are cheap costing even as little as a foam SUP however you will compromise on quality
- Easy storage and transportation. Because they can reduce to a fraction of their inflatable size, making them much easier to transport and store.
- Lighter Board, they’re going to be much lighter than any wooden fiberglass or plastic board.
Disadvantages of inflatable SUPs
- The vast majority of these inflatables if used in light conditions remain pretty durable however they will be useless ones punctured while paddling until you patch them.
- Because they’re inflatable and light nature, the only offer a mid-range with performance and speed
Expert tips: if you’re looking to purchase an inflatable paddle board these are perfect for touring or even White Water but not ideal for surfing because of the round edge
How Are The Best Paddle Boards Made?
Using 3D to make SUPs
Much of the design process used in the construction of SUPs is learned from the surfboard industry. Following the years that this industry spent in trial and error to perfect their manufacturing processes, this has advanced the evolution of SUP manufacturing, meaning that much of the mistakes made could easily be avoided. Already we see paddle boards coming onto the market that are using far more efficient construction methods that have been aided by the development of the surfboard industry. Today many manufacturers are using 3D technology to construct paddle boards.
What are the advantages of 3D SUPs
- 3D graphics have allowed manufacturers and designers to skip much of the most troublesome part of constructing traditional paddle boards. Computer aided design can now help test the performance buoyancy and seawardiness of a SUP before it’s ever put through the manufacturing process.
- 3D technology allows the manufacturing process to be far more precise, making it much more cost-effective and efficient. Using 3D technology manufacturers of stand-up paddle boards can now operate with far more efficiency, reducing the overall cost of construction. They can now listen to customers’ needs and feedback and make adjustments to boards instantaneously every board can be created custom boards much more easily.
Do hand shaped SUPs still have a place in the industry
Despite the advances in technology, the more labor intensive slower and older method of creating a /SUPs are still popular. Many people still want custom-made and independently constructed paddle boards, and these can only be sourced from independent experts. If you are in the market for a high-end SUP that will be custom fit to your needs and then buying a hand-shaped SUP is still an option.
Should I Buy A Solid Paddle Board Or An Inflatable Paddle Board?
Now that you understand the question “what are paddle boards made of?”, you still have an important decision to make. Whether to buy an inflatable or a solid SUP.
Reasons to buy a solid SUP?
As we’ve already covered, you can purchase a solid SUP made from a variety of materials including wood, plastics, kevlar, fiberglass and foam they offer more high-end performance, especially when reinforce for epoxy fiberglass.
Advantages of a Solid SUP include
- High-end performance, especially in choppier conditions
- Far more stable in stronger winds
- You don’t have to wait for them to inflate you can hit the water straight away
The reasons to buy an Inflatable SUP
Now you understand the manufacturing process involved in an inflatable paddle board. How fibers are interwoven with PVC plastics to create a safe and rigid paddle board once inflicted.
Advantages of an inflatable SUP
- They’re more affordable than most solid SUVs
- If the location you want to paddle is not with an easy reach of your car, then an inflatable SUP makes your life easier
- You can travel virtually anywhere once you pay the transport costs.
- They’re lightweight and can easily be transported or stored even in the backpack
We hope this article on what our paddle boards made of would make your life easier when looking to purchase your first or even your next SUP