What is the Best Material for a SUP Paddle
Carbon fiber is the best material for a SUP paddle. Stiff, strong and very light, this material has the properties that paddle makers want.
WHAT IS CARBON FIBER
Carbon fiber also known as graphite fiber is a polymer. It’s made of thin, strong crystalline filaments of carbon that is used to strengthen material. Carbon fiber can be thinner than a strand of human hair and gets its strength when twisted together like yarn. Then it can be woven together to form cloth and if needed to take a permanent shape, carbon fiber can be laid over a mold and coated in resin or plastic.
It’s five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff. This gives it an incredibly low weight to strength ratio.
THE TYPE OF CARBON FIBER USED IN SUP PADDLES
Carbon fiber SUP paddles are made by laying and pressing carbon fiber fabric over a mold then coating it in resin.
One of the differentiating factors of carbon fiber SUP paddles is the grade of fabric used. The two most common grades of carbon fabric used in paddles are 3K and 12K. 3K means there are 3000 carbon filaments in a strand (tow). 12K means that there are 12,000 carbon filaments in a strand.
3K carbon fiber is the workhorse of carbon fibers. It's light, relatively stiff, and has a higher elongation to failure and better strength than 6K, 9K or 12K. 3K fabric has a smaller bundle of fibers, which means thinner fabric and filament wound tubes can be produced.
12K carbon fiber is cheaper than the others. Many brands use this fabric to keep their costs low. 12K is easier and cheaper to produce as it only takes 1 layer instead of three. 12K fibers are not always preferred, as they have a big and robust look. By definition, the larger the weave, the stiffer and heavier it is. 12K carbon fiber has higher tensile strength than 3K fabric but is less flexible.
The best carbon fiber SUP paddles use 3K fabric.
BENEFITS OF CARBON FIBER PADDLES
Many SUP paddle options exist. Prices range from as little as $40 to more than $400. Most of the price variation is due to the materials used to build the paddles.
Paddles made from aluminum and plastic are inexpensive but they are also heavy. The lighter and stronger the SUP paddle, the more expensive it will be. That’s why, carbon fiber SUP paddles are the most expensive in the marketplace. They have the best strength to weight ratio of all paddles, and as a paddler, that’s what you want.
A carbon fiber paddle lessens the loss of energy transfer during the stroke. The strength of carbon fiber will let your paddle handle the power of the waves and tides without breaking.
Most importantly, the lightness of carbon fiber, is the greatest benefit to paddlers. Paddlers will take hundreds if not thousands of strokes during a paddle session. A lightweight paddle makes paddling easier and extends the strength and range of the paddler. A carbon fiber paddle weighs about 2 lbs or 900 grams. Cheaper paddles made from inferior materials are heavier by pounds, not grams. A paddle that weighs two pounds heavier doesn’t seem like much, but after 100 strokes, the difference is noticeable.
There is no doubt that the best choice for a SUP paddle is carbon fiber. Yes, it costs more, but the benefits greatly outweigh the costs.
What Type of Paddle Board is Best for Beginners?
The explosion in popularity for stand up paddle boarding led to massive growth in paddle board brands over the last 10 years. New technologies were developed and paddle boards could be purchased for as little as $300 to more than $3000. In a world where there seems to be endless paddle board options, a common question from shoppers is “What type of paddle board is best for beginners?”.
The best paddle board for beginners is a hard paddle board in an All-Around style.
THE BENEFITS OF HARD PADDLE BOARDS
Hard paddle boards are exactly that – HARD. When you’re on the water standing on a hard paddle board, it will feel as rigid as cement. This rigidity makes it easier for a beginner paddler to stand and maintain balance. Inflatable paddle boards on the other hand are filled with air. If not inflated properly, they will sag and offer less rigidity and stability to the paddler.
Beginners are also affected by a paddle board’s bottom. Inflatable paddle boards have a flat bottom which is good for flat and glassy water. However, with any waves or water chop, flat bottoms become unstable. Beginner paddlers enjoy stability which hard paddle board bottoms offers. Hard paddle boards can have their bottoms shaped into concaves. Concaves allows for better water flow and better board stability. These types of bottoms are only available on hard boards. It is impossible to inflate a concave shape.
ALL AROUND STYLE
Now that it’s been determined that hard paddle boards are best for beginners, the next part of the answer is to determine which paddle board shape is best for beginners.
Beginners should use an All-Around style of paddle board. All around styles are relatively wide. Averaging 32” in width, they offer strong stability and plenty of space for beginners to get comfortable on the board.
The All-Around style is designed to perform all paddle boarding types, which is exactly what beginners want. At first, simply getting up and cruising is every new paddler’s goal. However, once basic stability is conquered, a paddler might want to try catching a couple of small waves, or going for a tour across the lake. All Around paddle boards enable the beginner try and do it all. This style of board is welcome in every paddler’s collection, and should be the chosen style of every first-time owner.
Beginners who use an All-Around hard paddle board will have a better experience than the beginner using an inflatable. Hard boards offer better stability and rigidity, and they flow over the water better than an inflatable. The All-Around style offers plenty of width for balance and. To start off on the right foot, beginners to paddle boarding have the best chance of success on a hard paddle board in an All-Around style.
What is the Difference Between a SUP and a Paddle Board?
So, just what is the difference between a SUP and a paddle board? The short answer is NOTHING. The anacronym “SUP” means “Stand Up Paddleboard”.
The long answer to the question is that the term “SUP” can have multiple meanings, but they all relate to the sport of paddle boarding.
THE DEFINITIONS OF SUP
SUP as a Product
As a noun, the term “SUP” is a synonym to “paddle board”. It is an anacronym like LASER and represents the words Stand Up Paddleboard.
Example: “I am going to the surf shop to buy a SUP.”
SUP as an Activity
The term SUP is also used to describe the activity of stand up paddle boarding.
Example: “Do you want to go for a SUP this weekend?”
SUP as an Action
“SUP” can also be used as a verb.
Example: “I’m SUPing to Jim’s cottage across the lake.”
When you hear or read the term “SUP” you know that paddle boarding is involved. It may refer to a board, the sport or even the act of going paddle boarding. Context is important. Rest assured, when a people are shopping to purchase a SUP or a paddle board, they are shopping for the exact same thing.
5 Reasons Hard Paddle Boards Are Better
Anyone shopping for a paddle board, have asked themselves if hard paddle boards are better than inflatables. Hard boards are more expensive than inflatables, so they have to be better. Right?
Yes, hard paddle boards are better than inflatables. They are superior to inflatables in everything that makes a paddle board important. The only thing that an inflatable beats a hard paddle board at is price. If you only have $300 and want a new paddle board, then an inflatable is for you. Otherwise, shoppers should stick to hard paddle boards. Here’s why.
Inflatable paddle boards are dangerous. In 2022, government consumer protection agencies from the United States and United Kingdom issued three recalls for inflatable paddle boards.
The recalls were issued due to a sudden risk of drowning. The seams of inflatables may suddenly split causing the board to rapidly deflate and sink to the bottom. The glue holding the seams together gives out.
Every inflatable paddle board is held together by glue, and the paddler depends on that glue to stay afloat.
Hard paddle boards aren’t held together with glue. Built from either plastic, epoxy/fiberglass or carbon fiber. A hard paddle board will never suddenly sink to the bottom. It could split in half and still provide support to the paddler. Hard boards have a foam core that offers permanent support. Inflatables have a balloon like air core that offers temporary support.
Every inflatable paddle board strives to be as stiff as a hard paddle board. That’s the whole point of inflatable paddle board technology. It’s trying to duplicate the hard paddle board experience.
A stiff paddle board is a key fundamental to its functionality. Stiffness is what enables a paddler to stand easily on a board, and is directly related to a paddle boards stability. Afterall, it’s easier to stand on a floor than it is a mattress on a bed. Stiffness, also affects how a paddle board moves through the water. A boat moves through the water easier than an inflatable dinghy.
When it comes to paddle board stiffness, hard paddle boards are the standard. Simple as that.
WHICH SURFACE PROVIDES BETTER STABILITY?
EASE OF USE
It’s much easier to use a hard paddle board than an inflatable. Hard paddle boards are instantly ready to hit the water! Take it off the roof rack or out of its storage spot at the cottage and you’re ready to go. At the end of the day, it takes two minutes to strap the board to the rack or return it to its storage spot.
Inflatables on the other hand, don’t have it so good. To start the paddling day, the board has to be unpacked, unrolled, inflated, checked for leaks, checked for proper pressure. Once all that’s done, the paddler can finally get to the water.
At the end of the day, the inflatable has to be dried, deflated, folded, rolled and repacked. By the time that happens, the hard board owner is already gone.
Glide can be described as the ease that a paddle board travels through the water. Paddle boards with good glide will travel further on the same energy than ones with poor glide. A paddle board’s glide is largely determined by the shape of its bottom.
Hard paddle boards typically have a concave or double concave bottom. Concaves helps to channel the water as from the nose to the tail as the board travels. This helps to increase speed and lift. Concave bottoms improve board performance and the paddling experience.
Inflatable paddle boards have a flat bottom and are incapable of being concaved. Flat bottoms can be fast and provide good stability provided that the water surface is calm and glassy. Once the water gets choppy, flat bottoms become very unstable and slow.
Again, hard paddle boards prove that they are better than inflatables. The flat bottom of the inflatable is fine close to the shore, or when the water is perfect. However, in the vast majority of conditions, the concaves provided by hard paddle boards will make for a better experience. Not only will paddlers experience better lift and speed, they will be able to paddle in choppy conditions, and will have the option to paddle as from shore as they desire. Hard paddle boards can easily handle open ocean environments.
Inflatables seem appealing because you can just throw it into the trunk of your car when you want to go paddling. That’s a great idea if you have a full size SUV, or a truck, but if you have a car, then the inflatable isn’t looking so good. A typical inflatable storage pack is more than three feet long, almost two feet wide and just over one foot tall. That’s takes up a lot of space in a vehicle.
People have even been known to purchase a roof rack and cargo box to either carrier the inflatable, or the other stuff required for a day of beach fun. For many people, the point of getting an inflatable was to avoid the investment into the roof rack. If paddlers are prepared to get a roof rack to help transport everything they need, they should get the superior hard paddle board to strap to the rack. Save space in the vehicle to transport other stuff and save money by not purchasing the cargo box in the first place.
While inflatables may seem like a good idea and a great value, they aren’t. They don’t offer as good a paddling experience as hard paddle boards, and they too have their own transport issues. Most importantly, inflatable paddle boards do not offer the safety of a hard paddle board. An increased risk of drowning is directly connected to inflatable paddle boards. This risk does not exist with hard boards. So, why would anyone take the risk and purchase an inflatable?
Inflatable Paddle Boards Are Dangerous
The case against inflatable paddle boards continues to build. For the third time in 2022, a federal government consumer protection agency has issued a recall for inflatable paddle boards.
On December 29th, 2022, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall for Body Glove and ULI inflatable paddle boards sold at Costco due to Risk of Drowning.
This recall continues to add evidence to the case that inflatable paddle boards are dangerous. In July and August of 2022, the UK Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standard issued two recalls for inflatable paddle boards.
The commonality for all three recalls is the seams. The seams of inflatable paddle boards can suddenly separate, causing it to deflate rapidly. This is a drowning hazard.
WHY INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS ARE DANGEROUS
Inflatable paddle boards are held together by glue. Yes, you read that correctly… GLUE.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a $300 or $1800 SUP, glue is what holds every inflatable paddle board together. If the glue gives out and a seam splits, what was once a solid surface, may quickly deflate and become as supportive and buoyant as a plastic garbage bag in the water.
That’s what makes inflatable paddle boards dangerous. There is always a chance that the seams may split at any time. It might not be a big deal if the paddler is close to shore. However, it doesn’t take long to paddle further from shore than swimming to safety would allow.
The simple fact of the matter is that paddlers of inflatables place their faith in GLUE. If the paddler is to far from shore when the seams split and the inflatable sinks unexpectantly, she is at risk of drowning.
The risk of drowning by having your board suddenly deflate simply does not exist with hard paddle boards. Hard paddle boards are not held together by glue and don’t need to be inflated with air to remain buoyant. Concerns about seams splitting and the board rapidly sinking to the bottom don’t exist. Hard boards have a foam core that will always provide buoyancy to the paddler. Even if a hard board split in half, it would provide assistance and buoyancy to the paddler as she makes her way to shore.
Paddle boarding is a great sport. It builds muscle and is excellent for improving balance and cardio vascular strength. As a watersport, it is also inherently dangerous. For safety, paddlers must wear a leash to stay connected to the board at all times. A PFD is a must for those who aren’t strong swimmers. After these recalls, a new aspect of paddle board safety is to stay away from inflatable SUPs.
The Wappa Blog
Written by Wappa's founder Layne Pennell, the blog's aim is to educate and share his love of stand up paddle boarding with anyone interested in SUP.
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