Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Better Than Fiberglass?
Fiberglass paddle boards are better than inflatable paddle boards. In fact, inflatable paddle boards strive to be as good as fiberglass boards. Like everything, you get what you pay for, and there are several reasons why fiberglass paddle boards are superior to inflatables.
The technology that goes into building a paddle board is a primary factor in a board’s price. The better the technology and materials, the better quality the paddle board and the more expensive the price.
As a general rule, Inflatable paddle boards are less expensive than their fiberglass siblings. The reason for this is that they are easier to build, and are made with less expensive materials. Inflatables are simple a sheet of polypropylene that is stitched and glued together to form a paddle board shaped bag that holds air. No matter how inflatable paddle board companies present their technology, it all boils down to it being a plastic bag containing air.
The technology of fiberglass paddle boards is more complicated. All fiberglass paddle boards start around a solid foam core and then layer different materials such as fiberglass and epoxy to make a sturdy platform.
The days of poorly made, inexpensive fiberglass boards are disappearing. Superior companies like Wappa who manufacture fiberglass paddle boards are doing more than simply layering fiberglass over foam. Foam cores with special densities are used. Technologies using compression techniques such as sandwich construction and vacuum bagging result in fiberglass boards that are very lightweight and very strong. A lot more time, energy and craftsmanship go into building a fiberglass paddle board than any inflatable.
STABILITY and GILDE
Fiberglass paddle boards offer better stability and glide than inflatables.
Fiberglass board designers shape and contour the bottoms of their boards to improve the board’s performance in the water. Fiberglass paddle boards can be shaped to have concave and double concave hulls like a catamaran to provide stability while not losing speed and glide.
Inflatable paddle board designers do not have the option to create contoured bottoms on their boards.
Because they are essentially bags of air, it is impossible to have a concave shaped bottom. The air pressure required to hold a person will not allow it. As a result, all inflatable paddle boards have a flat bottom. Flat bottoms provide stability and good glide on FLAT WATER ONLY. Once the water is no longer glassy, flat bottoms quickly lose stability and glide. Concave bottoms are not affected by water chop.
Safety is another aspect that makes fiberglass paddle boards better than inflatables.
Fiberglass paddle boards are built around a dense foam core. Fiberglass and other materials are applied in layers with epoxy resin to make a hard sturdy platform. While out on the water, nothing outside of a very large wave crashing down onto it will break a fiberglass paddle board. Even if a wave did break the fiberglass board in half, the two pieces would float, offering safety and support for the paddler.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about inflatable paddle boards. It’s possible for inflatables to suddenly deflate while out on the water, leaving the paddler stranded and at risk of drowning.
Inflatables are held together by glue and the glue can suddenly give out causing rapid deflation. There have even been product recalls issued by the United States and United Kingdom because of such incidents.
To learn more about the product recalls and how inflatable paddle boars are dangerous, please read our other article on the subject:
Ask yourself the following question:
What is more durable, fiberglass and rock-hard epoxy resin, or a bag of air with seams held together by glue?
While it is true that a fiberglass paddle board can be cracked, the likelihood of that happening is quite small. As long as you’re not dropping your board from the top of your vehicle directly onto hard pavement, cracking isn’t an issue.
On the other hand, inflatable paddle boards often come with patch kits to deal with punctures and other air leaks. No fiberglass paddle board needs to come with a patch kit.
Fiberglass paddle boards are better than inflatables in a lot of important metrics. They are safer and offer a better paddling experience with superior stability and glide. While fiberglass SUPs may be a more expensive paddling option, like everything in life, you get what you pay for.
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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