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.
Do Inflatable Paddle Boards Sink?
The question “Do inflatable paddle boards sink?”, seems rather ridiculous at first glance, until you realize that paddling an inflatable paddle board is similar to paddle a balloon. YES, inflatable paddle boards can sink.
WHY INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS CAN SINK
It’s all about the seams.
All inflatable paddle boards have multiple seams running the entire length of the board. Every seam is held together by glue. Yes GLUE! If the glue fails, the board can instantly deflate leaving the paddler no choice but to swim to shore. That’s not a big deal if you’re 100 feet from shore, but most people would have difficulty swimming 1 mile back to safety.
A deflated paddle board will not offer the paddler any buoyancy. Without air, it is nothing but a large ripped plastic bag that will fill with water and sink to the bottom.
IS SINKING REALISTIC?
Yes, there is a REAL chance that an inflatable paddle board might sink. Paddle boards will not puncture when floating on open water, but the seams might split and cause instant deflation.
Split and leaking seams is such an issue for inflatable paddle boards that a Google search on the topic “inflatable paddle board seam repair” yielded 750,000 results. Amazon has more than a dozen different repair kits for sale. Clearly, these results indicate that split seams on inflatable paddle boards are an issue.
More importantly, in July and August of 2022, The UK Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standard issued two recalls for inflatable paddle boards for defective seams. The August recall specifically states the risk of drowning due to faulty glue.
IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE?
Yes, there is an alternative to sinking and possibly drowning. It’s called a rigid paddle board.
There is zero chance of a rigid paddle board deflating in the water. No matter what happens while out paddling on a hard paddle board, you will always have the safety provided by a hard, solid surface to climb upon. A hard board will not sink. In fact, if it snapped in half, it would still be buoyant and provide a level of safety. This is something that an inflatable just can’t do.
There is a definite possibility that inflatable paddle board will burst a seam and sink, and that just isn’t something that will happen to paddlers on rigid boards. If you choose to paddle an inflatable SUP, you should take precautions. Never paddle further away from shore than you can comfortably swim to safety, and always wear a PFD. When the seam on the inflatable board suddenly gives out, a PFD may save your life.
Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Better for Beginners?
Are inflatable paddle boards better for beginners? No.
Beginners of all sports should set themselves up for success. A larger part of success is to use the best equipment possible.
In the world of paddle boarding, that would be a hard paddle board. Inflatable paddle boards aspire to perform as well as hard boards. While performance might not sound important to a beginner, in reality the opposite is true.
The holy grail of every inflatable paddle board is to be as stiff as a hard paddle board. That’s why so many inflatable brands tout their products air pressure. It is the desire to be stiff. A good way to think of stiffness is to think of standing on a sidewalk versus standing on a mattress. A stiffer paddle board provides better stability.
For a beginner paddler, a board’s stiffness isn’t something they would think about, but it’s greatly appreciated on the water. Anyone who has experienced an underinflated iSUP understands the unbalanced feeling of standing on a mattress.
The key to early success for every new paddler is board stability. An underinflated paddle board will be less stable than a hard paddle board because it will be less stiff.
A paddle board’s shape also plays a role in its stability. Especially when the board is static in the water. All water craft are more stable as they traverse through the compared to being motionless. Often, paddler boarders may stand while the board isn’t moving. Especially when just learning. That’s why it’s important to have a board that will be stable when you’re just standing on the water and not paddling.
A hard paddle board will be more stable than its inflatable counterpart. Hard boards have a concave bottom which offers better stability on choppy water, swells, etc.…
Inflatable paddle boards have a flat bottom which offers a different benefit compared to the concave or bottoms of their hard board cousins.
Flat bottoms are actually very stable in calm waters and this can be beneficial for beginner paddle boards. In fact, in calm flat waters, these bottoms provide even more stability than the rockered concave bottoms of hard boards.
Unfortunately, the superior stability of the flat bottom ends once the paddle board leaves the idyllic conditions of calm, flat waters on a windless day. Once the wind picks up and water chop develops on, the superior stability of flat bottoms disappears.
Unlike the concave bottoms of hard paddle boards, the flat bottoms of inflatables do not provide any lift to help raise the board out of the water making it easier to skim over the top of the chop and maintain stability.
The lack of stability on anything but calm waters means that the vast majority of inflatable paddle boards should not go into the ocean on anything but calm days.
Glide can be viewed as a paddle boarding reward. It’s the feeling of movement and speed. It’s part of what makes paddle boarding so awesome.
Beginners may enjoy the glide experience better than most, since it is so hard to come by when starting out. The feeling of taking your first 10 good strokes without falling and feeling the speed you develop is a great one. It’s this feeling that helps develop the passion for SUP!
Because hard boards are stiffer, they have better glide than inflatables. Beginners deserve to reap the “glide rewards” for all their effort. Why lessen the joy with the experience an inflatable will provide?
From the practical benefits of stiffness and stability to the joy of glide, hard paddle boards are better than inflatables for beginners. It is easier to learn on a hard board and the feeling of glide is stronger on hard boards compared to inflatables. However, if you plan to only paddle on calm days on your small inland lake, the inflatable paddle board will probably be just fine.
Is a Hard Paddle Board Better Than an Inflatable?
Is a hard paddle board better than an inflatable? YES! There is no denying it. In virtually all areas, a hard paddle board outshines its inflatable counterpart. As a manufacturer of hard paddle boards, the reader might be skeptical of this answer. So, let examine the reasons for hard board superiority.
Every inflatable paddle board is held together by glue. That’s right… GLUE! Split seams are a major issue for inflatable paddle boards. To illustrate this, there are over a million Google results for repairing split seams for inflatable boards, and several repair options are available for sale on Amazon.
The simple fact of the matter is that hard paddle boards do not have seams. This issue simply doesn’t exist for hard boards.
Because inflatable paddle boards are held together by glue, there is a greater likelihood of drowning by people who use them. The seam glue may split at anytime causing the inflatable to suddenly sink, leaving the paddler with no support. If the paddler was to far from shore, there will be nothing buoyant to help the paddler swim to safety. Drowning may occur.
While this issue may be easily dismissed, the reality is that it is possible. The United Kingdom’s Office for Product Safety and Standard even issued two product recall for inflatable paddle boards for that very reason.
A hard paddle board will never suddenly deflate and sink under your feet. There simply aren’t any seams to break apart like an inflatable. In fact, if a hard board split in half, the paddler would still have a buoyant object to help support their weight as they worked their way to shore.
99% of all inflatable paddle boards perform worse on the water than their hard board counterpart. The one percent that performs as well cost as much or more than the hard board.
All inflatables strive to be as rigid as a hard board. That is their goal - to imitate the standard. Rigidity is a key aspect to a paddle board’s performance. A rigid board glides over the water better. In practical terms, that means it takes less energy to move the same distance on a board with better glide. Rigidity also aids in stability. It is much easier to stand on a rigid and solid surface than on a flexible surface. After all, it is much easier to walk on a sidewalk then it is a mattress.
Paddle board glide is also affected by a board’s bottom shape. All inflatable paddle boards have flat bottoms. On the other hand, the majority of hard boards have concave bottoms. Concave bottoms are designed to improve glide. These bottoms are shaped by machine or hand. It’s difficult to blow up a balloon with a concave in it. That’s why inflatables have flat bottoms. Inflatable SUPs can’t duplicate the improved performance supplied by concave bottoms.
EASE OF TRANSPORT/ SET UP
Owners of hard paddle boards often give a little giggle to themselves when they see inflatable paddlers at the beach.
Life as a hard board owner is simply easier. Let’s compare a hard board and inflatable SUP owners typical experience.
To transport a hard board to the beach, it takes about three minutes to strap the board to your vehicle’s roof rack and even less time to remove it from the rack. Yes, it takes even less time to throw an inflatable’s backpack into the rear of a vehicle, but that is where the inflatable’s advantage ends.
Once the paddlers arrive at the beach, the hard board owner simply has to remove the board from the roof rack, attach the leash to the board and his ankle and head straight into the water. The inflatable owner, has to unpack and unroll the inflatable. Pump it up. Ensure the proper pressure is obtained and attach the fins. After all that, the leash can finally be attached and the paddle session can begin.
At the end of the day, the hard board owner rinses his board to remove the sand from the beach and spends three minutes strapping the board to the rack and is gone. Meanwhile, the inflatable owner has to wait for his board to dry. Remove any debris. Deflate the board. Roll it up. Repack the backpack and then toss it into the back of the vehicle. That is certainly a lot more effort to go paddle boarding for the inflatable owner.
Yes, you will need a rack if you own a hard paddle board, but many inflatable owners end up buying racks and cargo boxes, because their inflatable’s pack takes up so much room in their vehicle, that they don’t have room to transport other beach essentials. Either way, you may end up purchasing a roof rack.
NO WEIGHT DIFFERENCE
A quality hard paddle board will weigh the same or even less than its inflatable counterpart. Many shoppers believe that inflatable are lighter and easier to carry. That simple isn’t true. Inflatable just have a handle at the nose so you can pull your board to the water. A quality paddle board is well balanced and easy to carry.
After examining the reasons for hard paddle board superiority, it is apparent that inflatable boards are inferior in every tangible way. Yes, they are less expensive than a hard board. In that case, the old saying is certainly applicable here, “you get what you pay for”.
What is the Widest Paddle Board?
If you’re asking “What is the widest paddle board?”, you’re probably shopping for your first board. We’re going to answer the question from that perspective. This won’t be an article in search of some gimmicky monstrosity that holds 10 people. There will be no Guinness Book of Records insights here. Just a simple answer for paddlers trying to get educated.
Paddle board width is an important design factor and it should be a consideration when purchasing a SUP. It’s especially important for first time buyers. Width plays a major role in board stability. Wider boards will be more stable than narrow boards, and width is determined by the board’s function. Racing boards are the narrowest style with some being less than 20” wide. All Around paddle boards have an average width of 32 inches.
When considering a paddle board’s width, it is important to remember the concept of drag. A wider paddle board has a larger footprint. That means, there is more surface area in contact with the water. The more contact, the more energy it takes to travel a certain distance compared to a narrower board. This is friction. That’s why racing paddle boards are so narrow. They have less drag and can travel further on less energy.
With the physics of friction in mind, there are practical limits as to how wide a paddle board can be. If it is too wide, the paddle board would become difficult to move forward, and that isn’t fun no matter how stable it is, or how much weight it can hold.
To get a paddle board that offers speed, maneuverability, and stability, the widest a paddle board can be made that offers those functions is 36” wide. Any wider, and the board becomes to slow and less maneuverable.
However, not all 36” wide paddle boards are the same. Inflatable paddle boards this wide need to be avoided. Inflatables have flat bottoms. This means a whole lot of surface area in contact with the water. All that water contact results in drag, which will make for a slow and unenjoyable paddling experience.
In order to have the same experience on a wide paddle board as you would on a standard 32” wide board, it is important to get a hard paddle board. Hard boards can be shaped to have concave bottoms. A concave bottom lets the water slide smoothly under the board with much less friction. Less friction means more speed with less effort. The best paddle boards like the Wappa Olas will have double concave bottoms which makes the flow of water even more efficient.
Wide paddle boards are a great option for heavier riders, or people with a naturally wide stance. A properly shaped 36” wide hard paddle board with a concave bottom can be as much fun on the water and in the surf as a narrower 32” board. It won’t be as fast as a touring or racing styles, but you can still do it all. The key to success with the widest paddle board will be its shape. Keep that in mind when shopping.
Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Safe? Maybe Not
Most inflatable paddle boards are purchased by first time owners with limited experience, and most tend to paddle no more than a hundred meters from shore. However, it doesn’t take long to gain experience, confidence and paddle sessions go further and further from the shoreline. Soon, paddle trips 1-2 KM from shore or out to “the middle” of the lake seem like fun.
If long paddles far from shore are appealing, then using an inflatable paddle board might not be a safe choice. Inflatable companies like to promote the strength of their boards and imply that they are safe. They talk about the board’s material and its resistance to punctures. This is a smokescreen. Punctures don’t happen on open water. Nothing sharp is sticking out of the water to puncture your board. The strength of the material is irrelevant to your safety on the open water.
What is important for your safety is the board’s seams. All inflatable paddle boards are held together by glue. Yes GLUE! If the glue fails, the board can instantly deflate leaving the paddler no choice but to swim to shore. That’s not a big deal if you’re 100 feet from shore, but most people would have difficulty swimming 1-2 km back to safety.
In July and August of 2022, The UK Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standard issued two recalls for inflatable paddle boards for defective seams. The August recall specifically states the risk of drowning due to faulty glue.
This safety issue does not exist with rigid paddle boards. Only the cheapest rigid boards have seams. The vast majority do not. There is zero chance of a rigid paddle board deflating in the water. No matter what happens while out paddling on a hard paddle board, you will always have the safety provided by a hard, solid surface to climb upon. A hard board will not sink. In fact, if it snapped in half, it would still be buoyant and provide a level of safety. This is something that an inflatable just can’t do.
Split and leaking seams is such an issue for inflatable paddle boards that a Google search on the topic “inflatable paddle board seam repair” yielded 750,000 results. Amazon has more than a dozen different repair kits for sale. Clearly, these results indicate that split seams on inflatable paddle boards are an issue.
Are inflatable paddle boards safe? If the paddler stays close to shore, then yes, an inflatable SUP can be considered safe provided that the rider is a capable swimmer or is wearing a PFD. Staying close enough to shore is the key metric. However, if the rider paddles far enough that swimming to shore would be very difficult, then it wouldn’t be safe to use an inflatable. Seam separation is an issue. If a seam splits while on the water, you may have no choice but to swim to shore or drown. If you’re not comfortable with that option, you should get a hard board and the safety it provides.
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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