Are bamboo paddle boards good? As a manufacturer of bamboo paddle boards, the easy answer would be, yes, bamboo paddle boards are the best around. However, answers like that don’t help or educate the reader, so let’s be a little more critical.
WHY CHOOSE BAMBOO?
Bamboo is an amazing material. That’s why at Wappa, we only build bamboo paddle boards. Many companies will use bamboo paper on a portion of a board for cosmetic appearances, but manufacturers of bamboo SUPs use it for several reasons. Bamboo is a natural product. It is extremely strong and it is also very flexible.
SUPERIOR STRENGTH TO WEIGHT RATIO
Bamboo has the highest strength to weight ratio of any natural fiber. In structural engineering tests bamboo has been shown to have higher tensile strength than many steel alloys. It even has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than graphite which is the precursor of carbon fiber.
The only material stronger than bamboo in the paddle board industry is carbon fiber. However, a carbon fiber paddle board will cost more than double what a high-quality bamboo board would cost.
If you don’t want to spend the big, big money on carbon fiber, the best option is bamboo.
STRONGER THAN FIBERGLASS
Wappa uses a layer of bamboo instead of a layer of fiberglass when manufacturing our boards. Because it’s stronger, the added strength adds stiffness which translates into speed without adding any of the extra weight from the fiberglass and epoxy. According to a 1981 study of bamboo in the journal Fibre Science and Technology, when bamboo is used in a laminate process with fiberglass, bamboo laminates were found to have twice the strength as fiberglass only laminates of the same weight.
This means, that by using bamboo in a layer of paddle board manufacturing, a board will be stronger but also lighter than a fiberglass only board.
Bamboo is a natural product that can be grown in degraded soil. Compared to trees, it can be harvested in three years compared to hardwood trees which take 25 years before harvesting.
Bamboo is also renewable. When it’s cut, the plant sends out root shoots to grow even more bamboo. The plant roots even stay intact after harvesting to help prevent soil erosion.
Using bamboo as a replacement to fiberglass, reduces the amount of epoxy required for the layer, and replaces a layer of fiberglass with an eco-friendly material.
By using REAL bamboo in paddle boards, the environmental footprint of the board is a little smaller than any other paddle board.
COMPARING BAMBOO PADDLE BOARDS
Now that you understand why some companies choose to use bamboo as a building material in its paddle boards, let’s get some insight to help you shop for a quality bamboo SUP.
For some companies, bamboo is simply used for cosmetic appearance to make a product look more “natural” or “woody”. It helps the board look great at a distance, but in reality, it is nothing but pretty paper. Boards like this are simply rigid boards that do not have the strength to weight ratio of REAL bamboo paddle boards.
If the board you like only has a section of bamboo on the top of the board, this is what you will be getting – paper, not bamboo.
Keeping in mind that the point of using bamboo in paddle boards is to reduce weight while adding stiffness. To do this properly, both sides of the board should have bamboo. Boards that only have bamboo on the top don’t really get it. These boards are heavier than they could be and they also won’t be as strong.
Brands that use bamboo only on the top of the board are trying to fool the customer. The customer is led to believe that they are getting the full quality and advantages of a bamboo board, but they aren’t. While better then paper, these boards are less than they could be.
All bamboo isn’t the same. Make sure you know the thickness used in your bamboo. Some bamboo veneer is only .25 mm thick. Looks good, but offers little in performance capabilities. Wappa for example uses 1mm thick bamboo. Bamboo this thick offers real strength. Bamboo strength can also be determined by the bamboo used. Look for Moso bamboo. It is the hardest type.
A manufacturer of bamboo paddle boards should be able to provide this information. If they don’t are they really that into bamboo?
Should you consider a bamboo paddle board. Yes! However, make sure you know what you are getting. Online, it is hard to tell quality differences between companies. Ask questions about the manufacturing process, what type of bamboo is used? How thick is it? Is the bamboo used for cosmetic purposes or as part of the board’s integrity? Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll be able to find a top-quality bamboo SUP that will last you for years and years!
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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