Each Inflatable SUP manufacturer offers a range of boards, and there are usually a variety of construction choices. How the paddleboard is made and the materials used have a big influence on how a board paddles, how long it may last and the price you pay. There are pros and cons for each construction, and so choosing the best SUP for you can be a little confusing. That's why we've put together this handy guide to give you the low-down on the key construction options. Each brand will have slightly different ways of doing things, but these four constructions pretty much have it covered; Single Skin, Stringer, Glued Double Layer and Laminated Double Layer.
We kick things off with the Single Skin, or Single Layer Technology. All of the construction methods start with the dropstitch; thousands of threads between the outer dropstitch layer which when filled with air allow the board to only expand to a certain point before they pull tight and form the SUP's shape. Dropstitch on its own isn't airtight, so then a liquid PVC layer is poured over the dropstsitch which, once dry, creates an airtight seal. This is the single skin. An additional layer is usually added to the rails to increase durability.
The two main advantages of the single skin boards are weight and price. Less material makes for a very lightweight SUP which is perfect for lighter riders, kids, or those looking for the easiest board to get to the water. With boards using this construction from the decent brands starting at around £599, they're great value. On the down-side, they're not going to be quite as durable or offer such an authentic paddling experience as the other constructions due to having fewer layers and a little more flex in the board.
+ Lightweight + Low Price - Flex
Examples of SUPs using a Single Skin Construction...
Following on from the single layer construction we have boards that introduce Stringer Technology. The majority of the paddleboard is the same as the single layer; dropstitch with a single coating of PVC, an extra layer on the rails and a nice EVA deckpad. The difference is the addition of the 'stringer'. The concept comes from traditional surfboard manufacture, where a thin 'stringer' runs down the centre of the board from nose to tail to provide increased rigidity. On these inflatable SUPs the stringer is a fairly wide PVC strip that runs down the centre of the board.
The addition of the stringer is all about increasing the rigidity of the SUP, reducing flex as you stand on the board and paddle. The extra bit of material creates a more solid platform, which in turn makes for a better paddling experience. As it's only a small addition of material it doesn't add that much weight, and the costs for these SUPs are still relatively low. The downsides? Well although the stringer is a good addition it won't change your entire world. They still don't offer as much rigidity as the following full double layer constructions.
+ Increased Stiffness + Still Low Price - Still Some Flex
Examples of SUPs using a Stringer Construction...
Fanatic Fly Air 9'0
Fanatic Ray Air 11'6
Fanatic Diamond Air 9'8
Oxbow Play Air 10'
The laminated double layer construction is the latest technology to be introduced to the inflatable SUP manufacturing process. It is cutting edge and the best that you can get. Instead of starting with a liquid PVC layer over the dropstitch with a second layer glued to it, this construction method involves coating the dropstitch in a specially developed adhesive. The second PVC layer is then laminated directly to it. Rails are usually reinforced with an additional PVC layer.
The lamination process means that there are no longer cosmetic wrinkles or bubbles on the board's surface. And here's the really impressive bit... these inflatable SUPs are 20-25% lighter and 25-30% stiffer than those using a glued double layer construction. That can mean around a 2kg saving in weight, which is a lot! These SUPs do come out more expensive than the other constructions, so if you're on a tight budget it may not be the way to go, but if you are looking for the best performance then we'd suggest you go for a laminated double layer board every time.
+ Stiffer + Durable + Stonger + Maintains Shape + Lightweight
- Can be more expensive
Examples of SUPs using a Laminated Double Layer Construction...
Red Paddle Co 10'6 Ride
Anomy Amaia Arrazola 10'6
Fanatic Fly Air Premium 9'8
Gladiator Pro 10'
Examples of SUPs using a Glued Double Layer Construction...
We no longer have many boards available with a glued double layer construction, but it's worth a mention none-the-less. A glued double layer construction starts with the single layer board; dropstitch covered in an initial PVC layer. From there, a second layer of PVC is glued to the board. This differs to the stringer technology as it is a full coating over the whole board, not just a strip down the centre. It is also usual to have an extra layer around the rails of the board.
The extra PVC layer helps to increase the stiffness of the board. Improved air-tightness and material thickness means that these SUPs can be inflated to higher pressures than the other constructions. On the down-side the extra material makes these iSUPs heavier. Heavier paddlers will especially benefit from the increased rigidity and should always go for a double layer construction. The biggest brands like Red Paddle Co, Fanatic and Starboard have phased this technology out, it being replaced with a 'laminated double layer construction', so this construction method is a little out-of-date.
+ Stiff + Durable
- Heavier - Outdated technology