10 Tips for buying an iSUP


11 Years ago with the invention of the inflatable paddle there was a lot of research done into the material, taking drop-stitch that was available for gym mats (this didn’t need to be stiff as needed to cushion the landings) temporary signs and even outdoor cinema screens, but never was it designed as a 32” wide platform to be stood on over water. This material was the starting blocks for the iSUP, but is now used by cheap SUP companies to make things that look like sups, but are more like luxury Lilo’s.


4″ and 6” low density drop-stitch was the only thing available 11 years ago and both offered too much flex and from here Paddleboards specific drop-stitch was created. The tread count and quality of the treads were increased, making a higher density, stiffer, platform to stand on. Unfortunately 4” was still to flexible and 6” is stiff but with a little too much volume for some boards, so that is why the SUP specific 4.7” drop-stitch was created for all round boards of 10’6 and below. (More about this in SUP THICKNESS below)


There are 4 types of boards construction when it comes to the outside. 1. Single skin, as it sound its a single skin that is connected to the inside drop-stitch, its the lightest way to make a SUP but if you compere boards of the same thickness it will have the most flex. 2. Stinger, this is a single skin board with a 6 to 8” second layer of material glued along the bottom and sometimes top of the board adding stiffness to the single skin. 3. Laminated / Fusion, this is where a second layer of PVC is laminated onto the single skin making it a much stiffer and stronger material (brand like to use all sorts of fancy jargon for this, heat bonded, MSL, Fusion, military grade etc) and the finally 4. This is the older glued double layer, it was a way of making boards stiff before lamination was invented, very stiff and strong, just heavy but still used in some multi-person boards or boards that will be taken into white water rapids.


No! One size doesn’t fit all! The 10’6 x 32 x 4.75” comes pretty close, if you’re sharing a board within a family but lets say the largest family member is 110kg, ideally he would be better off on a 10’8 x 34” wide, but this isn’t going to work for the smaller family members (see number 6.SUP WIDTH) and likewise if your with someone around 55kg they would be better on something smaller and narrower (again see 6 SUP WIDTH) – so as you can see sharing boards might mean someone will need to comprises or find it harder, so without buying more than one board the 10’6 x 32” x 4.75” sits right in the middle.


As touched on above in ‘SUP construction thickness’ there is 3 thickness of drop-stitch 4” is too flexible for 90% of the market but can be used for kids specific boards, 4.75” is ideal for all-round boards  and performance allrounds from the premium brands and  touring boards for lighter riders  and 6” which is best used in all round boards for the heavier rider and touring boards 11’6 and above with pointy noses. The reason these three sizes really matter is because if your under 100kg then the combination of a 32” all round board with its shorter length, round noes and tail, 6” thickness is just way to much volume and your find the board sitting on the water bobbing like a cork, not sitting slightly in the water allowing more stability and directional paddling, creating a board that is harder to control in choppy or windy condition and its also harder to get back on should you fall off, so that is why the SUP specific 4.75” drop-stitch is a major plus when looking at all round family boards.


I hear a lot of people saying the wider the board the more stable it is, this is a definitely a huge misconception, if you put a lighter rider on a wide board and its not flat water, the choppy water will make the board rock around a lot and being light its much harder to control, a light person will be again be bobbing like a cork in the sea and when paddling into a head wind the nose of the board gives greater resistance. The second part of having a board too wide is that it affects your paddle stroke, the most effective paddle stroke is a vertical one and if you are shorter on a wide board, this is much harder to achieve, affecting how easily you go forward and giving you higher chance of shoulder strain.


7a. Not all boards come with the same components, bags, some are wheeled, some are just a back pack, some are large dry bags, its always easier if the bag has a zip that is preferable at least 1/2 of the way around the bag, if you have ever tried to put a anything back into a tube you will know how hard it is, plus some bags aren’t big enough to take the pump and paddle.
7b. Talking paddles, what’s it made of? Is it 3pc, packages come with all sorts of paddles from alloy to full carbon, alloy being the most basic and 100% carbon being the top, lots of brands offer a base paddle and upgrades are available, if you have a bit of spare money in your budget you will never be unhappy with that upgrade. Don’t be to fooled into the weights of a paddle, you can make a alloy paddle very light but the wall thickness will be thin and bend easily, same for carbon, very light can mean thinner walls again not good, but are cheaper to make and can still be called light and 100% carbon
7c Is the fin a standard US box, something that can be replaced in any surf shop around the world.
7d The pump, can you get a new hose, is it double action or double chamber as a minimum, pumps are being improved all the time

7e. Kayak seat, well its a Stand up paddleboard why do you need a seat especially as its a bit of sales gimmick, look at a kayak, your bum is in a well, your feet have foot rests to push against which creates drive, if you clip a seat to a SUP it doesn’t make it a kayak in any way, you are best off on your knees especially as when you think abut using it as a kayak to get home your seat and the other blade to make your sup paddle double ended are in the car or back at home.


Rails can be constructed in quite a few ways, the rail will give your board shape, stiffness and airtight joint if done correctly, the basic option is to use 1 layer of PVC to hold the top and bottom sheet in place, this is not recommended as there is only 1 layer between you and puncture and doesn’t hold its shape, method 2 (Double layer)is to bend the top and bottom sheet over so there is a 1″ or 2″ gap (the smaller the better), and then glued 1st sealing band, followed by a second layer over that about 2″ wider to cover most of the rail, this is far better, more airtight, stronger and will holds its shapes, some brands then go a little further and add narrow strips to the top and bottom joins to make a triple seal, and finally there is the best option, take the bottom and bottom sheet, curve these so they meet in the middle, add a sealing strip about 2″ wide and then add another layer about 3″ wide, this is a triple layer rail, strong, stiff and expansive to produce, the reason for this is that you are using 3″ more width drop stitch material per board, only a few brands offer this.


Companies will go a long way to make you think they have the best material or shape, military grade PVC. Well PVC was invented for the military, so all drop-stitch could be classed as military grade really. Best rated board in test – mmm, all tests are paid for and no one gets a bad review and to cover that, you have to look at the small print of the test, often not copied over onto the brands own webpage, the small print claims these boards are tested against like boards, so a flexie 4″ board is tested against another 4” board and they both get a 9 for stiffness !! – Affiliations with Amazon or other referral site getting paid when you click the link and buy and there seams to be a growing number of newspapers reviewing boards without any knowledge of what they are recommending, it adds clicks to their website and are also affiliate marketing in some cases..


For 2020 we see more brands putting effort into their boards and improving the stiffness, Single skin will always be single skin, but the way the lamination and drop-stitch weave is made, is having a bigger affect, basic lamination is being added to boards, this adds a little more stiffness to the board but is only used by cheaper brands hiding behind the laminated name, to get the best lamination on the board, the lamination’s should include a second layer of membrane, as many of the top brand have, for the last 5 years, this added strength and stiffness, and now for 2020 the weave (membrane) has been updated and is called machine weave, this new weave has a closer, tighter and light thread, the best way to think about it, is the Fusion membrane would look like a knitted jumper under the microscope, where as the machine weave would look more like a weave of a jumper, using weave will make a board lighter, stiffer.
We hope you found this helpful, if you have any question please contact your local Watersports shop with questions, if a shop sells a few brands, they will be open to questions and find a board right for you.
Happy Paddling

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