SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of?

It’s been a while since you took up paddle boarding, shredded those waves out at sea, and enjoyed beautiful sceneries as you steered on. You even took it upon yourself to plan a relaxing paddle board session with your friend at night. The sea was calm then and those nocturnal creatures looked pretty.

But, after all that recreation and excitement, a question pops into your mind: “What are paddle boards made of?”

Well, that’s an interesting train of thought you got there, my friend! There’s a lot that goes into the making of paddle boards, actually. Especially since there are a lot of types for different purposes. In this article, we’ll not just answer your question, but also cover what’s to know about paddle boards. A short history, its types, designs, construction, and yes, some product recommendations.

Let’s paddle on, shall we?

A Brief History

SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of? 2
Woman surfing in the ocean

Back in 3000 B.C., Peruvian fishermen used Caballitos de Totora when fishing. The Caballitos de Totora is one of the ancient ancestors of what we now know as a paddle board. The watercraft was made out of reeds and steered by bamboo shafts. Pretty far off from what are paddle boards made of currently, right?

By 1778, the British explorer Captain James Cook discovered how the Hawaiian Polynesians were some of the world’s first surfers. The most skilled in wave riding was their Chief. So he possessed the best board and paddle combo to dance with the waves. 

Two centuries later, paddle boarding began to sink its roots to notoriety. Duke Kahanahoku, Leroy, and Bobby Ah Choy are Waikiki surf instructors who were looking for better ways to take photos of their students. The inspiration came in the form of John “Pops” Ah Choy chilling on a large surfboard gliding on the water with a kayak paddle on hand. A more familiar build and purpose, don’t you think?

Ultimately, a famous photo would shoot paddle boarding to popularity. In 2002, famous surfer Laird Hamilton shredded those waves on a large paddle board while steering with the American flag. With this innovation, the production of paddle boards increased significantly and companies discovered different materials well-suited for their construction and design.

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Types Of Paddle Boards? 

You probably noticed how there are different paddle boards, all dependent on terrain and intensity. Some have more space for fishing gear, while others are leaner and sleeker. So, before we talk about what are paddle boards made of, let’s talk about those types.

All Round

These are the most common type of paddle boards out there. Usually larger in width, with a large deck pad, stability and balance are much easier to achieve. A good choice for beginners! Not really sure if you’re up for riding the waves or chilling lazily on a lake? Then, take this all-around paddle board with you! 

Inflatable

Worried about portability? Consider getting an inflatable paddle board! You can roll this up to the size of a sleeping bag for easy storage. Plus, with its PVC material, you can expect minimal damage to your board if you’re a bit clumsy. A good choice for that next trip, especially this one is suited for all locations! 

Fishing

SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of? 3
Fishing on a lake with a SUP

You can do a lot with paddle boards, and one of those activities is fishing! With its high volume and spacious design, you can stay high and dry out of the water while having all that space for your gear. Talk about maximum relaxation! 

Touring

Up for longer trips out in bigger waters? Exploration and excitement must be calling you! Try out touring paddle boards for those long-distance trips on flat water!  Plus, its wide and stable design can accommodate beginners! With its maximum glide and efficiency, this will definitely satisfy anyone’s craving for adrenaline and a high-intensity workout.

Surfing

Ready to up the fun and difficulty? Its similar design to oversized surfboards is perfect for more experienced paddlers! You’ll definitely find this type in the hands of surfers riding the majestic waves of the sea. Why not join them once you get yourself a paddle board of this type? 

High-Performance/Racing

SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of? 4

If the thrills are what you live for, maybe you need a paddle board more suited for breakneck speeds and long glides. Racing paddle boards can give just that! So, pick one up if you need a trusted board for an upcoming competition or two!

Okay, So What are Paddle Boards Made Of?

We’re finally here to answer the question rattling inside your head.

The first thing you have to know is that what materials paddle boards are made of heavily influence their lifespan, durability, handling, and price.

In this section, let’s talk about these elements and how they are constructed. 

I will divide the section between solid paddle board construction and inflatable paddle board construction. Plus, I’ll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different materials. 

Solid Paddle Board Construction

SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of? 5
Surfboard front, side and back view

Have you seen all those big surfboards? Solid paddle boards are actually the most common. Construction of these boards uses EPS, or Expanded Polystyrene Foam, as a core or blank. Then, they would wrap this foam core in different kinds of materials, namely: layering wood and/or PVC veneer, fiberglass, and epoxy materials. This is done for strength and durability.

What’s the Foam Core?

The foam core determines whether the paddle board is light or heavy. A less dense core means a lighter yet less sturdy paddle board. That’s why they surround this with tougher materials as I’ve said earlier. 

What are Solid Paddle Boards Made Of? 

Plastic

This type is made in one of two ways: rotomolded or thermoplastic. Rotomolding involves a piece of solid polyethylene plastic that is rotated and “molded” to a shape of a paddle board; a thermoplastic paddle board is constructed through hard molding of a PE plastic shell around a foam core. 

In terms of availability, you can find this one in almost every sporting goods store! And if you’re worried about costs, it’s fairly inexpensive compared to other types. Although, its heavy bulk makes this quite hard to transport and store. But, that means it can take some damage and still perform well! This type is perfect for beginners and families looking for a tough model at low costs.

Foam 

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Also known as soft top paddle boards, this model is made almost entirely of wood stringers packed inside a molded foam or foam-based EPS core. High-density polyethylene is then laminated to the top and bottom of the core. 

Just like the plastic paddle boards, this one is also widely available in a lot of stores at low costs! But, its lighter weight means that it’s easier to transport. Stil needs much space for storage, though. With its materials prone to dents, scratches, and loss of chunks, I recommend this one for beginners who plan on padding on flat water locations. It’s pretty brittle, but you don’t have to worry about water seeping into those dents! 

Wood

Well, what are wooden paddle boards made of? These are constructed out of a hollow wooden frame. The tops and bottoms of the board are then strengthened by glued strips of wood such as cypress or cedar. Waterproofing the board would require a layer of fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin. 

Naturally, you can expect a higher cost due to its custom construction. The good news is that it’s generally available in custom SUP shops and online. Another thing to consider is the weight. Its bulk and intricate finish definitely call for more careful transport and storage. Plus, repairs for damage can be costly and difficult. The water can enter through the scratches and dents, rotting the unprotected wood. Still, I recommend this to anyone who’s up for cooler-looking boards.

Fiberglass

So, now what are fiberglass paddle boards made of? Layered fiberglass paddle boards are made of an EPS foam black. Then, this foam blank is wrapped in fiberglass fabric strips held by epoxy resin.  This is followed up by placing a veneer of wood, more fiberglass, and resin over it, All of these layers contribute to its well-known strength and durability.

There are two techniques for fiberglass construction: Wood Sandwich Fiberglass Construction and AST (Advanced Sandwich Technology Fiberglass). The main difference is that the former has wood veneer and PVC construction (found in the standing board) in its sandwiched layers. The latter does not use PVC. The layering approach is the same, so both are very much sturdy and durable. 

With the complexity of the techniques, custom painting, and hand labor, fiberglass SUPs are definitely higher. But, they also crack easily. Plus, these are the most difficult to transport and store. Since it’s pretty high-maintenance, I recommend this type for recreational and more serious paddlers. 

Carbon

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The two females riding a stand up paddle board

These models use foam cores and carbon fiber layering instead of fiberglass. The end of this process involves putting down a layer of paint over the shell. This is done so the board reflects sunlight and prevents overheating. 

The material itself isn’t cheap. So, while this board is available through custom paddle shops, be sure to have a big budget when considering this. But, its lightweight definitely makes up for the price. Storage and transport definitely come easy for this one! What’s more, is that this is much stronger than fiberglass, but is still brittle. A covering of another material usually remedies this. For those who are deep into racing SUP, I highly recommend this one!

Inflatable Paddle Board Construction

Well, this one is very common in all stores. What are these paddle boards made of but “drop-stitching,” the combination of two layers of polyester fabric with thousands of polyester threads? The airtight coating then goes to all outside surfaces. Lastly, the wide-seam tape is glued over each seam to make it an airtight board. 

If we’re talking about the costs, it’s dependent on the layering. It can either cost as little as foam boards or as expensive as fiberglass. Transportation and storage are easiest for this model, as it can be deflated to the size of a sleeping bag or less! Plus, it’s very much durable–as long you avoid any punctures to its materials. Patch that up first before you go on your next trip! With its versatility and lightweight, I recommend this one for cruising and touring on both flat waters and white waters.

Recommendations

Finally, your questions have been answered! Now, you’re up to speed on what materials are used for the different types, and what these types are for. So, let’s finish this article with some recommendations from Amazon! I included quality and detailed descriptions for each product. 

DAMA Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

Dama Paddle Board
$329.99
in stock
3 new from $319.99
6 used from $210.86
SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of? 8 Amazon.com
Free shipping
Last updated on 08/09/2021 06:22

Quality: 4.5/5

Yes, I know. Most of the models available on Amazon are inflatable ones. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with this one! With its 10-minute inflation and 5-minute deflation time, transport and storage come so easily. It evens comes with a sports camera mount if you want to capture those fun moments in the water! Looking for some accessories? This comes with the whole package: height-adjustable paddles, dual hand pumps, leash, repairing kits, and a waterproof bag. Definitely a must-have for your next trip to the lake! 

DAMAY Youth 10′ Inflatable SUP Board

Dama Youth Paddle Board
$269.99
$289.99
in stock
3 new from $269.99
2 used from $215.95
SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of? 8 Amazon.com
Free shipping
Last updated on 08/09/2021 06:22

Quality: 4.5/5

With my second recommendation, most of the features are similar to the first one. Except for one thing: What are inflatable paddle boards made of again? This model brags its high-quality, drop-stitched PVC material, making it especially lightweight and sturdy! It can hold weights of up to 280 lbs. Going out for an adventure? I highly recommend this one!

Soopotay Inflatable SUP Board

Soopotay paddle board
$249.00
$263.99
in stock
2 new from $249.00
3 used from $229.08
SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of? 8 Amazon.com
Last updated on 08/09/2021 06:22

Quality: 4.5/5

Another one with military-grade PVC and sturdy drop-stitch construction. Its wide design makes balance and stability easier to achieve! Top that off with its compact roll-up, transport and storage will be a breeze! Aside from the more obvious equipment, this comes with a coil leash, center fin, a backpack, pump, and a waterproof phone case. I highly recommend this one for beginners who are to explore some flat water. 

Aqua Plus Inflatable SUP Board

Aqua Plus Paddle Board
$299.99
in stock
1 new from $299.99
5 used from $194.29
SUP 101: What are Paddle Boards Made Of? 8 Amazon.com
Free shipping
Last updated on 08/09/2021 06:22

Quality: 4.5/5

Another one built for balance and stability! With its lightweight and wide design, you’ll find yourself chilling lazily on those flat waters. You can thank its rigid design for its ultra-light PVC drop-stitch fabric. Sturdy and portable are what you get with the Aqua Plus. Perfect for all skill levels! What’s more, is that it comes with the complete package: a fully adjustable aluminum paddle, navigator backpack, shoulder strap, coiled leash, waterproof bag, removable fine, and double-action pump.

Freein SUP Board

Freein Paddle Board

Quality: 4.5/5

We’re finishing this list off with the last of some neat inflatable paddle boards available on the site. The fun part is that you can use this as both a kayak and a paddle board! Made with the usual military-grade and drop-stitch material, its durability and portability are guaranteed! Since we’re talking about paddle boarding, I’ll focus on those accessories. This set comes with a dual-action pump, Kayak-SUP dual paddle, a coiled leash, an adaptor for your electric pump, and a handy backpack. 

What are paddle boards made of, you ask? Well, now you know more than you did before clicking on this article! After knowing its brief history and all the types, it’s no wonder why paddle boards are made up of different materials. Try and consider these materials when looking for your next paddle board, so that the buying experience is easier. You can always look back on this if you need a guide, though. 😉

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