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How Long Should An Inflatable Paddle Board Last

Life Span of an Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

One of the biggest questions to be answered is how long will my iSUP last? There are a whole range of different factors that will affect the outcome and longevity of your iSUP, so we reached out to a number of different brands to gain some insight into how long their boards should last, with proper usage and care.

In this video we talk through some of the ways inflatable SUPs are manufactured, how this has changed over the years and how that affects the lifespan of a board. We’ll also give you some valuable insight into how to care for your iSUP and some tips to consider when purchasing, so you get the most life out of it.

Now we could just tell you how long an iSUP might last, but first off we need to understand there’s some factors that influence the lifespan, because most iSUPs are not manufactured in the same way. One thing that all iSUPs use is drop stitch material. Thousands of threads are connected to PVC sheets which makes up the internal section of an inflatable paddleboard. When air is added to the board, the threads pull tight and create the rigidity of the board you see. What you may not know is at this point, the board is not sealed or airtight. The sides or rails of the board need to be joined to create the iSUP. This is where manufacturing differs between brands and you can usually tell, because the final retail plot price will reflect the materials and the processes used to create that finished product.

On that note, before we move further into this video, we did hear from a number of different brands about their manufacturing process. Raul Delgado, Starboard SUPs inflatable board manager, put it perfectly, “It is important to say that the quality of the raw materials play a key role in the durability. Having the correct type of adhesives on the correctly laminated fabrics is essential for every inflatable board”. Basically PVC and drop stitch come in a wide range of different qualities or grades. The better the quality of the material, the longer your board is going to last. Now this can be hard to know when buying your board from a shop or online, but again the price can reflect it. Glue is the most common form of adhesive across SUP brands because the rail is the point where the top and bottom layers are connected. It is the area with most cause for concern when it comes to leakage. Gary who imports Gladiator SUPs in the UK also gave us some insight, “the lifespan of iSUPs is down to both the PVC drop stitch used, but a huge part of the failing will be in the glue if brands cut corners”. So using not enough or too much glue, incorrectly applying the glue, or even using the wrong type of glue between layers, can prevent an iSUP from reaching a long lifespan. Now is a good time to mention that glue deteriorates over time. Even the most careful board with glued seams will begin to show signs of age as the glue simply loses its adhesion. Starboard have pioneered a welding technology that doesn’t use glue to mechanically bond the rails of the board, it uses heat. This process creates a super strong bond between layers meaning an iSUP will last longer than glue-based boards. There are a number of other brands starting to use this technology with welded seams such as Honu Harla and JP Australia. If the board has welded rails, the margin of error during the adhesion process is minimized. If welded with precision in all the critical areas at the right temperature and speed, the board would last for as long as the PVC coating layer on the drop stitch. The mechanical bond between the layers is more robust and durable than a simple adhesion.

So how long will an iSUP last? Well, when iSUPs first came out in the late 2000s, boards were made by gluing layers to the drop stitch core. This made them heavy but very durable. Manufacturing processes are still being developed and the glue has changed and evolved over the years, not to mention the processes in which the boards are constructed. But some brands really did go above and beyond to make sure their boards were going to last. As Raul says, “the craftsmanship and finesse used to build the board also plays a part in how long it will last”. And to be completely honest, on the rack behind me there is a C4 Waterman iSUP from 2010 that is still going strong. It weighs a ton, but it still gets used fairly regularly for friends visiting who want to try SUP. Realistically, many earlier iSUPs didn’t last that long, maybe two to four years depending on care, usage and how well the boards were made. Some didn’t even last that two years, but as technology grew better and processes came into place in 2012 up to about 2016, boards are beginning to last a lot longer, up to around five to seven years. Gladiator SUPs are still using their boards from 2013, as are Red Paddle Co, Starboard and many other top brands leading into the current day iSUPs. Premium brands, such as those mentioned, are using modern processors to create iSUPs that will last a lot longer. Starboard expect their welded boards to be able to last around 10 years if they are properly taken care of. That’s a very good investment to get 10 years out of a product that’s being used out in the elements. Other top brands will almost get to 10 years as well, as we have seen previously.

So where to from here and what happens when an iSUP gets to the end of its life? Well, sadly most iSUPs end up in landfill which means there’s an environmental problem. PVC glue and other materials used in the manufacturing are not degradable or environmentally friendly. This is why buying a product that will last a lot longer is better for you, the environment and your wallet. Starboard are looking into ways to how they can reuse or recycle their iSUPs and in fact, they are already doing it. Raul has concluded that using recycled PVC layers from used iSUPs means the quality of the material is degraded, therefore they can’t guarantee an airtight seal. Starboard have decided to use this recycled PVC material in their accessories, as well as some of the reinforcements within their board. “We currently use recycled nylon from fishing nets in our fins and some of our fin boxes. The fishing nets are picked up from the Indian ocean, washed, shredded and turned into pellets. These pellets can then be easily injected or extruded into new products.” Starboard are also developing a second life program for old broken inflatable paddleboards. “We collect them from different centers, clean them and dry them. Afterwards, we carefully draw and cut the stitching patterns out of these materials in order to build laptop cases, backpacks and similar products all of which are 100% unique, since they all have different colors, logos and sometimes come with the serial numbers of boards.” It looks like Starboard are really trying to find a way to reuse inflatable iSUPs and they’re actually getting closer to that dream, but we can’t reveal too much here, so stay tuned for developments in the future.

So the large part of how long an iSUP will last is based around the manufacturing process and the materials used, but what can you do to make sure it lasts even longer when using the board out in the elements? Well, here are a few things to think about. The main factor that affects an iSUPs life is the expanding and contracting of the board which places stress on the glues and seams of the board. An iSUP is hollow with air pumped into it to give its shape. When you pump up a board to the recommended psi, the outside air temperature and also the water temperature can change the pressure inside your board. If your board is exposed to a higher heat, the air inside will expand to a higher psi placing more pressure on those seams. If the board is exposed to colder temperatures when it’s pumped up, it will contract and your pressure will drop. Knowing this means that you can plan how much psi to put in your board to get the most life out of it. The same goes for storage of your board. You never want to leave your board inflated in a place that is open to large temperature swings. Namely never leave your board in the sun as sunlight will degrade the glue quickly and will expand pressure inside your board if left pumped up. If you are planning to leave your board inflated, make sure it’s inside and you have released a little bit of air out of the board, the psi is dropped, so it doesn’t expand too much. If you aren’t going to use it for a while, we do recommend deflating the board and rolling it up loosely, so you don’t squash or put too much pressure on the seams. Usage is the last major factor to influence a life span. If you’re using your board a lot, keeping it inflated or pumping it up every session, it will weaken everything over time. If you use your board in the white water, surf or shallow water, the likelihood of scraping your board is higher, which means you can expect some repairs to be made and will affect the lifespan of your iSUP. However, if you look after your iSUP by cleaning it off with fresh water after every use, drying it, storing it in a dry and cool place and making necessary repairs quickly, then you can expect your board to last up to 10 years or even more.

Lastly, brands have warranties on their boards and this is a great starting point to know exactly how long you can expect your board to last. If you take care of your iSUP, it will last longer than the brand’s warranty. Take Red Paddle, which have a five year warranty. That’s a pretty long time to claim for a warranty, so the brands really do stand behind their products to make sure you get a lot of life out of your board.

So there you go, newer inflatable boards on the market will get you up to 10 years of life if not more, with good care and use. Choose your next board wisely and remember to take into consideration the integrity of the brand, look out for the in-depth information about the manufacturing process, and remember to check the warranty.

We’re available via email or on 1-888-252-4983 if you need any help in choosing which board is best for you.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.