Inflatable paddle boards come in varying thicknesses and that can be a little daunting at first, especially when the same board will come in 2 versions, looking at you Starboard! Anyway, the key to all inflatable paddle boards and your enjoyment riding them first and foremost is stiffness, or rigidity. Now, there are 3 parts that come into how stiff, or floppy, an inflatable SUP is or can be.
Pressure or PSI
This one is pretty obvious as we are all familiar with bike or car tires. The higher the pressure, the tighter or harder the tire will be. So, inflating a paddle board to a higher pressure will result in it being stiffer. But then we come into how much pressure a board can hold, so then we talk about materials.
We took a look at this over here in this Monocoque Structural Laminate (MSL) video. There are 3 basic construction techniques. Single layer, double layer and MSL. Red Paddle Co introduced MSL for 2016. Single layers are nice and light but can’t hold much pressure, Double layer boards can hold pressure, but tend to be heavier. MSL is somewhere in between with a lighter overall weight like a single layer, but the strength and durability of a double layer. More layers also improves stiffness as the board is built more rigidity from the outset.
The third part of stiffness is board thickness. Reuben and SUPBoarder are back, and they must have read my notes because they managed to do this video before I could finish this article!
So, boards are an optimisation, or compromise, of these 3 factors. You can have a light weight single layer board at 8″ thick and it’ll be stiff at 12PSI. You could have a heavier double layer board at 18PSI and it’ll be stiff at 6″. Or you could have a Red Paddle Co MSL board at 22PSI and you’ll only need 4.75″ to make a stiff board.
Most manufacturers tend to set a thickness or 2 thicknesses and run with them throughout their range, or offer boards in both thicknesses, but Red Paddle choose a different method whereby they go with a thickness for purpose method. Wave boards that need sharper rails are 3.93″ thick, race boards that need to be as stiff as possible are 6″ thick with extra features like FFC rod and RSS battens to further stiffen board.
Hopefully this has helped you to understand inflatable paddle board thickness and how these 3 factors above are involved in creating the optimal inflatable SUP.