Why inflatable SUP stiffness is critical

October 28, 2022 | Surfing
Stand-up paddleboarding: a non-stiff inflatable SUP will generate drag and resistance while paddling | Photo: Jobe Sports

The number of inflatable stand-up paddleboard (SUP) manufacturers and brands in the market is countless nowadays.

You have probably noticed that each SUP company states they are selling the best board while looking for new equipment online.

They all claim their board is the stiffest and most stable.

But how do you know what's true? How do you distinguish between mediocre, fair, and superb products?

In this article, we'll dissect why you need a stand-up paddle board that is super stiff, and we will help you choose a decent SUP.

Inflatable SUP: stiffness matters | Photo: Jobe Sports

Why SUP Stiffness Matters

The first variable we need to address is the importance of SUP stiffness and firmness in performance and riding experience.

The most straightforward and powerful explanation is that you will lose joy in stand-up paddling without a stiff board.

If you are paddling on a board that doesn't hold its shape while riding it, your SUP gets the form of a banana - it gets flexible and bends all the time.

Consequently, the middle part of the board, i.e., the part where you are standing, gets deeper in the water than the rest of the SUP.

A non-stiff board will generate drag and resistance while paddling forward and require more arm power and energy to travel the same distance as someone with a decent inflatable paddleboard.

The beauty of stand-up paddling comes alive when paddling becomes an effortless pleasure. A careless paddling session allows you to enjoy your surroundings to the maximum.

The joy of a stand-up paddleboarding session lies in its calming and relaxing effect; it's an outdoor activity that enables you to escape from your hectic daily life and unwind from reality.

Words can't describe how the calming water plays with your senses.

Being outdoors, surrounded by Nature, it's something you need to feel, hear, taste, smell, and see.

Nature is the most beautiful when you can enjoy it to the fullest, so you want to give it your full attention instead of putting all your energy into just making meters.

So if you want to start stand-up paddling and enjoy it for the longer term, stiffness is one of the most critical aspects of choosing your new board.

SUP stiffness: the firmer a board is, the easier the paddling | Photo: Jobe Sports

Levels of Paddleboard Firmness

But how do you choose a stiff board?

Nearly every brand states they produce one of the stiffest boards in the market, but only a few of them are speaking the truth.

All stand-up paddleboards have some type of technology that ensures the SUP will get its shape when inflated.

This is the first point where the great boards distinguish themselves from fair models.

Most stand-up paddle brands use the following three techniques for providing stiffness in the board:

  • Single-layer drop stitching;
  • Two-layer drop stitching;
  • Heat-bonded technology;

1. Single-Layer Drop Stitching Technique

The least stiff option is single-layer drop stitching, a technique that is widely used in cheaper board models.

With this method, the inside is stitched to a single-layer top and bottom surface and connected by threads.

These boards are often lighter.

However, the disadvantages are:

  • Extreme flexibility;
  • Minimal airtightness;
  • Less stiffness;
  • Poor durability;

These boards are suitable for having fun in the water but not for mid-or high-level performances.

2. Two-Layer Drop Stitching Technique

The second option is the use of two-layer drop stitching technology.

This process extends the single-layer drop-stitch technology with reinforced, handmade, and glued polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

The approach dramatically affects stiffness, as it will allow you to inflate the board to higher pressures.

As a result, the SUP board will maintain its shape, making it more durable and airtight.

However, the flip side is that the paddleboard will be a bit heavier because of the glue used to reinforce the template.

3. Heat-Bonded Technology

Last but not least, the real deal regarding SUP stiffness.

Meet the heat-bonded technology, a process in which the paddleboard is engineered with high-density nylon threads on the inside fused to a solid PVC-coated base cloth using a pre-laminated heat bonding technique.

The innovative approach ensures that the drop stitch is laminated inside the second layer with controlled heat performed by a machine.

The process removes all human error and flaws from the equation.

An extra layer of drop-stitch reinforcement is also applied to protect the base cloth; a second drop-stitch reinforcement layer strengthens the inflatable SUP to its max.

Finally, a PVC-coat nylon base is applied on top of these layers to ensure the board's durability.

All layers are connected thanks to thermos-assembled methods performed by high-tech machines under controlled conditions.

The automation saves a whopping average of two kilograms of glue in every inflatable SUP board, which is also a substantial environmental benefit.

The outcome provided by heat-bonded technology usually increases the stiffness of a board by 30 percent.

Extra Features

All these technical processes combined create the perfect blend between shape, durability, weight, and overall look and feel.

While searching for the best inflatable stand-up paddleboards, you'll find SUP brands developing and using custom-made technologies.

You'll also encounter companies that market stiff board techniques purely based on thin air.

Are you having doubts about a specific SUP construction technology? Then spend some spare time doing additional research.

Look for explanatory articles and user manuals, watch videos, and ask brands why their boards are the ones to choose from.

Be critical in the SUP buying process.

Apart from stiffness, more aspects determine the performance of the board, including:

  • Shape or outline;
  • Length;
  • Width;

These variables often relate to preferences, experience level details, and favorite SUP discipline.

Stiffness is not a choice - it's a necessity.

Trust a reliable board maker if you want to step into the world of stand-up paddleboarding with a durable SUP model.

Choose a paddleboard featuring heat-bonded technology or a custom technology that has won your trust after a thorough investigation.


Words by Martijn Van Gool | Marketing Manager at Jobe Sports

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