How Inflatable Paddle Boards are Made: A Deep Dive into the World of SUPs
Inflatable paddle boards have taken the water sports world by storm. In this article, we discuss how they are made.
The popularity of stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has surged in recent years, and with that, so has the demand for high quality and portable inflatable paddle boards. If you've ever been curious about how these versatile boards are made, you're in for a treat. We'll explore the manufacturing process of inflatable paddle boards from start to finish, discussing the materials and techniques used to create these lightweight, durable watercraft. And of course, we'll also touch on some of the best brands in the industry, like Glide SUP, known for their premium inflatable paddle boards.
A Quick Introduction to Inflatable Paddle Boards
Before diving into the manufacturing process, let's briefly discuss what sets inflatable paddle boards apart from solid paddle boards. Inflatable SUPs are made of high quality, durable materials like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and drop-stitch construction, which make them lightweight and easy to transport. They can be deflated and rolled up, making them perfect for travel and storage. When inflated, they provide a stable, buoyant platform for paddling, yoga, fishing, and more. Brands like Glide offer a wide range of inflatable paddle boards for various activities and skill levels.
Inflatable Paddle Board Construction
Let's take a deep dive into how inflatable board construction differs from the layered fiberglass paddle boards which made up the first SUP boards. Solid boards are typically made with an foam based EPS core which is covered with fiberglass and epoxy resin. The process for making these fiberglass SUPs differs quite a bit from the inflatable SUP manufacturing process.
Step 1: Design and Materials
The journey of an inflatable paddle board begins with its design. Designers carefully consider the intended use of the board, such as touring, yoga, or whitewater paddling, and create a shape that will best suit that activity. This includes determining the board's length, width, thickness, and rocker (the curve of the board from nose to tail).
Once the design is finalized, the manufacturing process begins. High quality materials like PVC, which is known for its durability, and drop stitch fabric are used to create the paddle boards structure. The drop stitch technology consists of thousands of polyester threads that connect the top and bottom layers of the board, creating an internal structure that allows the board to maintain its shape when inflated.
Step 2: Cutting and Laminating
The PVC material is cut into precise shapes using a computer-controlled cutting machine. These pieces will form the top, bottom, and sides of the board. The cut PVC layers are then laminated together using heat and pressure to create a strong, durable bond. This process is crucial for ensuring the board's durability and resistance to leaks.
Inflatable paddle boards that use single layer technology tend to glue the PVC layers rather than fusing them which makes them much more vulnerable to losing it's airtight seal. The best inflatable SUP boards use 3 to 4 layer construction methods in which the layers are all laminated together rather than glued.
Step 3: Drop Stitch Construction
The drop stitch process involves connecting the top and bottom layers of the board with thousands of polyester threads. These threads create small pockets of air when the board is inflated, giving it a rigid, stable structure. Some boards, like those from Glide, feature a woven drop stitch material core, which enhances the boards overall strength and stiffness.
The drop stitch core also takes pressure off the rails of the inflatable SUP board because the rails are the most vulnerable part of the inflatable boards because the entire outer seam of the rails holds the top piece of PVC to to the bottom layer.
Step 4: Attaching Accessories and Finishing Touches
Once the main body of the board is complete, it's time to add the finishing touches. Accessories such as handles, D rings, and bungee cords are attached to the board using high strength adhesives. A high quality, removable fin system is also added, allowing users to easily swap out fins depending on their needs and preferences.
Finally, the board is thoroughly inspected for quality and tested for leaks. Once it passes all quality checks, it's ready to be packaged and shipped to customers around the world.
Now that you know how inflatable paddle boards are made and how to choose the perfect one for you, it's time to hit the water and enjoy the freedom and adventure that comes with paddle boarding. Remember to always prioritize safety and follow local regulations when venturing out on your new inflatable paddle board.