Paddle Boards with a Lineage of Toughness

How did an accident on the river birth a SUP manufacturer that makes the most durable hard and inflatable paddle boards on the planet?


whitewater stand up paddle board

Glide SUP has been the first name in ultra-durable all around paddle boards since 2010.  Why would Glide stake out this unusual claim to fame you ask? Well sit back friends and let me tell you a story.

Our founder, Ken Driscoll, was a world class sponsored whitewater kayaker back in his younger years.  He was paid to talk trips to rivers around the globe where most humans that had any kind of survival skills wouldn’t dare to tread.   On one such excursion, he took an incredibly hard landing taking his kayak off a 50-foot drop from a waterfall which broke his back. 

whitewater kayak displacement hull

After a long recovery, he found that he could no longer sit comfortably in the cockpit of a kayak.  He missed the river and the violence of the whitewater, however, so he had to come up with a new means to transport himself. Why not try paddle boarding on rougher waters?

He had played around with stand up paddle boards (SUPs) on vacation, and he had always been into surfing and, so, the lightbulb went off for him.  Why not stand on a long paddle board and point it down a powerful, churning river?



paddle board durability


There was only one problem with this hypothesis - other than it was insane – the epoxy hard boards with a foam core that dominated the market at the time would make it down the river until the point where they collided with a rock and would break in two.  He tried plastic, roto molded paddle boards which ended up being much more durable but weighed about as much as a high school football player.   


hard paddle board

There had to be a better way.  So, after much experimenting with various plastics and polymers, he stumbled across the formula for “Glide Surface Shield” or GSS as we call it internally.  GSS was formulated by the US Dept of Defense for use on their submarines to make them break through the water’s surface tension which made the subs ten percent more efficient in the water.

GSS turned out to be the perfect solution.  It added only a pound or so to the weight of the SUPs and yet helped them cut through the water which gave them more glide.  And, just like that, Glide SUP was born.



glide paddle board

The solid boards were incredibly durable. So durable that we launched a “Will it Break Wednesday” campaign on YouTube in which our employees would come up with all kinds of diabolical plans to try and break the paddle boards. 

A paddle board was launched from pickup trucks going fifty plus mph, dropped from cliffs, towed around a parking lot while an employee stood on it, snow and skateboarded over, pitched at in a batting cage and had large metal drums dropped on them from one story up at the factory.  

The Glide solid board would still be completely intact after these antics while the epoxy paddle board never made it out in one piece.  There was absolutely no trick photography involved in our attempts to break our paddle boards.


hard paddle boards


paddle boarding the white nile

One of our earliest projects as a company was to sponsor two paddle board experts who wanted to paddle our SUPs down the "White Nile" in Uganda. This is one of the most treacherous sections of river in the world.

It was quite an ordeal creating a solid board that could fit on an international flight to Africa and still carry paddlers down the whitewater. We ended up getting the paddle boards just right and both paddlers were able to make it through the rapids in one piece.


paddle boards with a displacement hull

Early on, we realized that there was one flaw in our plan to be a whitewater stand up paddle board manufacturer.  That being that there weren’t enough potential customers crazy enough to want to paddle down rivers while trying to stand on a paddle board. 


So, instead we found the second most abusive class of paddle boarding enthusiasts we could find: paddle board renters!  Renters are typically paddlers of all skill levels, from beginner paddlers to advanced paddlers.

We had heard plenty of horror stories from our stand up paddle board dealers about renters who would drop hard boards in parking lots, forget to tie the boards down to their car roof and run the paddle boards over rocks in the shallows. 

The dealers would have to take those hard paddle boards out of service for several days while the water drained out of them and then they would have to patch the holes. A week or two out of service per paddle board multiplied by the number of paddle boards in their livery turned out to be a significant loss of revenue for the SUP dealer.

durable sup paddle board

 Once they replaced their epoxy stand up paddle board fleet with Glide SUPs which had been forged on some of the most punishing rivers out there, they rarely needed to take the SUPs out of service.  As they were able to increase the quality of their fleet, they could improve efficiency of their rental operation.

Because the performance characteristics of the SUPs are that they track straighter, have extra glide and offer more stability, the overall rental experience was just better. Within a few years Glide became the dominant rental SUP board nationwide.  


Whether you are into long distance paddling or riding waves or are into SUP yoga, Glide makes a board for you and the entire family.


Built much like a regular surfboard, our all around paddle boards are the right board to catch waves with. For surfing, you will typically want the board length of a shorter board, with a tri fin base and a planing hull. The tri fin base allow you to have a single fin in the middle and a smaller fin on each side to help the board track nice yet be more maneuverable with less effort.


A touring SUP is typically a longer board with a pointed nose with is also called a displacement hull. The displacement hull requires less effort with the SUP paddle as the hull slices through chop easily at faster speeds and gives a smooth ride. To manage long distances, there are two factors that are important: longer boards and displacement hulls as opposed to planing hulls which skim the top of the water. Planing hulls are better suited to surfing SUPs.


Boards for SUP yoga tend to be shorter boards that are a bit wider than a standard SUP to increase weight capacity. They are designed to accommodate yogis of all skill levels. These SUPs may make you feel unstable when performing more difficult poses but that precisely the point!


As the market embraced inflatable stand up paddle boards (iSUPs) six or seven years ago, we knew that these single layered boards with a core that utilized “knitted drop stitch” technology were not going to meet our standards.  


planing hull that angles forward

We noticed that the inflatable SUPs that used that technology tended to “taco” when a user stood on them – meaning the nose and tail of the SUP both lifted above the surface of the water.  At that point in time, we had a reputation for manufacturing the most durable hard stand up paddle boards on the market and our inflatable paddle boards needed to meet the same exacting standards as our hard SUPs. 


carbon fiber inflatable paddle board

Most people assume that the core of their inflatable paddle board is simply made up of air. Not true my friends! The core of inflatable SUPs is actually made up of what is known as "drop stitch material".

You are probably thinking "but when I deflate my inflatable paddle board, it becomes quite flat." This is a true statement but it actually appears that way because the thousands of fibers that that make up the SUP core are very, very thin which flattens out when there is no air in the paddle board.

For the core, we use a state-of-the-art woven drop stitch as opposed to the spongier knitted drop stitch.  As the names imply, a weave makes for a tighter core whereas the knitted version makes for a bouncier, springier board which is the last thing you want then you are paddling your SUP.


paddle boarding

Cheaper inflatable board brands still use a legacy SUP core that uses parallel drop stitch fibers. The technology is known as linear technology and is the least effective method of holding the top of your paddle board to the bottom as the fibers are more prone to tear.

Our woven drop stitch core combined with your fused multilayer PVC means that your Glide inflatable board will last you many years. It also means that your inflatable SUP will perform in a similar fashion to our rigid SUP boards.


touring paddle boards

Because the drop stitch core of the inflatable paddle boards is not watertight. Early paddle board brands would seal the core with a single layer of molten PVC.

This construction which many SUP brands still use today made the boards great deals financially and also made for very light inflatable SUPs.

If a SUP is too light, it won't get up to speed quickly as you have to fight the elements like wind more in order to paddle it. The paddle board will be easy to carry but will offer a paddling experience that is less than ideal.

More layers mean more board volume

Many of the stand up paddle brands that use single layer technology, have tried to make their boards more sturdy by adding a "stringer" to their inflatable paddle boards. Early SUP brands would install a stringer made of wood in the middle of the EPS foam inside their hard boards to increase its rigidity.

Inflatable stand up paddle brands tried to duplicate this technology by gluing a strip of PVC from stem to stern on their boards. The problem with this technology is that it would make their boards slightly more rigid but not by much and the boards would still be more susceptible to puncturing.

The weight capacity of these SUPs is also limited. These boards are not well suited to having multiple riders on them. There just isn't enough board volume to give the board a stable feel with extra riders on them.


hard sups

In order to save money, most beginners will search out the best deal and buy last year's model thinking they are getting a beginner friendly SUP board. These paddlers should seek out expert advice before committing to a less sturdy inflatable as it is going to hinder their paddle boarding development.

Affordable boards do not necessarily make great entry level boards. If you buy a lower quality all around inflatable, you are going to be challenged using it for either flat water paddling or surfing. This type of inflatable board isn't even recommended for kids.


board thickness

The new releases for most of the top paddle board brands feature inflatable boards with several layers of PVC. Initially, a wide array of top brands glued these multiple layers together which helped increase weight capacity and the speed of the boards. The downside to gluing all those layers together meant that their inflatable paddleboards tended to be heavier and would have unattractive bubbles in areas where the glue was over applied. Not a great look for a stand up paddle board.


inflatable sup board

Today top brands of inflatables use fusion to bind the multiple layers of PVC together on their inflatable paddle boards. Instead of sealing the drop stitch material with molten PVC, these brands use an adhesive on the drop stitch material which seals the core of the board and allows a military grade PVC layer that consists of multiple layers that have been machine laminated to bind to the core.

By eliminating the bubbles and wrinkles that the gluing process would leave, fusion makes for a much more attractive inflatable stand up paddle board. More importantly, it makes for a lighter inflatable that is also quite a bit stiffer.


inflatable sup boards

Our SUP engineers in R&D went into overdrive and got some expert advice from the whitewater raft industry. After several prototypes that didn’t pass muster, they created what we affectionately know now as our Quad Fusion Weave Tech.  

Amazingly the fusion process dropped the weight of our inflatable stand up paddle boards by 20-25% while making them 25-30% stiffer. Fusion allows our boards to have a wide platform that multiple people can enjoy for flat water, surfing and whitewater SUP.


displacement hulls

Rails are just SUP and surf lingo for the sides of the stand up paddle board. Rails tend to take a fair amount of abuse from inadvertent paddle strikes.

Early inflatable stand up paddle boards would use the cheapest PVC available which only came in 29 inch pieces so that they could offer more deals on boards. Having a top and bottom paddle layer that was this narrow meant that there was a gap of several inches for the rail.

A brand that used these cheaper cuts of PVC would then have to cut a strip of PVC to go around the sides of the paddle board. This meant that you now had 2 seams on the rails that were possible points of failure. These seams are put to the test every time the inflatable stand up paddle board was inflated.


sups with paddles

Among other details that separate top paddle board brands from marginal brands is the fact that they use wider piece of PVC for the top and bottom layers of the inflatable. Then they use the same machine fusion technology to fuse a multilayer strip of PVC. Now rather than a single layer of PVC binding two seams, you have a quadruple layer binding one seam.


inflatable paddle board

A properly inflated Glide paddle board can be pumped up from 12-18 PSI using the dual chamber hand pump that we include with your purchase. Because of the woven fusion check that we use in our inflatable paddle boards, they are rated up to 25 PSI.

This means that even if a Glide SUP is only inflated to 15 PSI, it will be stiffer at that PSI than inflatable boards that are rated at 15 PSI and are pumped up to their max. This means you are getting an inflatable with a much better weight capacity and overall performance.


surf board

 We also created a 3300g per square meter specification with the quantities of thread being 144 pcs/per square decimeter.  A Glide iSUP is twice as durable as most iSUPs on the market due to our high-pressure, heat-pressed seam that is covered by one more layer of impermeable military grade PVC.


inflatable sup

At Glide, we are committed to offering the best inflatable paddling experience on the market. All of our inflatable stand up boards paddle like a dream but they also offer small details that really matter.

All of our inflatables come with multiple attachment points, so that if you are a touring board (the inflatable SUP with the pointed nose) on flat water, you can strap down your dry bags that carry your valuables. Our inflatable SUP fishing boards offers even more attachment points so that you can attach your rod and depth finder directly to your stand up paddle board.

We also include quite a few SUP accessories that other brands sell as add ons. With all the inflatables we sell, we include such accessories as: dual chamber pump, SUP storage bag which is a backpack with rolling wheels, center fin, and leash. Other gear that we include as accessories are a kayak seat and a carrying strap. The kayak seat tends to be a big hit with kids.


inflatable sup board

From what very well could have been a tragedy on the river was born a SUP brand that can withstand the best that Mother Nature and the most abusive humans can throw at it.

You can order your own Glide inflatable paddle board today with a 30-day guarantee. If you're interested in learning more about us compared to our competitors then make sure to check out our article Are Glide Inflatables the Best Inflatable Paddle Board? Don't just go to any site to buy your inflatable paddle stand up paddle board, do your due diligence first.