Types of SUP Stand-up-paddleboards

There are four major different types of Stand-up-paddleboards (SUP): (1) Epoxy (EPS), (2) Polyurethane (PU) (3) solid plain foam called “soft-top” boards, and (4) inflatable SUP’s.

Types of SUP Boards

Types of SUP Boards

The simple difference between SUP boards:

Dog on surfboard

Dog on surfboard

1. Polyurethane (PU) SUP boards look like 99% of the surfboards you will see. These are the clear coat boards with decorations on them and are often times hand-made and much more costly. The constructions is less common for SUP boards. The PU board’s life span is usually only 1 year for active users. Price range: $900-$3,000

Dog on SUP board

Dog on SUP board

2. Epoxy (EPS) SUP boards look like they are almost made out of plastic. They are usually solid white or may have bamboo on top and other decorations like traction pads. They are machine-pressed and much heavier than PU boards. These boards can last up to 10 years or more if cared for. Price range: $550-$2,000

Foam SUP board

Foam SUP board

3. Foam soft-top SUP boards are made out of a solid foam and have bottoms made out of PVC. They are the cheapest out of any boards and are usually made in China. Price range: $400-650

Inflatable SUP

Inflatable SUP

4. Inflatable boards are made from several different materials and can actually be better than foam boards. These SUP boards are ideal for flat days with little to no waves. The materials of an inflatable SUP are constructed of hardened rubber material, heavy duty PVC, and layers of urethane. Price range: $300-$1,000

The detailed difference between SUP Board materials:

Why epoxy?

Makers of epoxy surfboards claim they’re more suitable for novice surfers compared to traditional fiberglass surfboards, thanks to their lightweight construction and ability to take more punishment than fiberglass boards – both important considerations for those just getting started.

Epoxy boards grew in popularity from 2006 due to necessity more than anything else, following the closure of the Clark Foam factory in December 2005 – which led to a major worldwide shortage of the polyurethane foam used in the production of traditional fiberglass boards.

What’s the difference?

NSP, Naish, Resin8 are examples of companies producing epoxy surfboards. They advertise these boards as being more durable and more buoyant than a traditional fiberglass board, ideal characteristics for people wanting to get back into surfing after a long layoff period or beginners who may require a bit of help when paddling for a wave.

Epoxy boards have a more plastic-looking finish compared to traditional polyester (fiberglass) boards. Epoxy construction has been used in the windsurfer industry for several years and looks set to remain a popular option in the surfing industry too.

Although professional surfers have ridden epoxy boards in competition, Taj Burrow being the main example, they are still primarily aimed at the beginner or recreational surfer, as well as older people wanting some help to get onto the wave.

The most significant difference between the molded epoxy boards that we tested and fiberglass boards is that you know that an epoxy board from a particular mold is exactly the same size, shape and weight as the next one.

How is an epoxy board made?

An epoxy board starts with a light polystyrene foam core, which is sandwiched between high-density foam sheets and reinforced with glass and epoxy resin. The board is then compression-molded, creating a lightweight board with a hard outer shell.

There are two types of polystyrene used:

  1. Open-celled polystyrene is a beaded foam similar to an old-style esky, but the open cells suck up water if dinged.
  2. Extruded polystyrene foam, which absorbs less water but is more expensive.

None of the mass-produced epoxy surfboards are made in the USA. They’re produced in countries such as Thailand, using designs created and by a master shaper.

While it’s possible to get custom-made epoxy boards, the labor involved makes them a lot more expensive. Many professional surfers argue that the inability to have an epoxy board hand-tuned by an experienced shaper or sander is a disadvantage, but unless you’re getting ready to head out onto the world circuit this probably won’t be a major issue for you.

How is a traditional fiberglass board made?

A polyurethane/polyester board or ‘fiberglass’ surfboard involves a significant amount of hand shaping in both the preparation of the core or polyurethane foam blank, and the final sanding to get the finished product just right.

The blank is shaped as far as possible to the board’s specifications and a piece of wood or ‘stringer’ is incorporated into the middle of the blank for added stiffness and durability. The blank is then covered with a fiberglass cloth and laminated with polyester resin. The board is left for a period of time to allow the resin to set, and then the board is sanded to the final specification.

Article written by Clinton Cimring

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