Hard SUP Construction

hard sup construction

Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) construction is an important consideration when looking for a hard shell SUP. The construction of your paddleboard will not only determine how robust and durable your SUP is but also have a direct impact on it's handling and performance.

The great news for hard shell SUP is that manufacturing quirks and technical issues associated with traditional surf boards, kayaks and windsurfing boards were sorted out long before Stand Up Paddleboarding grew in popularity. As a result, the development of hard shell SUP's has been relatively speedy thanks to the use of pre-existing technology.

The four most common types of hard SUP construction are (for more detail about each one please click a construction type) -

  • Wood Sandwich Construction
  • Advanced Sandwich Construction
  • Carbon / Carbon Composite Sandwich Construction
  • Pop Out

What is common to all of these paddleboard construction methods is they all involve the use of an EPS (Expanded PolyStyrene) or EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate) foam. These foam cells are crafted to give the shape and provide the foundation to your paddleboard. While both EPS and EVA are impervious to water, if water gets into the spaces in between, it can cause really issues so the foam is surrounded in a variety of methods. With regards to the foam cores the less dense the foam, the lighter the core, but the less durable the foam is. So to make a lower density foam core board as durable as a more dense foam core, the materials surrounding the core need to be stronger to compensate. This is why construction is so important when considering what hard shell SUP is best for you.

It is worth remembering that while you are not buying an SUP to sell it straight away, like any sizable purchase it is also worth considering residual value. Look at it in car terms - take a popular model from a strong brand such as the Volkswagen Golf. These cars command a much better residual value than say a popular model from what is accepted as being a lesser brand. Meaning overtime your purchase (and money) will be depreciate far less than if it where a cheaper, lesser quality paddleboard.

While we at The SUP Company only select the best models from the best brands, when considering which SUP is best for you,take time to look at the paddleboard construction options offered by each manufacturer. You can do this by clicking on their logo below.

Wood Sandwich Constructionwood sandwich construction

Wood Sandwich Construction is the most common type of stand up paddleboard construction and can be found in a variety of price ranges depending on the quality and quantity of materials used. Wood Sandwich Construction paddleboards feature a foam core wrapped with fibreglass, a wood veneer (often bamboo or pine) and more fiberglass.  The number of layers, weight and type of fibreglass used varies between manufacturer and in some cases models of the same paddleboard.  More layers fibreglass usually adds durability, however also with the disadvantage of more weight.  Most wood sandwich constructions increase the strength by crossing the 'grain' of the chosen fibreglass ie: north/south and east/west fibreglass mats or by using bi-axial fibreglass. The added advantage of this is the weight of the paddleboard is also reduced. There is also typically a layer of PVC in the stance area to add strength and stiffness. In some cases there are additional stringers of wood or perhaps carbon to add additional strength to the SUP, allowing for a less fibreglass and a lighter weight paddleboard. There is then another “sandwich” of fibreglass, wood veneer and glass on the top.  The SUP is then finished.  Some paddleboards are painted, some are clear coated so you can still see the wood-grain of the veneer. Either way the end result is the foam core is sandwiched on the top and bottom with much thinner sandwiches of fibreglass, epoxy resin and wood.

Advanced Sandwich Construction advanced sandwich

Advanced Sandwich Construction is similar to Wood Sandwich Construction.  It also features an EPS or EVA foam core,  a “sandwich” of fibreglass, wood, and fibreglass on the top and bottom and often there is a wood veneer for compression resistance in the area where a paddler would stand.  However, these boards do not contain any PVC.  The fibreglass is unidirectional so it better resists small dings and cracks.  These paddleboards are usually more durable, heavier and lower priced.  They typically have a matte finish over the entire SUP.  These do not have stringers for strength, but often have extra fibreglass in the area where stringers would go resulting in a heavier construction.

Carbon / Carbon Composite Sandwich Construction carbon sandwich

Carbon Sandwich Construction SUP's often feature the lightest foam cores wrapped with their lengths wrapped in one or sometimes two layers of PVC. The standing area of these paddleboards is then reinforced with either more PVC or in some cases wood adding yet more strength and stiffness. The entire SUP is then finished with carbon or occasional a composite of carbon and fibreglass matting. The whole paddleboard is then whetted down with epoxy resin resulting in an incredibly strong, stiff and lightweight SUP. This translates directly into performance advantages on the water as lighter and stiffer makes for a faster flat water race SUP, while in the surf it means more maneuverability due to the significantly reduced swing weight of the paddleboard. As expected this comes at a price with this construction method costing a substantial amount more than other constructions due to the exotic materials used.

Pop Out Construction pop out construction

Pop Out Construction uses a mold that is injected with EPS foam. The resulting foam blank is coated in epoxy resin and fibreglass, often under high heat and pressure creating a very durable shell on the paddleboard. To look at and feel the finish is almost plastic like. These SUP's are lightweight, very durable and relatively affordable when compared to other construction methods. However, SUP shapes and styles are often much more limited in this construction due to the significant cost in creating the molds.