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Paddleboards Materials (The 3 Types of Boards)

Paddleboarding is one of the latest, hottest ways to enjoy exploring our waterways. It’s a great workout and you don’t need any experience to have fun! Which paddle board materials are best for your needs and what are paddle boards made of?

The three primary materials used for paddleboards are wood, foam, and inflatable PVC plastic. Each has distinctive feels and costs based on how they coat them and construct the outer layers, from fiberglass resins to carbon fiber there is a perfect match for each need.

If you don’t know what some of these words mean, we will tell you in this article. We will tell you about paddle boards and how to find one that is the right material for you.

Paddle Board Materials

There are 3 main layers or components of paddleboards. The top, or deck, is typically made of fiberglass, epoxy resin, and polystyrene foam with a deck pad on top.

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The core is the layer in-between the deck and the bottom and is the main section that is used to give the rigid nature. The materials frequently used are usually EPS high-density foam or high-density PVC layers.

The bottom, which really has no unique name, is typically made of either a PVC (Polyvinylchloride) or HDPE plastic material.

Paddleboards can be divided into three main types based on their construction:

  • Hollow Core Paddle Boards
  • Inflatable Paddle Boards
  • Solid Core Paddle Boards

Let’s take a look at the core and the materials they are made of and the reasons why each exists and what the different uses are based on these changes.

The Paddle Board Core

The core of a paddleboard is built to provide the strong and necessary support for the board to hold a person. The core for a board can be made from several different materials, such as polystyrene foam, EPS, or honeycomb composite material.

The main difference between Polyurethane and EPS is that EPS is nearly 60% lighter, overall stronger, and provides more buoyancy. Polyurethane was the primary core material until around 2005 when Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) came along.

One other nice aspect of a high-quality EPS core is that it reduces water absorption, meaning it resists water but is not waterproof. 

An EPS board will outlast the PU board, however some wave surfers prefer PU because it allows for more flex and a smoother ride.

The honeycomb composite came out in 2010 and is a blend of polyurethane, high-quality EPS, and other materials.

The honeycomb composite core offers the best durability out of all three boards with strength ratings that are superior to both PU and EPS foam cores.

The downside though is they’re more expensive than the other two types. These boards also offer increased buoyancy as well as decreased weight when compared to either type of board core.

The Paddle Board Exterior

The exterior of a paddleboard is really the two parts that sandwich the core, these parts are the deck and the bottom. The deck is the top surface and is where you will stand while using your paddleboard.

The bottom of the paddleboard is what faces the water, along with fins is which guide the board through the water and keep you going where you want to go.

The exterior of a paddleboard can include anything from rails to foot straps or even watertight compartments for storing equipment. It’s important that these components are well-made since they have to support a person weighing up to 250 pounds in some cases.

What is the Big Difference Between Paddle Boards?

The big difference between inflatable, solid core and hollow-core paddle boards comes down mostly to personal preference and possibly where you plan to use them.

Usually, inflatable paddleboards are cheaper and lighter, but they lack stability when underfilled which can lead to poor experiences.

Solid core boards have the most durability because of their strong cores that make them more rigid, but this rigidity also makes them heavier to carry and prone to breaking from impact if you hit rocks or other objects with them while paddling.

Hollow-core boards offer a middle ground in terms of weight versus cost – by being slightly less durable than solid core boards, these provide some flexibility for those who need an affordable board without compromising on performance ability.

Inflatable Paddle Boards

An inflatable paddle board uses pure air for the core and is a great option for someone who needs a paddleboard that also can be deflated and transported or stored easily.

Inflatable paddleboards are built out of a strong PVC plastic outer layer laid over a drop-stitched inflatable core. (source)

Layup Options Include:

  • SINGLE LAYER: DROP STITCH FABRIC + PLASTIC COATING
  • FUSION: DROP STITCH FABRIC + WOVEN FABRIC + PLASTIC COATING
  • DUAL LAYER: DROP STITCH + PLASTIC COATING 1 + ADHESIVE LAYER + PLASTIC COATING 2 + WOVEN FABRIC + PLASTIC COATING 3

These boards are fairly lightweight since they don’t have any solid core, but they can also be incredibly stable since when inflated to rated pressure the air makes a near perfectly balanced board keeping the thickness uniform.

If you are storing it inflated though air bleed can occur which will cause pressure loss, so prior to taking out any inflatable you need to at least check the pressure prior.

Solid Core Paddle Boards

The most common paddleboards feature solid cores that come in one of two styles: molded or “I-beam”. These boards have a solid, inflexible core which makes them more durable and less prone to making waves while paddling.

This is the most common type of core available in most boards you will find when looking to purchase.

Hollow Core Paddle Boards

Hollow-core boards are built from wood and built into the paddleboard shape through additional shaping via tools. They are a lot lighter than solid core boards and maybe more buoyant in water because of the air inside them.

Hollow-core boards can also flex easier as there is less material to absorb energy from impacts on rocks when you hit something while paddling.

Final Thoughts On Paddle Board Materials and Construction

There are three types of boards used in the sport of paddleboarding, EPS being the most popular and lightest option currently available on the market today.

The other two options include a polyurethane core that is more buoyant than an EPS but not nearly as durable; it’s also known for providing a smooth ride like PU but with less flexing capabilities.

Honeycomb composite material has been around since 2010 and provides both durability and floatation to any size of paddleboard while still weighing well below what an EQP would weigh by comparison.

If you are just starting to look into paddleboarding we have a wide selection of guides to help assist you in finding the best option to suit your needs, check them out here!

Choose what would fit your ability to purchase and get to enjoying paddling today!

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Written by Water Diversions

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