What Is The Best Thickness For An Inflatable Paddle Board?
Board Stability Ratio Explained
The thickness of an inflatable paddle board affects its performance in many important ways. For this reason, thickness should be one of the main criteria in selecting a board, as it is at least as important as length, width, and outline shape.
The inflatable SUP industry has shifted hard in the direction of producing 6-inch thick boards, but not always for the best reasons. The reason is simple: Making a board thicker will make it feel more rigid, even if the materials it is made from are not the strongest. While rigidity is an attribute we look for in a paddle board, it can be better achieved with proper use of materials and construction methods, without having to resort to the shortcut of making the board thicker than it should optimally be.
An excessively thick board has some notable disadvantages. It raises your center of gravity while riding the board, resulting in a wobbly feeling which can make it challenging for beginners to gain confidence. Extra board thickness makes it harder to get back on the board when you fall in the water. A thicker board takes longer to inflate, is more difficult to carry under your arm, and has a bouncier ride than a thinner board. Boards designed for all-around paddling by people in average weight ranges will have the best combination of ride feel, stability, and rigidity when designed with a thickness of 5 inches, provided the board is well constructed using the best materials, and is properly inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, usually around 15 psi.
6-inch board thickness has its place in longer touring boards, which benefit from the extra rigidity due to their length, in some whitewater / crossover boards where extra volume helps keeps the rider above rough water, and in boards designed for multiple riders, or certain sport-specific models.