Inflatable paddle boards have become quite popular over the past few years. Many paddlers are ditching solid SUPs completely or setting them aside for occasional use.
iSUPs are easy to transport and they don’t require a lot of storage space like the traditional SUPs. They allow us to enjoy the joys of paddle boarding without having to deal with a bulky hard paddle board. And we have drop stitch construction to thank for that.
So what is it?
Drop stitch is what is used at the core of every inflatable paddle board. It makes it possible to inflate your SUP until it’s unbelievably rigid without it losing the paddle board shape.
Let me explain in detail.
Drop Stitch Construction Explained
If you have been shopping around for an inflatable paddle board, you’ve definitely heard about drop stitch. Pretty much every manufacturer says that’s what they use and that their iSUP is the best and most durable.
Well, drop stitch is a type of construction that involves two fabrics, joined by tens of thousands of vertical polyester threads. These evenly spaced threads create a super strong bond between the top and bottom fabrics.
Drop stitch is also known as double-wall fabric.
When you inflate your paddle board, the threads extend, but only up to a certain point. This prevents the SUP from bulging. Instead, you get a nice flat surface for paddling and hard shell performance.
Now, when deflated, the polyester threads collapse completely and you can fold your iSUP into a small package.
So drop stitch is the reason you can enjoy rock hard rigidity when the SUP is fully inflated and ease of transport when it’s deflated.
Polyester is used because of its strength and longevity. It also has minimal stretch.
Since this woven fabric isn’t usually airtight, a layer of PVC is applied to remedy this. Some paddle boards have a single layer of PVC, others two layers, and others three. This is what manufacturers typically mean when they say single-, dual-, and triple-layer construction.
Drop stitch construction isn’t a new concept as it has been around since the 1950s. Back then, the US military used this technology to make airplane wings. They ditched this type of construction but inflatable kayak and SUP manufacturers picked it up.
Why Is Drop Stitch Material Commonly Used for Inflatable SUPs?
Drop stitch technology allows blow-up paddle boards to be inflated to high pressure, usually 12 psi up to even 28 psi! High pressure translates to rigidity–so the higher the pressure, the more rigid the inflatable will be.
This is why many modern inflatable paddle boards are just as stiff as solid ones when fully inflated. They don’t flex and their performance is remarkable. You can paddle efficiently and sometimes you can’t even tell that the SUP is inflatable.
Another benefit is durability. When you use a tough drop stitch fabric, then the PVC layers, the result is a paddle board that is virtually indestructible.
A kayak or SUP made using this construction can take a lot of use and abuse without getting damaged. Unlike solid boards, inflatables don’t dent easily. Most of the time they’ll just bounce off the obstacle.
What Are the Cons of Drop Stitch Technology?
In terms of rigidity and durability, drop stitch construction is excellent.
However, it also has its downsides. The construction process of a good inflatable paddle board or kayak is long and labor-intensive. It requires a certain level of skill and precision, not to mention the equipment also doesn’t come cheap.
Everything, from the spacing distance, stitching pattern, etc. has to be perfect if you want an incredibly strong unit that will last.
Add to this the fact that you still have to apply PVC layers and everything else that goes into making the finished structure you get in the store. Plus, you’re not just making one paddle board. Manufacturers have to make enough iSUPs to meet the steadily growing demand.
When you think about it, you’ll realize how much effort, expertise, and time go into making inflatable paddle boards using drop stitch technology.
Now I’ve explained all about drop stitch construction, hopefully you’ll be able to understand why it’s such an important feature of inflatable paddle boards today.
Drop stitch construction is what allows you to inflate your iSUP to high pressure and enjoy unmatched rigidity – while adding durability and overall ‘toughness’ to your board. So, the next time you see this feature on a paddle board, you’ll know that it’s something worth paying attention to.