Inflatable Board Thickness

 In Academy, Gear

2018 marks a point of demarcation for Badfish. After 7 years in business this year is the first we are producing a lineup of boards totally independently, after 6 years of working with a Licensee. Of course we have always built customs and special projects, but the 2018 lineup is a 100% Badfish.

We have been working hard over the past year to develop these new boards and a lot of thought, prototyping, testing and revisions have gone into the finished products. Given that I want to spend a little time over the next few weeks introducing you to some of the key design features that we are really excited about.

One of the most obvious features of most of our inflatable boards this year is they are 5” thick. Many of our past models like the Hole Shot and IRS were 6” thick. In fact most inflatable SUP’s on the market are built with 6” drop stitch. So why 5”? Of course the short answer is we think it’s better, but let me describe why.

When you make a dropstitch paddleboard you can’t make a right angle on the rail or really any angle at all like you can with an epoxy, shaped, paddleboard. All inflatable rails end up being a radius as the material is pulled around and joined. The thicker the board, the bigger that radius. The impact of that bigger radius is decreased stability. For example if a board is 33” wide, but 6” thick the radius will start further back on the bottom of the board meaning the effective flat area on a 6” thick board is smaller than a 5” board of equivalent width. With a 5” thick board you can make a slightly narrower board that paddles better, without sacrificing stability. This means a board like the Monarch will feel really stable in flatwater without paddling like a slug.


Another  reason  for  5”  thick  over 6”  is  volume.  A  board  like  the  Monarch  at  11’  long,  5”  thick  and  34”  wide  is  a  ton  of  volume.  The  weight  capacity  of  board  that  size  is  huge.  When  you  paddle  a  6” thick  board  of  similar  dimensions  almost  everyone  who  isn’t  professionally  sumo wrestling  will  be  paddling  a  board  with  too  much  volume  for  them, which  contributes  to  reduced stability  as  well.  The  last reason  for  5”  thickness  is  surfing  performance.  While  no  inflatable  can  surf  like  a  shaped  hard  board,  the  shorter  radiusand  thinner  rail of  a  5”  thick  rail  means  you  can get  more  of  the  rail  in  the  water  when  you  initiate  a  turn on  a  wave and  that  makes  a  huge difference  in  performance  on  both  ocean  and  river  waves.  That  is  why  we  downsized  the  IRS  to 5”  thickness  and  the  Surf  Traveler  is  also  designed  with  5”.  Of  course  the  ISK8  turns  even  harder  because  it  is  made  from  2.75”  drop  stitch,  but  a  paddle  board  at  that  thickness  would  not  float  many  full  grown  humans.  All  that  being  said  there  is  absolutely  a  place  for  6”  thick  inflatable  boards  and  we  kept  the  Rivershred  at  6”  mainly  because  in  the  case  of  whitewater  paddling  the  increased  rail  radius  is  actually  a  performance  enhancement.  When  you  are  river  running  being  able  to  roll  the  board  up  on  to  a  rail  when  crossing  eddy  lines  is  absolutely critical  and  the  bigger  radius  of  the  6”  board  facilitates  this.

So when you are choosing an inflatable SUP be sure to ask if the design was well thought out and offers performance for the type of paddling you are going to be doing and one key consideration is thickness. See you on the water! –Mike Harvey, Salida, CO

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