SUPs with hard shells; are they hard to live with?
‘SUP boards that don’t pack down into a convenient bag make the whole stand up paddle boarding thing much less fun. Don’t they? SUPs that are hard make storage really tricky. Don’t they?‘
And so on…
Stand up paddle boarding’s recent surge in popularity has been unprecedented. Harking back to days of old when new outdoor fads were taken hold of by the masses. (Think windsurfing and skateboarding where every man and his dog suddenly owned kit). Unlike those heady days of the 80s we’ve also had a pandemic to contend with. And it’s this that’s kept the growth machine going over an 18 month (or so) period. Although actually, at time of writing (October 2021), SUP’s popularity hasn’t slowed.
The inflatable stand up paddle board option.
There are lots of questions about SUP gear. With so many options on the market, it’s inevitable. One question about gear was met with surprise. This is because we suggested a hard SUP option might make more sense. The response from our subject didn’t think that was a thing. Instead, their perception was stand up paddle boards were only of the air filled variety.
Inflatable SUPs certainly have their place. There’s no question they’re easier to travel with. Particularly overseas. Another great advantage, not as widely spoken about, is their ding free properties. Unlike their hard shell siblings, air boards can be chucked about with reckless abandon. You may scuff the PVC a little. And perhaps with total uncaring puncture the board. But if you did the same with a hard board it’s end up in ding repair A&E.
We won’t get into direct comparisons between iSUPs and hard SUPs. This has been covered elsewhere. And actually, how can you really compare apples and pears?
The hard SUP choice.
Those who purchase a hard shell stand up paddle board – like the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic – are doing so because they want a performance boost. Perhaps they already own an iSUP and want equipment for more efficient progression. Or maybe the paddler in question’s looking at tackling a specific area of SUP. Possibly SUP surfing, where a hard board will always win over an iSUP.
The biggest thing with a hard shell stand up paddle boards is rigidity. It may sound obvious but being hard, and not full of air, gives greater stiffness. And this translates to reactivity, performance and efficiency. Over an iSUP you probably gain an extra 30-60% performance, depending on the design. We know many a stand up paddler that’s started on an inflatable, tried a hard version, and switched straight away.
A BIG difference with a hard shell stand up paddle board is that you have a rigid platform to stand on. There’s no flex in the centre, as you get with an iSUP. And without deflection, the efficiency at which a hard SUP travels across water is much more efficient and pleasant.
We’ve talked about wave environments before and how an air board bends on take off, sticks to the water’s surface and doesn’t fully release. But most importantly you can’t fully engage an iSUP’s rail edge for turning. Unlike its harder sibling which is extremely good at this. Of course, this again is SUP surfing specific, but you get the point. There are many more scenarios where a hard stand up paddle board just fits the bill so much better. But that’s your call to make as and when…
Owning a hard stand up paddle board.
When you choose to purchase a hard shell stand up paddle board you’re doing so with all of the peripheral ‘stuff’ that comes with it. Consciously or subconsciously you’ve already determined how (and where) you’re going to store it. Likewise with transport to and from your chosen SUP location(s). For anyone seeking pinnacle stand up paddling performance these so called issues aren’t even a factor. You want the best so you just deal with all the things you need to make it happen.
Getting your gear to the water’s edge for instance can be as simple as chucking the board on a roof rack and tying it down. It doesn’t matter what vehicle you own lashing a SUP to the roof is 100% doable. And to be honest, we see so much of this with iSUPs it’s really not a thing to be concerned about.
For those truly committed (and there are many) the mode of transport chosen is directly relatable to time on the water paddling. This is why the watersports fraternity at large own vans. It’s a full lifestyle choice. As we said above, it’s no issue ratcheting down a SUP to the roof of your suburban run around. But owning a van does make things easier we’ll acknowledge.
As far as storage goes where there’s a will there’s a way and all that. Even paddlers residing in smaller one bedroom city apartments we know of manage to stow away 10’6 hard SUPs. It may be a squeeze getting it through the front door, or perhaps you pass it through the window. Some may pay for a lockup to dump all their stand up paddling kit. As we said, where there’s a will there’s a way. Ultimately it comes down to how much the rider in question wants to get on the water and enjoy their sport to the max.
iSUP set up and pack down hassles.
Whilst there are a large number of inflatable stand up paddle board owner who leave their air boards pumped up there is a good % that don’t. The ones who do possibly leave them ready because, actually, the process of inflating and deflating is a hassle. Even with an electric pump there’s time stood around twiddling thumbs whilst your ride fills with air. and you still have to get the air out at the end of your session.
Hard stand up paddle boards don’t require this. Grab your board out of the van, or from the top of your car, suit up, paddle at the ready and away you go. Having finished it’s then a case of chucking your wet gear inside and hoofing the board back on the roof or inside. It really is much simpler (and quicker) in terms of getting set up and finishing off.
Dings and damage.
We touched on this earlier in the article but a hard shell stand up paddle board is more susceptible to damage compared to inflatable counterparts. At some point you will scratch, scuff and potentially hole your SUP. But it’s no biggy as repairs are fairly simple – either yourself or a professional doing the work.
Going back to the making it work point and an offshoot of owning a hard SUP board is learning how to maintain and repair your kit. It’s not uncommon to find a recreational hard SUP board paddler who’s pretty good with resin and fiberglass.
Taking things one step further and this has led onto some actually hand shaping their own boards. But for most, simply knowing how to repair a ding will suffice.
The (hard) bottom line.
Owning a hard shell stand up paddle board really is no issue. For all the supposed plus points of inflatables vs hard SUPs they’re actually a non-entity when all said and done. Air SUPs may suit the majority but there are plenty in contrast who want exactly what a board like the Freshwater bay Paddleboard Co Classic can deliver.
If you’re debating over whether to fork out for a hard shell SUP and upgrade from your inflatable, then give us a shout to discuss. Likewise, if this is your first purchase from Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co and you just need more of a steer on the performance traits of each model, give us a holla.
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