Stand Up Paddle Board Guide: Carbon SUP Gear For The Win
Carbon fiber and fiberglass remain the two most common constructions on the market today when it comes to stand up paddle boards. While the aesthetic question of size and shape is absolutely significant — both of which vary drastically depending on a board’s intended purpose — a more important question lies within…
Often times overlooked, since not outwardly seen, the hypothetical ‘nuts and bolts’ of your board remain an important factor to consider. For eager groms and avid SUPers alike, it’s essential to consider what the skeleton of your desired stand up paddle board is, down to its simplest form. The best stand up paddle board is a sum of parts! Enjoy these stand up paddle boarding tips in just 7 min.
While the nucleus of the average stand up paddle board is made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam cores, the divergent factor comes when it’s time for a shaper to layer the core with either a fiberglass or a carbon construction.
This battle royale will inevitably test your decision-making skills when comparing which type of board and paddle is right for you.
The Benefits of a carbon SUP
Carbon fiber as a board material is generally stronger and stiffer in performance, compared to fiberglass. The rigor and strength of a carbon stand up paddle board will not flex as much under a rider’s weight. Ultimately, the high tensile stiffness of carbon will make a stand up paddle board more responsive and maneuverable, reacting more quickly to your movements on the board, which is great for paddling and surfing where you are making lots of turns.
Carbon also reinforces a board’s core with much less material than fiberglass — which often requires double and triple layering, since it’s more pliable and bendy by nature. Fiberglass stand up paddle boards also need wood or PVC stringers (strips of material that run lengthwise through the board) to stiffen the composition up so the board doesn’t bend or buckle under the weight of the rider.
Because it calls for less material, the carbon variety of stand up paddle boards weigh considerably less than fiberglass — ultimately reducing drag and increasing speed and glide. The noticeably lighter mass turns up the turbo so that you can move faster through the water. No surprise you see top racing pros using carbon stand up paddle boards almost exclusively.
If you’re not worried about being a cheetah through the channel, at least have solace in knowing the weight savings when convoying your board down to the beach or to a launch pad. Not to mention, mounting a carbon stand-up paddle board on top of your vehicle or onto a garage rack won’t be a strained mission either.
What to consider when choosing a carbon SUP
With slews of different stand up paddle boards in existence today, it can easily become overwhelming to make sure you pick the right rig for you. When shopping around, the number one thing to think about when in the market for a SUP is, “How will it match up with the type of riding that I want to do?”
Where do you expect to take your stand up paddle board out mostly? Considering what your natural environment calls for will certainly help dwindle down a board style. One aspect to be cautionary of is that carbon is more prone to dings. While carbon is a really strong material, it is also brittle, and therefore easy to ding. Consider this characteristic if you tend to be rough on your toys, or depending on where you want/tend to go SUPing. This is one reason why you may not see too many carbon boards cruising through rivers or shallow canals, where the risk to run aground or smash into rocks and tree flotsam is greater than that of an open body of deeper water, like a lake or ocean.
When looking at purchasing a carbon stand up paddle board, remember that they come in all different shapes, sizes and styles, thus pricing will reflect that. But more importantly, they differ in how much carbon they have and where the carbon is used on the board. A full-wrap carbon surfstyle SUP will ride much differently than one that has carbon just along the rails. The same holds true for carbon race and downwind boards. The retail prices of these will range significantly based on these varying features. Basically, it’s like deciding which level of spice to go with when the server at the Thai restaurant asks how hot you want your curry to be. If you like it spicy…you’ll probably be paying a higher tag.
All things considered, it’s advantageous to weigh in on your technical ability. Oh, and be honest with yourself, because it will affect your enjoyment out on the water. As your skill level improves, your board volume will decrease. A stand up paddle board’s volume, expressed in liters, gives an indication of the board’s ability to float with weight on it. Considering the number of liters, especially when first starting out, is smart. A common misconception when selecting a stand up paddle board tends to be the importance of length. And while length is certainly a forefront consideration when surfing into waves, or recreationally paddling flatwater, it’s also important to gauge the width and thickness. The more volume available here, the easier to ride and manoeuvre. If there’s less to work with, this simply means the rider should be more comfortable and confident in their ability to stand, balance and paddle.
Vanhunks carbon stand up paddle boards
When it comes to manufacturing its stand up paddle boards, Vanhunks scoured the globe for the very best materials and technologies — positioning itself to become a king of longevity — by extensively testing its products in various climates and conditions.
It’s specially moulded EPS closed cell core comes wrapped inside an epoxy ‘sandwich’ construction. Vanhunks exclusively uses epoxies for its SUP boards, as they simply outperform most other resin types in terms of mechanical properties and resistance to environmental degradation. Epoxy constructions are dependable when it comes to durability, low porosity and strong bond strength. They also provide high-temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion.
So what are your options?
The Afro Brushed Carbon
The Afro Carbon SUP has received 10s across the board from amped riders and surfers. The Afro is an advanced stand up paddle board, which caters specifically to those looking to surf into waves, designed specially for high-performance riders. You’ll feel the ease when executing a carve on the bottom turn, the speed generated off the edges, the power up against the face, and the control when hitting the lip. But don’t be intimidated; this board is also hella fun just to enjoy simply paddling around calm waters and soaking the sun too.
Let’s break it down
The planing hull is flat and wide, designed to playfully float through mangroves and also in/beyond breaks. The planing surface is ideal for leisure paddling, surfing, SUP yoga and whitewater.
The Afro incorporates two different concave designs — a single-concave nose in the front, providing surface for drive — and a double-concave in the rear section to loosen up the board, channeling the water into two streams through the fins and out the tail. This means smooth edge-to-edge transitioning, adding grade A fluidity to your wave riding.
Meanwhile, the tail kick shape triggers rapid acceleration whilst releasing explosive power for swift turning and optimum performance. This commonly used tail shape is referred to as a ‘squash tail’ and used often on modern surfboards. The design is considerably suitable for both small peaks and overhead waves.
The fuller rails and extra width in the rider section offer increased stability and contributes to additional volume for super fast and easy takeoff — enabling you to maximize your batting average of catching waves on this shorter board. The rocker line is perfect for those tight pockets too, setting the board and its riders up for some stylish and controlled bottom turns or sneakily sliding into the barrel of a wave.
The Afro can be installed to be either a three-fin thruster or a quad. The thruster set up promotes straight tracking on flatwater and remains a longtime favorite fin configuration amongst water enthusiasts. The quad sets you up for more drive through turns and increased speed down the line. It also allows for a stable rail-to-rail riding at higher speeds. Vanhunks uses next-gen Futures Fins for all its directional, surf and stand up
The Spear Pro Racing SUP
The Spear SUP is unquestionably fast with its key construction of biax carbon over the complete hull of the board. It proves quick ‘off the start’ and ‘onto the plane’, with minimal drag. It also offers easy turning around the buoys and promises fast recovery as water flows off and under the board.
This superior carbon stand up paddle board has been specially designed and tested in a range of conditions, with competitors in mind. But despite it being dubbed a racing rig, it is certainly suitable for those adventurous weekend warriors or fitness paddlers, in addition to the professional racers looking to cross the finish line with style.
Let’s dive in
The Spear’s recessed deck ensures a lower center of gravity for increased rider stability. The dihedral, pointed nose shape gives this stand up paddle board additional volume and adds to the dynamic mix of speed and aptness to glide across the water surface. It does this by keeping the nose on top of the water surface in bumpy conditions, while decreasing water drag.
The displacement hull slices through the water, pushing it away from the nose and off to the sides of the SUP, to improve efficiency and create a fast, smooth ride. They are generally less sturdy than a planing hull, but the efficiency of a displacement hull requires less paddling effort, allowing you to go longer distances at faster speeds.
Because of Its unique rocker line, this is a major contributor to this board’s fast reputation. Equipped with a slender body and a bottom with a minimal concave center, speed remains the name of the game. Plus, additional volume in the tail and sharp concaved channels on both of its edges make the Spear easy to turn and get back onto the water surface, and accelerating into the glide.
The Spear uses a single fin setup, which has been known to attract a serious cult following. Single fins are a common sight on longboards and is great for holding a line. You do however, have to take more of the energy that the wave gives you and work a bit harder to get in front of it to take off. Riders generally have to take whatever the wave gives them and have less ability to generate their own speed. Don’t be fooled though, they are very fast once you get going.
“Not all boards are made equal” — Vanhunks Boarding Co.
So now that you’ve got your cake base, you need the icing to really get you moving. Time to find a sweet paddle to get cruising…
Vanhunks Carbon Paddles
Vanhunks uses a ‘Press Clave system’ to cure its carbon stand up paddle boards. This means blades are cut to the perfect shape with a five-axis CNC machine, so that they have an ABS side wall reinforcement to protect both your paddle and board against hard knocks.
The paddle shafts are made extra stiff, thus every stroke counts and increases maximum performance (the higher the carbon content, the stiffer your shaft will be). This will make paddle strokes a bit more difficult, but will ultimately provide better exercise and ability to go faster.
Using only high-quality, super light and super strong prepreg, Vanhunks’ carbon paddles are essentially your ticket up to space. Kidding. But Vanhunks’ CEO, Cobus van Zyl, mentions that the carbon they use is the same used in the aeronautical design and in racing machines.
Never heard of the term prepreg? While it is used in a variety of different products and industries, the process involves fabric/cloth reinforcement that has been impregnated with a resin system. The resin system is typically an epoxy and already includes the proper curing agent to lay into a mold, which is then vacuum bagged with heat and pressure to seamlessly seal.
Compared to traditional hand layup laminates, prepegs may be a higher cost, but they’re also much stronger, more uniform, lighter in weight, and use less material.
“Our new carbon prepreg blades achieve their performance through a high-tech manufacturing process that pre-impregnates epoxy resin through carbon fibres at immense pressures at up to 65% carbon-to-resin content,” he says. “Paddles made in this process can offer dramatic weight saving and produce a paddle blade where the edge wear is vastly superior to conventional wet lay-up processes which rarely achieve 40% carbon-to-resin content.”
Vanhunks’ Florida rep, Tyrone Cochrane, divulges on his ideal paddles to use:
“The paddle I usually use is an adjustable carbon 86 or 91. Depending on how long I’m going to be out on the water will determine the blade size I take,” he says. “If I’m going for a long flatwater paddle or a long surf, I’ll use the 86 adjustable carbon because it won’t tire me out but is still a bigger blade to help get me moving quickly into a wave.
If I’m going for a short cruise and find some waves along the way, the 91 is a great paddle because of the size of blade and the stiffness of the 3k carbon. Every stroke counts and gets me going with little effort. Anyone looking for a surf or flat water/racing paddle who weighs between 125 lbs and 185 lbs should consider these the blade sizes to go for.”
Overall, the key characteristic of carbon remains to be a ‘to each their own’ subject matter when buying either a board and/or paddle. But avid SUPers can’t deny some clear benefits:
-Efficient flex, stiffness and strength
-Noticeably lighter in weight
-Stylish motion and mobility through the water
Which is what we’re all here for anyway right?
So the next time you think: “Where is a stand up paddle board near me?”, think Van Hunks!