How to Series - Inflatable Paddle Board Thickness

Welcome to the How To Series. Where we go over many common questions people have when deciding what board to buy or questions after they receive their board.

Board ThicknessMost inflatable stand up paddle board companies provide boards with a variety of thicknesses from 4" all the way to 6". Why is this and what are the benefits of both.


Having a stiff board is key to enjoying your ride. What manufactures of inflatable SUP found out is when you put the same pressure (PSI) into a 4" board and a 6" board, the 6" board will be stiffer. This is because you need more volume of air to bring a thicker board to the same PSI. Another benefit to thicker boards is they can hold more weight. So heavier riders or riders that want to carry extra cargo/pets/kids can do so at a lower PSI than a thinner board. The last benefit (to some) is you sit higher on the water. This keeps your feet/cargo drier.

So problem solved, thicker boards win. Not so fast.

Some of the problems with a thicker board are more air mean more pumping. More pumping means more work/energy to get out on the water. Another problem is thicker boards are bigger, bulkier and heavier. One more problem is thicker boards have a larger side rail and for activities such as surfing you need a nice thin rail to catch those waves.


Thickness is not the only factor when trying to achieve a stiff board. How the board is made and what materials are used is also a big factor. The type of drop stitch, PVC stringers, and taped side rails are a few of the techniques used to allow a higher PSI without losing its shape. But finding the right balance can be hard to do. As Ruben puts it in the video below, anyone can make a thick iSUP stiff, but only a few can make a thin iSUP stiff. 

Red Paddle is one of those few companies that can do it. They have 2 technologies that help. Their RSS batten system and MSL Fusion. RSS batten are 2 plastic batten that are inserted in a pocket on each side rail. Boards can be up to 40% stiffer when used. RSS is not on all boards, but are on the 3.93" boards and the thicker bigger boards. Read more about it here. MSL Fusion was introduced in 2016. Red Paddle overhauled their manufacture process. This was done on all 2016 Red Paddle Co boards. Read more about it here.


So you can see there are pros and cons to thick and thin boards. Thick boards are stiffer at the same PSI, can carry more weight at that PSI and keeps you higher and dryer on the board. But they require more air/pumping, big/bulky and not very good at catching surf.
Whereas thin boards are better for lighter riders and for surfing. And companies such as Red Paddle are excellent at producing a thin board that is stiffer because of technologies such as RSS and MSL Fusion.

Check out our Red Paddle Co Board Chooser to see all the different thicknesses (and other stats) on all the Red Paddle Co boards we carry.

Have a question? Contact Us, we are always here to help.
Happy Paddling!

Recently SUP Boarder posted a video that explains the pros and cons of thick and thin boards and a little bit of the history of inflatables. Find the video below


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.