Author: Doug Anderson @la_sup
Carbon Fiber has found its way into almost every piece of sports equipment and Stand Up Paddling is definitely reaping the benefits! You can find boards, paddles and fins all made with different types of carbon fiber technology and their applications. The primary benefit of carbon is its stiff, lightweight strength and rigidity. Carbon fiber is 2-5 times more rigid than steel and aluminum for a given weight, depending on the fiber used. Here is a quick overview of some basic applications of carbon for boards, paddles and fins.
Boards are made with so many different names for Carbon that it can get very confusing. A good basic rule to go by is the more carbon, the lighter weight the object will be. The catch is that the price goes up dramatically. Current applications are using Carbon with various types of layups to achieve different flex and stiffness. Flex is a very important component in SUP board design. Imagine your board being able to remain stiff and smooth while paddling around, but when put through the force of a hard-bottom turn, you can actually feel the standup paddle board flex. Carbon down the stringer will achieve this. So, with that being said, Surf SUPs benefit from carbon strategically placed to aid in flex and rebound while Race SUPs benefit from full carbon layups to maximize stiffness and lightweight attributes. Personally, I love a super stiff race board- on the other hand, I prefer my surf SUP to have carbon placed strategically for optimal flex for its required performance.
Paddles are a bit more basic due to the fact that the performance part comes from the design of the blade. Shaft stiffness does play a large roll but this is more of a personal feature preference. Same rule applies with regards to the amount of carbon, the more that is used the higher the price tag. In my opinion, a paddle is where you want to splurge, though- once you get on the board with a really nice paddle, it’s hard to go back. Shaft stiffness is achieved by the amount of carbon and/ or the type of weave. Blades are typically not solid but foam filled with the carbon compression molded outer shell. I prefer a medium stiff shaft as it is a bit easier on my shoulders.
Fins are a great place to shed weight at a relatively low cost with a huge upside in performance. Fin companies are making a ton of great fins with all kinds of flex patterns and carbon fiber is one of the major components. Flex and weight are two very important attributes to surf fin performance and those features are perfect for carbon fiber. I ride a Future Quad set that I have in a large and small size that is a foam core glass carbon blend. If you want to give your board a little boost just get yourself a new performance set of fins from your local fin pro!
I hope this helps makes sense of some tech qualities that can help improve not only your understanding but also give you a better experience on whatever SUP board you choose to ride. Don’t over think it, though- keep the basics in mind and break it down with a professional if you need more clarity before any new purchase.
I purposely brought up some ideas here for future topics, so I look forward to diving into more tech and design, soon.
Keep an eye out for more info on:
Board design and theory
Fin design and application