What makes a good paddleboard? SUP technology explained

All inflatable paddleboards are not the same, and at McConks we fanaticise over making inflatable SUP boards that we want to ride, that last for as long as possible, that deliver the very best performance and that have the lowest impact on the environment.  So beware of experts salespeople who tell you that all inflatable paddleboards are the same. 

You wouldn’t believe the amount of effort, careful thought, and testing that goes into the design of a McConks board. Right down to the very core of the board, we design and specify every component to ensure they meet the highest standards, and that ensure our boards help you on your journey. Whether that be from beginner to leader, or from Birmingham to the Humber. 


McConks SUP construction layup

Our new woven fabric has less give than the more commonly used knitted fabric, and this reduces the number of high tensile threads per centimetre, reducing the amount of plastic used, reducing weight, whilst increasing stiffness and rigidity. 

That means you get a board that’s easy to carry, that accelerates faster, without sacrificing any stiffness or strength. 

To put this into context, our Go Anywhere 10’6 board weights just 8.5kg and even though its only 4.75″ thick, it can carry a paddler over over 100kg with big black lab with hardly any deflection (bending).


Black Friday SUP 2021

From 2022, our rails use a combination of chemical and physical bonds.   We use the very highest quality South Korean Zebec adhesive to ensure seam seals, and then apply a physical heat process to give additional strength to the rail seams.  

Our rails are first formed by joining the woven dropstitch together at the rails and then adhering a PVC band.  Then a larger, heavy duty PVC rail band is then welded to the outside rail.


You won’t see a 2 year old McConks boards with the deckpad lifting, or the valve surround coming unstuck, or the D Rings rusting.  We use the absolute best components and fittings on our boards to make sure they look as good as they did on day one at the end of the 5 year warranty. UV treatment as standard across the range ensures that the board doesn’t fade or fail in the sun.3


Our very fastest boards have a carbon stringer running the length of the deck (top) and hull (bottom) that make them 3x stiffer.

The combination of premium woven material and carbon stringer brings the absolute best combination of industry leading stiffness and weight. Unlike most other inflatable paddleboards, these boards do not flex as you put the power on, meaning less flex and displacement : Acceleration and glide to the max!


The truth behind the SUP myths

Fusion construction is the best balance between weight, rigidity, and cost effectiveness.  The top and bottom sheets of the drop stitch have two layers of fabric that are permanently bonded to each other, and a layer of PVC is fused to the outside of this double ply fabric. This technology is most commonly called fusion, but is also branded as many different technologies by different companies, the most famous of which is Monocoque Structural Laminate or MSL, created by a factory in China, and copyrighted (not patented) by a well know major brand.

The resulting fusion technology is significantly stiffer, less bouncy and less likely to puncture than a single layer board. The additional stiffness of the fusion board means that smaller all round boards can be made from 4.75 or 5″ thick, although longer boards (greater than 11 foot long or so) still suffer from too much ‘bounce’ at 4.75″ or 5″ thick.  At this length, 6″ thick is still needed for ultimate performance. 

There are different types of fusion, the first kind to be used widely across the iSUP market, and still the most common, is based on a cheaper heavier Korean drop stitch, that was knitted rather than woven. This knitted drop stitch is more prone to twisting during manufacture and use. This heavier fusion is significantly less rigid than the woven fusion, based on German technology, and is both lighter and stiffer.  We exclusively use the very best woven drop stitch fabric across our range of boards at McConks.  

One thing to note is that some manufacturers claim single skin boards are double layer or fusion boards by counting adhesive or coatings as layers than actual PVC or fabric layers. It’s often the same brands that claim to use Military Grade premium materials that can be found resorting to such marketing sleight of hand!

Myth buster | all inflatable paddleboards use the same drop stitch materials

It’s true that almost all inflatable paddleboards on the market now use fusion dropstitch.  But fusion no longer is the leading technology it was five years ago. 

However, only a very small proportion of the premium or elite boards on the market that claim to use fusion material use the best woven drop stitch from the best supplier. We are one of them. And they’re all sold at a similar or higher price point than ours. 

The new woven fabric has less give than the previous knitted fabric, and allows us to reduce the number of high tensile threads per centimetre, reducing the amount of plastic used, reducing weight, whilst increasing stiffness and rigidity. 

That means you get a board that’s easy to carry, that accelerates faster, without sacrificing any stiffness or strength. 

To put this into context, our Go Anywhere 10’6 board weights just 8.5kg and even though its only 4.75″ thick, it can carry a paddler over over 100kg with a 50kg big black lab with hardly any deflection (bending)!

All about the rails

A single strip of relatively thin PVC coated fabric along the rails of the board is the cheapest way to seal the board, but the most vulnerable to puncture and leakage. Boards made with single layer rails are normally reinforced with 1cm or 2cm strips at the top and bottom of the rail to give a little extra protection. Some less scrupulous manufacturers call this a two layer rail, despite it only being a reinforced single layer.


This is the most common rail configuration, where a single rail band seals off the dropstitch, and then a second layer is fused over the top.  Boards with a larger gap between the edges of the drop stitch layers (less overlap with the inner rail band) are easier to build but have less structural integrity than boards where the drop stitch fabric layers fold farther over the sides leaving a narrower gap to close with the rail band. The amount of overlap between the different rails and dropstitch is also critical. At McConks every overlap is at least 1cm, mean that there is a total overlap on the top and bottom of at least 2cm.

Some manufacturers have started adding carbon or fibreglass to the rails accompanied with the mistaken claim that this increases stiffness. Whilst this might make the rails slightly more resistant to scratches and punctures, it does nothing to increase stiffness or rigidity.


At McConks, we use a method where the adhesive is applied using heat, and then cured, which forms a chemical and physical bond that can’t be broken. This is the best of both worlds 

But it’s not all about the layup

The layup affects the rigidity and robustness, but there are many other factors that affect how long your board keeps performing to the highest level. We use the very best fittings and components, and have never used cost as a deciding factor. Performance, longevity and sustainability are the only criteria that matter to us.


Cheap deckpads can wear because they are the place where all the action happens. We use a more resilient rubber on our pads that resists wear, disperses pressure, and provides an exceptional grip for the rider.

Our deckpads are also adhered to the board using heat. The board, adhesive and deckpad are machined together using pressure at 80 degrees. That’s why you should NEVER see a premium McConks board with the deckpad lifting off


Every premium board has a a kickpad at the tail.

A kickpad is the raised bit of deckpad that provides tactile feedback to a rider as they step back, and prevents paddlers from stepping too far back. An essential component for step back/pivot turns, and SUP Yoga.

UV protection

Our boards are unusual in that we apply a UV protection to them in the final stages of production*. That means that the deckpad remains as bright and virbant three years down the line as the day you bought them. Some of our trade customers re still using the same boards three years down the line, and they’re indistinguishable from the brand new ones. Making things that are durable and that last are a key component of our core sustainability principles. We don’t believe in planned obsolesence!

The best valves

We use the very best Halkey Roberts valves. Rated to 45PSI, the valves are the best and most expensive SUP Valves out there. But we don’t believe anyone should cut on such a critical component of an inflatable device!

The valve and pump lock together effortlessly to get you on the water as quickly as possible.

Our boards feature our custom valve cover design with a key message – “Be safe | Know your limits” – We think it’s on point that safety should be something you’re always reminded of before every paddling session.

Are we really the number 1 best brand in the UK?

Claiming to be number one SUP manufacturer is really big claim, and we wouldn’t dream of making that statement about ourselves. But if other people want to, who are we to disagree?

SUPhubUK undertook a survey of over 1000 paddlers and SUP instructors in the summer of 2018 (1), to really get to the bottom of what real SUP riders thought of the different SUP brands. They published the raw data of the survey, and we’ve used that raw data to generate these visuals. We’re rather flattered to come number one across almost every category, from value for money, to rigidity, to happiness, to quality of accessories. Click the graphs below to go to the full snazzy animated results.

(1) The next survey will be in 2021, and we’re trying really hard to still be top of the tree in 2021!

McConks versus the big boys
McConks versus the big boys

GoXperience has been using McConks boards for 3 seasons now. The 10’8″ GoAnywhere boards and 11’4″ GoExplore boards have had a hard life! Left out in the Mediterranean Sun, fully inflated to there Max PSI, strapped to the deck of the yacht when not in use, exposed to the sun and elements they have little to no UV damage. Used by experienced Paddlers and beginners alike, the build quality and construction stands the test of time, use and abuse extremely well. Bounced off rocks when helping moor the boat in wild locations, dragged up stony beaches, bringing garbage to to yacht from the shore on beach cleans, SUP yoga, SUP games and used for longer paddles around Islands when it’s adventure time. Not just once or twice a week, but day in day out for 7 months of the year on a commercial bases. I started GoXperience with 3 Red 10’8″ boards and by the end of the 1st season the UV had dulled the RED logo, the sky blue construction had faded and the glue on the deck pad had broken down and needed constant repairs. By far the worst problem was the 3 glued on fins kept coming off in the second season. Now they are stuck on with a Marine grade bonding agent called Sikaflex, look terrible and are now the reserve boards. I will continue to use McConks at GoXperience as I believe the construction, price and customer service levels are bang on for a business that works in remote areas and needs reliability in its equipment.

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