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Paddle board maximum inflation pressure for McConks paddle boards – IMPORTANT

Paddle board maximum inflation pressure needs to be a certain PSI. We’ve been contacted by a number of customers who have noticed that some brands have been reducing their maximum pressure guarantee, and have been asking if we’re going to be doing the same.

Paddle board definites! We can confidently state that we WILL NOT be changing our pressure guarantees or recommendations.

All of our paddle board inflatables currently available to purchase are made of the very best drop stitch material available – The stiffest lightest and fastest available. Some call this xxx800 (change xxx for the three letter acronym a colourful paddle board company have copyrighted since 2016 – but do be aware, when they claim it’s unique to them, only the copyrighted three letter acronym is unique to them – the technology is available to everyone as it isn’t patented), some call it two layer machine weave, some call it double skin factory woven. We just call it the best. In reality, not many companies use it across their entire range because it is so expensive. We’re pretty unique in doing so!

Following the recalls by a number of paddle board brands in 2022, and the subsequent withdrawal of their maximum PSI guarantee, and the reduction in recommended operating pressure for those brands, we’d like to assure all of our customers that:

– We still recommend that our paddleboards are inflated to a MINIMUM of 15PSI for the best performance, and ideally are inflated to between 16 and 20 PSI. A already mentioned (sorry for reinforcing the point!) wee are very unusual, if not unique in UK companies, in using the very best X-Woven double layer fusion drop stitch across our entire range, and have done since 2021. This really impacts the cost of our raw materials, but it is worth every penny in additional cost. There is no other technology that is stiffer at the same pressure, and lighter for the same performance. So if a company is telling you to inflate your board to less than 15PSI, they are purely protecting their poor build quality at the expense of your paddling experience.

– We still honour our max pressure guarantee of 25PSI. Our boards are manufactured to withstand a pressure of 30PSI. A combination of high-tech no contamination manufacturing techniques in our factory, a build time of 60 hours plus 72 hours testing time, skilled workers treated ethically, and the best quality raw materials, mean that we can continue to offer improved warranties and guarantees.

We base our warranties and guarantees on product longevity and product quality. We didn’t adopt long warranties and high pressure guarantees as a marketing tactic. And as a result, we haven’t been telling customers to cut massive holes in their faulty boards and dispose of them before replacing with replacement boards with lower pressure guarantees. In fact, of the small number of boards we’ve had with manufacturing issues (a vanful of boards since 2016), nearly all have been repaired by SUP services and given to charitable causes as part of our GoInspire initiative.

Read on to understand the backstory behind the use of pressure guarantees and warranties as a sales tactic.

The history of inflatable paddle boards

There is a backstory here. When we first set up McConks, there were two real quality differentiators that affected performance:

– Finished quality, or how good the final product looked. Back in 2015, before the days of fusion technology, you could tell mediocre from bad just by looking how well the PVC was glued, how many air bubbles there were between PVC layers, and how quickly it looked like the deckpad was going to peel away (although even some of the ‘premium’ brands were known for fittings to peel off, and for the deckpad to look ten years old after a week in the sun).

– Pressure guarantee. Cheaper lower raw material boards had a maximum pressure of between 12 and 15PSI. The premium brands like RED had an operating pressure of 15PSI, but were guaranteed up to 20PSI. And we heard that some heavier paddlers found even premium 15PSI board had a little too much flex.

Back in 2015, all boards were manually glued together. And the key difference in both price and quality were how long it took to make the board. Low quality boards were thrown together quickly, and looked like they had been, often at the point of purchase, but more often after a few weeks of use. Good quality boards took much longer, had much higher QA standards, looked better, and lasted longer. Of course, as the boards were all manually assembled, there was variation, with some ‘quality boards’ actually looking worse than low quality boards, and vice versa. But on average, the higher quality boards lasted longer and had less manufacturing defects than the lower quality boards.

Most board damage – even manufacturing defects can be fixed, by the right experts. We recommend SUP services

Lower quality boards had their place in the paddleboard world – to attract new paddlers at a lower price. But they had their environmental price because there were significantly more failures that just got discarded (you can’t recycle an iSUP!)

When we came along in 2015 (still pre fusion days), we knew that our boards were made to a pressure guarantee of 30PSI, and with our science background, we knew that even in hot UK weather, boards made of a light colour would be able to be inflated to 20PSI without breaching that 30PSI limit on hot weather. And we specified our own quality – a build time of 60 hour per board, and 72 hours pressure testing at 20PSI. So we marketed our boards with the maximum PSI of 27PSI, and a recommended operating pressure of 15 – 18PSI, recommended max operating pressure of 20PSI.

This led to an awful lot of chatter in the early SUP community. Rumours spread that our boards couldn’t really take that pressure. Confusingly, rumours were also spread that our boards were made of inferior materials (they weren’t!) and that’s why they needed a higher pressure. And even more confusingly that no-one could pump a paddle board up to 20PSI, even though pumps were already available that could inflate to 20PSI.

The advent of premium fusion

In 2016 and 2017 the industry changed. The knitted fusion dropstitch from Korea that Red Paddle copyrighted as MSL became available – although at a price. Red Paddle Co switched their entire production to MSL in 2016, and their boards were 2 – 3kg lighter, and looked much more professionally finished. Although the main reason that their boards (and ours) looked better finished was again due to the amount of time spent making the board, and the quality of the operatives putting the board together. Other premium brands (including us) followed closely behind in 2017, and you could then really tell quality boards apart from low quality boards by the weight and the finishing. Lower quality double skin boards were still glued by hand, and were heavier and had air bubbles and wrinkles. These lower quality boards were still made (increasingly) quickly, and it was as much the quality assurance and speed of production (rather than the quality of the raw materials) that meant they couldn’t guarantee a higher pressure than around 12-15 PSI, and that led to the air bubbles and wrinkles. Although rails were still glued manually, and there was always the risk of air bubbles and wrinkles in rails on the higher quality boards, although the risk is lower the better the quality of operatives and the longer the time taken to make the board.

The advent of cheap fusion

Some defects, like delaminated / blown dropstitch are irreparable. But these are very uncommon, even amongst lower quality paddle boards

From 2018 onwards, some lower quality board manufacturers realised that single skin boards didn’t have the same wrinkles and blemishes that manually glued double skin boards had (except on the rails), and they were lighter. And they realised that they could market them as fusion boards because from the outside they were indistinguishable from high quality double skin fusion boards (this practice, sadly, still goes on today). And at the same time, lower quality double skin fusion drop stitch became available in China. It wasn’t as good quality as the stuff made in South Korea, and was less stiff, but it allowed a whole era of budget boards that were better finished and lighter – and this arguably fuelled the explosion of paddleboarding to where it is now. However, these boards were still made quickly (often with operatives paid per board made rather than paid a wage or salary as is the case in the better quality facilities) , and the rail seams are still adhered by hand – and it’s the seams that are the weak point.

Don’t confuse price with quality

Some lower cost boards are very open what technology they use, and are great options for new paddlers because of the price. But the converse is also true, some of these lower quality boards were, and still are, marketed at premium prices (although more often sold at heavy discount to the price point they’re marketed at).

The growth of cheap fusion drop stitch

The only thing that truly separated the premium quality boards from the lower quality boards from 2018 onwards was the pressure guarantee and how rigid they were. Most boards looked well made with the advent of cheap fusion, most were of a similar weight (with the exception of a few brands who were still using double skin manually glued technology but claimed to be using fusion).

Deckpad air bubbles are often can caused by poor manufacturing. Either a board supplier trying to cover up a leaky fusion drop stitch, poor adhesive, or just slapdash build if the deckpads is manually adhered.

Most new paddlers didn’t notice the flex in the cheaper boards, and for many paddlers starting out this wasn’t an issue for them (it actually makes a big performance difference, and we know lots of paddlers who suddenly found they could stand after all once they were on a stiffer board, but that’s a a subject for a different post), but we get called elitist when we point it out, so we won’t!) . Most of these cheaper made boards maintained a max pressure rating of 15PSI, and had a shorter warranty than the quality boards, and that differentiated them. This allowed paddlers to understand what quality they were getting for the £, and allowed people to make an informed choice about what budget they wanted to spend compared to quality.

The EXPLOSION of cheap fusion drop stitch

This is where it went wrong in 2020 and 2021. Some brands struggled to justify the higher price point they were marketing the lower quality raw materials at, and changed the max pressure guarantee to 20PSI, then 25PSI, and sometimes even higher. And this put them on a level playing field to boards made with the premium raw materials, and boards that took 60 hours to assemble and 72 hours to quality assure.

And that literally led to an explosion in fusion boards with a number of recalls due to blown and leaky seams.

Even the most catastrophic seam failures can now be repaired. SUP services can rebond seam failures using hot weld technology, making the seam as strong or even stronger than it was on the day it left the factory.

It’s fair to say that there have been aggravating factors, including periods of high humidity in China meaning that adhesive doesn’t cure as well (although some of the brands affected claimed they had stopped using adhesive and only used physically welded seams, which proved to be untrue, and these claims have disappeared from their websites), coronavirus causing problems with raw material and labour supply at exactly the same time as demand for paddleboards sky rocketed. We were immune to the former issue due to the region our factory is located, but we still saw a higher rate of failures of boards made during 2020 than any other period because of raw material failures. But our failure rate still remained well below 1 in 1000 of boards produced, which (based on anecdotal data) appears to be industry leading. We’re not sure entirely why this is the case, but unlike other manufacturers, when our factory told us they couldn’t meet our production schedule because of lack of workers or lack of raw materials, we didn’t push them. And we didn’t switch to new, unknown suppliers who were making us (what were almost certainly) false promises. We stuck to who, and what we knew, and accepted product shortages as a symptom of the era – even if that meant frustrated customers.

The SUP world post the explosion of cheap fusion drop stitch

And all of a sudden, we’re seeing the maximum PSI rating of a number of mid to premium priced paddleboards being reduced to 20PSI, or 15PSI. And the old claims that you don’t need to inflate a board beyond 15PSI to be rigid are resurfacing. And we’re hearing that rumours are again starting saying that boards that have a higher PSI rating are made of poor raw materials and need to be inflated to higher pressure to be as rigid. This is categorically untrue. Any heavier paddler will ALWAYS want a paddleboard to be inflated to a MINIMUM of 15PSI, and as close to 20PSI as you can be bothered! This is less essential for lighter paddlers, but they will also get optimum performance as as close to 20PSI as possible.

The truth about budget inflatable paddleboards

Budget boards

Don’t get us wrong, we don’t have an issue with brands that make budget boards, and make their technology decisions clear. It is a great way for people to try paddle boarding and see if it’s for them. Not everyone wants to spend £500+ on a board before knowing whether they will like it. As long as they are appropriately marketed to the right size paddlers, good luck to these brands, and well done for getting people into the sport.

Mass produced low quality boards masquerading as premium boards

We reserve our ire for these brands. Brands who have only ever produced boards in factories that pay their employees per board made rather than pay them a salary, who don’t even inflate the boards to check they’re airtight before boxing them up. Brands who are marketing led. Brands who will happily tell you you to cut a hole in the bottom of the board so they can replace with a new one, rather than taking the time to make them well in the first place. It’s been hard to spot them for the last few years. But it’s a little easier now. If you see a brand that is reducing its PSI guarantee, then you know they can’t back their quality.

We can. And we back it up with our 5 year warranty.

5 Year paddle board warranty

Our five year warranty covers:

Deckpad delamination – If a deckpad lifts within 5 years, or if a deckpad gets air bubbles under it, we know that’s a manufacturing defect, and a warranty claim

Seam failures – if a seam leaks or blows within 5 years, that is a manufacturing defect, and a warranty claim

Shape deformation (twists) – if one of our inflatable paddle boards develops a twist within 5 years, that is a manufacturing or raw material defect, and a warranty claim

Handles our handles are triple adhered, and guaranteed for up to 100kg of weight. They will not come off!

Dropstitch delamination – it goes without saying any internal drop stitch delamination is a raw material failure, and a warranty claim

Valve failures – We don’t necessarily expect our valves to last 5 years, because they are consumables. However, subject to you not having mistreated your inflatable paddleboard, we will replace a damaged valve for free within the first five years.

What happens in the unlikely event that you need to make a warranty claim with McConks?

We will replace or repair your board depending on its age.

If it is within the first two years of it’s life, we will always replace it like for like within 7 days (stock allowing). We will arrange for your old board to be returned to us, and if it is repairable (which they nearly always are), then we will repair it, and donate it to a charitable cause. If it isn’t repairable, we will remove any items that are reusable (fin boxes, handles, d -rings, valves etc), and responsibly dispose of the unsalvageable remains. We have not yet found a way to reuse the rest, so disposal is the absolute last resort.

If it is older than two years, we will replace or repair at our discretion. SUP services undertake all of our repairs, so you can be assured that the board will be returned to you in as good shape as the day it left our factory.

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