Are Foam Paddleboards Good? The Pros and Cons

You are finally ready to go ahead and take your first paddleboard lesson and get out on the water. You decide that you are going to go all the way with it and instead of having to borrow a buddy’s board or rent one, you want to go ahead and make the investment of getting one of your own. You heard about all these foam paddleboards out now but know nothing about them. What do you need to know?

Are foam paddleboards good? Foam paddleboards are great for those who are new to Stand Up Paddling (SUP). They are highly durable, able to be dented or scratched without taking on water. They are also lighter and more durable than their plastic counterparts.

If you are new to paddle boarding and are looking into deciding whether or not a foam paddleboard is the right choice for you, then you are in the right place. Here we are going to take a look at the pros and cons of foam paddleboards and see how they measure up to other paddleboards so you can make the best decision in what you want to go with. 

Tell Me Everything I Need to Know About Foam Paddleboards!

Foam paddleboards are made by placing three wood stringers inside of an EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam core that has been moulded. After the stringers are inserted, high-density XPE or IXPE foam is heat laminated to the EPS foam core’s top and bottom in order to seal it shut. The XPE and EPS foams that are used are entirely waterproof, so it will not gain weight, swell, or deform in the water.

Quick Note! Every once in a while, the heat lamination may not be 100% successful and can result in a flaw in the construction of the foam paddleboard. When the heat lamination is not 100% successful, it could lead to a gap in the lamination. This gap will allow the foam paddleboard to take on water, gaining weight, and in turn, losing its buoyancy. However, the water is not absorbed, and this is an easy repair to make. 

Durability

The wood stringers that are inserted in the EPS foam core are what give the paddleboard its durability. In fact, the stringers allow the boards to support up to and over 300 pounds. Keep in mind, the more weight on the board, the slower it will move in the water.

Traction

Foam boards are often available with deck traction added to it. If the board that you have acquired doesn’t have deck traction, just add a little surf wax to the board where you’ll be standing, and you’re good to go.

Control

They are also equipped with a built-in handle, leash, and plug. Some boards can also be equipped with features like three tracking fins for better control on ocean waves, a simple roof rack, an adjustable aluminium paddle, and at the nose of the paddleboard, a bungee storage mount on the deck.

Best Place to Use

Due to their construction, foam paddle boards are best for flat waters like lakes and bays. They are equipped with a squarer rail that meets at the bottom of the board, causing it to move slower than fibreglass-built paddleboards but a bit faster than the inflatable paddleboards that sit up higher in the water.

What Are Some Advantages of Foam Paddleboards?

When it comes to whether or not to use a foam paddleboard, you should know that there are some definite advantages in choosing a foam paddleboard over fibreglass or inflatable paddleboards, especially if you are a beginner to the sport. 

Here are some of the pros of having a foam paddleboard over any other board:

  • Foam paddleboards are entirely waterproof. They made completely of foam outside of the wood stringers within their cores. The construction and poreless foam allow the boards to be waterproof and be an inexpensive investment to those new to paddleboarding.
  • Foam paddleboards are incredibly durable. Due to the foam, design, and construction, they can take some serious punishment without the risk of taking on water due to a dent or scratch within the board. 

Quick Note!

Their durable design means that if you have a dog, you will be able to bring them on the board without worrying about them scratching it up. Your board’s performance will not be affected at all.

  • Foam SUP are faster. When it comes to foam boards, they are faster than most inflatable boards that you will come across. Foam paddleboards are also much faster than plastic boards, with the added benefits of being lighter and significantly more durable as well.
  • Foam Boards are less expensive than epoxy paddleboards. Foam boards are much cheaper in cost. This makes them ideal for families looking to get into using paddleboards for fishing and paddle boarding without worrying too much about the price.
  • They have a lower cost than inflatable paddle boards as well. Even though a plastic board will cost less than a foam board, it is significantly heavier, which causes it to move slower. A plastic board weighs about 40 pounds while a foam board weighs 25 pounds and is much more durable. The foam has better value.
  • Most foam boards come equipped with deck traction. Deck traction is what allows your feet to stand in place while riding the board to ensure that you are not slipping and sliding while riding the paddleboard. If for some reason, your board does not come equipped with deck traction, you can add surf wax to the area you will be standing. Problem solved.
  • Foam boards have to be tested and approved before they are sold to a retailer by a manufacturer. This means that every board has passed inspection for quality and safety. If any part of the foam board fails a test, it cannot be sold until it gets a passing grade to be distributed.

What Are the Disadvantages of Foam Boards?

You will be happy to know that compared to other paddleboards, foam boards don’t have very many cons. (That doesn’t mean there aren’t any at all.) Due to the stringent process to get approval and the type of individual they are designed for; they have done a good job of avoiding a long list of problems. Here are the few cons of a foam paddleboard:

  • Even though it is made of foam, it is still considered a hard board. If you fall on it, it’s still going to hurt. This is a risk of all hard boards, whether they are made of epoxy, foam, or plastic. If you don’t know how to fall correctly, you’re going to feel it in the morning.
  • It is heavier than an epoxy/fibreglass paddleboard. Despite it being made almost entirely of foam, this board, while lightweight, still carries significant weight over an epoxy board which typically weighs about 15 pounds. The foam board carries an extra 10 pounds of weight, coming in at 25 pounds.
  • It is significantly slower than an epoxy paddleboard. This still goes back to weight, its rails, and its height off the water. While a foam paddleboard is more durable than an epoxy board, it is still heavier and sits higher off the water. More weight and greater height off water mean that it will be a slower board and is not suitable for competitive paddleboard sports, like racing.
  • It is designed to be suited for families and beginners to paddleboarding: This might not seem like a true con, but to some it is. The board is designed to be more accommodating to people who are new to paddleboarding and their families. This leaves more experienced riders with the epoxy/fibreglass board that isn’t as durable. They would like to keep their repair costs down too!

Any Tips for Someone New to Paddleboarding?

Since you are about to embark on this endeavour to begin your new life in paddleboarding, we felt that it was necessary to give you the best advice we could to ensure that you get the greatest enjoyment and sense of accomplishment that this sport can provide. Here is a list of tips from experienced paddleboarders all around to get you going the right way:

  • First and foremost, learn how to fall off your board: Everyone who has experience in water board sports will tell you to make sure you learn this first. It can be extremely painful and discouraging if you happen to fall on your board. Surfers and paddleboarders alike say that you need to practice falling into the water to build your confidence so you can avoid injury and know what to expect when boarding.
  • Use the Leash: Foam paddleboards come will a rider leash, so you need to get used to using it, especially if you aren’t a very strong swimmer. The leash is used to prevent the board from getting away from you, and this matters when you are in rougher waters. Use the leash to keep close to your board and avoid losing it in the water.
  • Make sure that you are paddling correctly: This is a common mistake. When paddling, avoid trying to scoop up the water with the paddle trying to maintain balance. The paddle actually goes the other way, and the blade of the paddle pushes you forward. This also leads to less stress on your arms and shoulders.
  • Make sure you are facing the right direction on your board: Many people are guilty of this mistake, and it’s not your fault if no one tells you. A lot of the boards for beginners have large decks to assist with stability and falling so it can all look the same. Make sure that you check that the fins are in the back before you board your board.
  • Mind your space and surroundings: Nobody wants to be that person that just knocked a whole family off of their paddleboard. Be sure to utilize the space in the water as I’m sure there’s plenty. Don’t get too close to others as you may not be able to turn fast enough to avoid a collision and end up being “that person.”
  • Always wear a life jacket: It doesn’t matter how good of a swimmer you are. If you’re in a body of water, you need to wear a life jacket. Just because you’re wearing a leash doesn’t mean it can’t slip off in the water after a fall or if you think a life jacket makes you look like a dork. Anything can happen in the water. Don’t think you’re too cool to wear one.
  • Don’t overestimate your ability: When boarders tell you to ride waves you can handle, this is what they mean, especially if you are on a foam board. Foam paddleboards are for lakes and bays, not riding huge waves. Don’t try to stroke your ego by attempting to ride waves you have no experience with, and your board isn’t designed to handle.
  • Paddle with your core. Not your arms: Where a lot of people mess up when they first start paddleboarding is that they try to paddle with their arms and not their core. All this will do is make your shoulders hurt and question why you’re on the water. Use your abs. Not only will you not be as sore and tired, but you’ll actually move in the water a lot faster. To see how to go to https://greenwatersports.com/705/stand-up-paddle-board-basics-using-your-core.
  • Pay attention to the wind: You may not see it, but your paddleboard does have a sail. It’s you. When the wind starts to get a bit stronger, it will start to affect your paddling and will move you into directions you aren’t trying to go. If the wind is too strong, sit back down on the board to reduce the effect it has on your paddling.
  • Don’t Rush. Pace Yourself: Paddleboarding is not a challenging sport, but it does take some time to get acclimated to it. Don’t try to rush to master the skills of boarding or you may frustrate yourself. Take some time to learn everything you need to and get lessons if you need to.

How Do I Go About Choosing the Best Foam Paddleboard?

When choosing your board, you will need to keep a few questions in mind regarding what you want. Do you want to move faster? Are you going to be travelling long distances? How about your budget? These are some essential things to consider. Here are some suggestions to help you make the best decision in the type of foam board you will need:

  • If you are wanting an easier paddling experience and are wanting to go faster, a long foam board is the best way to go. However, if you are looking to be able to have more control of your turning, a shorter foam board would be your wisest decision.
  • Make sure that you budget for everything that you will need like a life jacket and paddle. Even though a good foam board is relatively affordable at around £400 ($600), a paddle and jacket don’t come with the board. Be sure to plan your purchase accordingly.
  • Do you have a dog or any family members that you want to bring out on your board onto the water? A longer foam board could accommodate you all, and with the extra weight, the possibility of going too fast on a longer board is negated.
  • Keep in mind that a rounded nose on your board will be best suited for rougher and choppier waves, while a sharply pointed nose on the board is for those who are looking to gain a bit more speed and increase ease in paddling.

A few boards to consider from different manufacturers include the Decathlon ITIWIT X500 iSUP with foam surface. This 13” board is 30” wide, slightly at the long and narrow end of paddle board sizes. Available in a pale green pattern, the package contains a leash and a carry bag.

Also from Decathlon is the ITIwIT X100 beginner’s board. It’s a little shorter and wider at 10’ x 32”, making it ideal for stability. In between those two options lies the 11’ 6” Connelly Tahoe from Redshift Watersports. It ships with a leash, carry bag, 3-piece paddle and pump. The blue pattern with green and white accents fits with current popular color schemes. Blue is the hot color of the decade!

Final thoughts

When it comes to deciding whether or not that a foam paddleboard is a good investment for your paddleboarding journey, take into account that the pros outweigh the cons. They are incredibly durable, reasonably priced, and great for anyone that is just starting out on the paddleboard.

While a lot of people will go for an epoxy board due to their lighter weight and speed, but if you’re new at paddleboarding, a foam board will probably be your best decision. Besides that, maintaining a foam board takes very little work as scratching and denting it will not affect its performance. The same can’t be said for an epoxy or fibreglass board, where such incidents will require immediate repair.

I hope you find the information provided here very useful in whether or not a foam board will be a good choice for you. Also, don’t forget the tips that were given to you as well to ensure the best experience you can have as you set off in your paddleboarding journey.

Once you’ve chosen a board, get out there, stay safe and have fun!


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Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

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