Paddleboards: Plastic or Fiberglass

What’s the Difference Between a Plastic or Fiberglass Standup Paddleboard

As standup paddleboarding increases in popularity, more people are considering purchasing their own SUP and paddle. This, of course, leads to the question of what type of paddleboard to buy and how much to spend. Like any of these types of decisions, there are many factors that will lead to the final choice of the ​SUP equipment that is purchased. Here is a review of some of the factors that will play into the decision on whether to buy a plastic paddleboard or the traditional fiberglass paddleboards.

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Price Advantage: Plastic SUPs are Cheaper

SUP ATX Pacakage. Photo SUPatx.com

Plastic standup paddleboards are much more inexpensive than their fiberglass counterparts. The top price of a plastic SUP is actually cheaper than the cheapest fiberglass SUP. On average, a plastic standup paddleboard costs between $250-$600. Fiberglass boards start at around $700 and can go into the thousands. There are many package deals available that offer competitive prices and the ability to get all the equipment you need at one time.

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Features and Modifications Advantage: Plastic SUPs

Whether plastic or fiberglass, the basic features can be found on both. Almost all paddleboards have a carry handle built into the center of the board. There is a place to attach a leash. There are fins. Plastic paddleboards frequently have storage compartments in them. Fiberglass paddleboards have to pad for your feet on the deck. However, plastic paddleboards are at an advantage when it comes to the possible features that can be added. Plastic SUPs have the ability to customize and attach things to the deck as needed, including fishing rod holders and a backrest.

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SUP Dimensions - Tie

Length: Fiberglass SUPs are Longer

Of course, both plastic and fiberglass paddleboards can be purchased in various lengths. On average fiberglass, paddleboards are a few feet longer than plastic ones. Longer paddleboards are generally tracked better and are faster. Shorter ones are slower. The main concern regarding the length of paddleboards is how to store them. A 14-foot fiberglass stands up paddleboard takes up a lot of space. Due to the delicate nature of a fiberglass board, you can’t just throw it off to the side of a garage and pile stuff on it like you can a plastic board or kayak.

Width: Tie

There is no real difference here as there are narrow and wide SUPs made of both plastic and fiberglass.

Weight: Fiberglass Paddleboards are Lighter

Plastic paddleboards use a lot of plastic to provide rigidity to the already thin profile of the board as compared to a kayak. This makes plastic paddleboards heavier. Fiberglass paddleboards usually have foam as their core with fiberglass and epoxy providing the rigidity. This makes fiberglass paddleboards lighter.

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Durability Advantage: Plastic SUPs are More Durable

Plastic can obviously take more punishment than fiberglass. You can, therefore, store them easier, strap them to roof racks without concern, and don’t have to worry about them when you lay them down on a beach or a rocky shore.

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Paddling Positions: Advantage to Plastic Paddleboards

While the main paddling position is standing when it comes to standup paddleboards, there are times when paddleboards are paddled while kneeling down, especially in high winds. While any paddleboard can be paddled while standing or kneeling, only plastic ones really accommodate sitting effectively. This is because plastic paddle boards usually have a contoured deck that allows for this very position. Many plastic Standup Paddleboards even have seats with backrests installed on them. The ones that don’t can easily be modified to accept seats. So, with a plastic paddleboard, you effectively get a two-in-one vessel, a paddleboard, and a sit-on-top kayak all in one.

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Speed and Tracking: Fiberglass Paddleboards are Faster

Hands down, fiberglass paddleboards are faster and track better than plastic paddleboards. This is due to the length, weight, design, and materials used in fiberglass SUPs.

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Surfing Advantage: Fiberglass SUP

Fiberglass standup paddleboards are generally more maneuverable which enables a higher level of surfing than slower less maneuverable plastic paddleboards.

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Stability Advantage: Plastic SUP

There are some really stable fiberglass paddleboards, however, plastic ones are more stable overall. This is due to the higher sides of the plastic paddleboards as opposed to the thinner profile of fiberglass SUPs.

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Overall Assessment and Recommendation

In almost every conceivable measure of performance (speed, maneuverability, paddling efficiency, paddling feel) fiberglass standup paddleboards have the advantage and are therefore preferred. Why would someone want a plastic paddleboard then? Plastic standup paddleboards have the advantage in price and durability which may be important factors depending on a person’s requirements. Plastic SUPs can also be customized and used as kayaks and to carry more gear. So it really just depends on a person's SUP needs and the type of paddleboarding that will be done.

In summary, if you are going to be serious about stand-up paddleboarding, you’ll want a good fiberglass SUP. If money or durability is a concern or if you have special customization needs then a plastic SUP is probably the answer for you.

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Your Citation
Sayour, George. "Paddleboards: Plastic or Fiberglass." ThoughtCo, May. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/plastic-vs-fiberglass-paddleboards-2555374. Sayour, George. (2017, May 28). Paddleboards: Plastic or Fiberglass. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/plastic-vs-fiberglass-paddleboards-2555374 Sayour, George. "Paddleboards: Plastic or Fiberglass." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/plastic-vs-fiberglass-paddleboards-2555374 (accessed September 19, 2017).