Why We Make 4.7” Paddleboards?14 Jan 2022
Why are Honu SUPs 4.7" and not 6" like most?
This question has been coming up regularly in Australia, with some folks even questioning whether it negatively impacts the board somehow. The short answer is that this thickness is better in every way for most boards styles. However, this assumes the material and construction are of a standard necessary to make it a reality. When done right, a 4.7” board greatly improves the paddling experience in every way.
Here are the three reasons we chose 4.7” for our board thickness...
Connection to the water
4.7” boards, compared to 6” ones, sit more closely to the water. As the water is the point of movement/imbalance, the closer you are to this point, the better connected you feel. The further away you are standing from the water level, the more amplified the movements, and so the feeling of being disconnected causes instability. It’s a physics thing, but more on that next.
This is what we mean by “connection to the water.”
This connection, or lack of it, dramatically impacts your paddling experience. On the one hand, you will feel like you’re connecting with nature and immersed in it, while the alternative is feeling like you are floating above it, in the air almost. This is an extreme juxtaposition, we admit, but the difference you "feel" is considerable.
Because the 4’7” board is more connected to the water, it is more stable, which results in a board that is quicker to become comfortable on and more enjoyable for the rider. As mentioned above, this concept can been seen in any performance-related field. For example, racing cars sit as close to the road as possible, the driver's gloves are made with the thinnest and softest leather available. Think about climbing shoes vs. hiking boots.
When you want to stay in balance and connected, the closer you are to the interface--in our case, the water--the better off you are.
After the first two reasons, arguing the performance benefits is probably a little redundant… but this is the third reason and so let’s discuss it a little. One of the core design objectives at Honu is to design performance-based products without compromise. This means when we designed the Byron, as an example, we carefully consider who will ride it, where it will go, and what it will do. This may sound obvious, but this is one of the reasons you will never find a kayak conversion kit for a Honu board. Why is that exactly? Because a SUP makes for a pretty lousy kayak, and when you make a SUP that can become a kayak, it negatively impacts the SUP... worst of both worlds.
To further demonstrate this point, think about our Sorrento 12’6. This board is made with 5.9” material and not the 4.7” we're proclaiming here to be the best. And this is because this board is designed to be loaded up, if wanted, with gear to go on long, overnight even, paddleboarding adventures. We also assume a medium to expert level of experience that can handle the instability and use the extra height for paddling leverage.
So why are most boards 6" then?
When the inflatable paddleboard was invented, only drop-stitch was available from Chinese manufacturers that used drop-stitch for many varied applications. The uses for an inflatable vinyl product varied from military needs to gymnastic mats and rescue boats. But as none of these materials had been designed to be stood on directly in water, the best options early on were 6” thick. This allowed the invention of the iSUP to happen, but with what we now consider cheap drop-stich material that could be stood on without bending.
Early pioneers of the technology such as Red Paddle Co. and Starboard quickly developed newer and more advanced materials with the manufacturers that could produce the same, or even better rigidity, but from a 4.7” thick material.
And so you are probably still thinking then, why do most brands, some quite expensive, all offer 6” boards if 4.7" is so good? The answer is cost and mass production. There are now countless factories that make all kinds of products with 6” material, including paddleboards. The material has become strong and cheap, albeit heavy, and is readily available. So, where a brand might be able to produce boards that use standard materials in 3-5 weeks start to finish, the more advanced material is made to order and takes months to be delivered. And not only does material like ours take 12-15 weeks to be made, but it is also more than 3x the cost of standard material.
Who else makes 4.7" iSUPs?
The majority of the older inflatable paddleboard brands that have a focus on performance make 4.7” iSUPs. Red Paddle Co., Starboard, and Fanatic to name just a few.
Who shouldn't consider 4.7" and should look for a 6" board instead?
For SUP’ers who weigh over 115kg, we recommend getting a 6” board. Why? The extra volume from a 6” board helps keep them comfortably afloat.
6” boards have a reputation for not only adding bulk but raising the rider’s center of gravity as well, which makes it more challenging for first-time SUP’ers to balance on their board. However, this kind of trade-off is sometimes necessary for heavier SUP lovers. In these cases, a board in the 10’8 to 12’6 range with 300 liters of volume or more is ideal.
However, a high-quality 4.7” board can still hold your weight if you’re under 120kg. But note that you’ll be lower in the water, which might let some water flow onto your board. So if you want a sure dry ride, the 6” board is the better choice.
We now have customers weekly that sell or send back their very reputable 6” board once they realize its weight and/or get it out on the water. Yes, they have their place on larger or longer boards, but for the majority of applications where weight, performance, and maneuverability are important, a 4.7” board constructed with high-end materials will be a superior experience.