The best inflatable SUP: Six reasons for boards with ClustAir technology
A high-performance inflatable? YES, for the first time in SUP history, it's possible. With ClustAir technology, a fundamentally new approach comes into play that makes inflatable SUPs the best in the world.
Every product, every technology lives from further development. Only at a certain point does it need a fundamental upheaval, because the original approach has been optimized to the maximum. In short: revolution instead of evolution, radically new approaches instead of reworking the old over and over again.
In inflatable SUP there has since been dropstitch technology, which has evolved over the last few years or even decades, but truly groundbreaking innovations have not come out of this approach. The basic principle is still that two layers of PVC are joined together by a multitude of threads to create a rough board shape.
So what is the revolution in the iSUP market? In the following we would like to introduce the ClustAir technology and claim that boards with this technology are currently the best inflatable SUPs on the market. Below we elaborate on this thesis in six plausible arguments.
Table of Contents
1. ClustAir boards are stiffer and dampen better
By stringing together individual air tubes, inflatable SUPs in ClustAir technology achieve maximum stiffness.
The reason for this can be traced back to the physical concept of the second moment of the area. In other words, the choice of an optimal cross-sectional geometry to counteract a bending load.
Applied to the matter of surfing, this means that the outer walls of the individual tubes in an inflatable SUP with ClustAir technology act not only as shapers, but also as stringers.
A stringer is a stiffening element that is incorporated into classic hardboards as a wooden strip in the middle of the surfboard. It adds stiffness and stability. (If you want to learn more about the use of stringers, read here.
Since each ClustAir board contains between five and nine (main) tubes and many more secondary chambers, this means that a corresponding number of outer walls of these tubes serve as stringers. You can also try the principle at home by simply taking a piece of corrugated cardboard and trying to bend it in the longitudinal direction of the waves. It's hard to believe that such a thin cardboard can be so stable, isn't it?
And what about Dropstitch boards? Dropstitch boards have a huge air chamber that is held together with threads. It stands to reason that the many outer walls of the ClustAir boards offer more stiffness than the two outer walls of a Dropstitch board, right?
Right, there are also double chamber Dropstitch boards. But here, too, the same principle applies: Four outer walls cannot compete with a minimum of ten outer walls of a ClustAir board. To demonstrate the principle of action in practice, we conducted a stiffness test in which we compared two inflatable stand up paddle boards of different technologies.
The stiffening elements of a ClustAir board also lead to better damping characteristics. Whether impulses come from above (from the paddler) or below (from the movement of the water), a ClustAir SUP lets them dissipate quickly. Whereas a Dropstitch inflatable supports the movement more, like a trampoline.
2. Achieving a hardboard shape through ClustAir construction
Analogous to the stiffness, the reason for the excellent formability of ClustAir boards also lies in the tubes. As mentioned above, each core consists of several tubes strung together. The trick is that each tube has an individual shape. The tubes at the nose and tail are a lot narrower and thinner than in the middle of the board. This ensures a good volume distribution. In addition, it is possible to shape the tubes in all three dimensions. This allows the actual shape of the board to be modeled. Thus, continuous rocker lines, better performing outlines, and thinner rails are standard for all inflatable boards in ClustAir technology.
The classic Dropstitch boards, on the other hand, have a flipped-up nose at most. A reasonable rocker line or performance-oriented edges (= rails) are in vain. Some manufacturers are now also trying to equip Dropstitch boards with rails. For this purpose, edges are glued to the rear part of the board. Nice try, but it does not solve the problem of a uniform board thickness.
3. Less pumping effort with ClustAir iSUPs
The set-up of a ClustAir iSUP is easier and more comfortable for two reasons, especially regarding the pumping effort. To better illustrate the difference, we compare the two following shapes in the respective argument:
TRIPSTIX BELUGA wave SUP in ClustAir technology: 8'4'' x 31'' x 5 3/4''
Common wave SUP in Dropstitch technology: 8'6'' x 29 1/2'' x 4 1/2''
3.1 ... due to less excess volume
Boards in ClustAir technology have less volume to handle compared to Dropstitch boards. Since they are always narrower from the middle to the rails / nose / tail than a Dropstitch board, they will always perform better in a direct comparison of similar shapes. Means in our concrete example:
TRIPSTIX BELUGA wave SUP in ClustAir technology = 134 litres
Common wave SUP in Dropstitch technology = 180 litres.
A whole 46 litres of volume, a good quarter of the pumping effort, which is simply omitted!
3.2 ... due to less pressure required
In addition, boards with ClustAir technology require less pressure than conventional Dropstitch boards. In some cases, they already work from 12 PSI (= 0.8 bar), which is not yet the case with any Dropstitch board. Less pressure equals less pumping effort. Why is that? The threads inside a Dropstitch board need to be under tension as much as possible. Whereas with ClustAir technology, the tube diameter determines the pressure. The larger the circumference of the tube, the less pressure is needed.
TRIPSTIX BELUGA wave SUP in ClustAir technology = 15 PSI
Common wave SUP in Dropstitch technology = 22 PSI
If you have ever pumped up a SUP by hand, you know how much it can be worth to save the last PSI and thus your power and energy in the end.
4. Boards in ClustAir tec are more durable
This argument is not only determined by the technology aspect but also and above all by the claims and history of the manufacturer. The TRIPSTIX quality standard delivers the best inflatable SUPs in the world. It is not in vain that almost eight years were invested in the development of the technology and the production set-up.
4.1 Diligence in European production
All TRIPSTIX-iSUPs are manufactured in Europe. This creates great transparency within the manufacturing processes, as production can be closely monitored with little effort and all partners can be supported in pursuing a common understanding of quality. At this point it should be emphasized that a common understanding of quality and resource-saving production cannot be taken for granted (a separate blog article on TRIPSTIX experiences in the Far East will follow). Development thus takes place at eye level, which is reflected in better working conditions, wages, and an overall more appreciative approach. To date, TRIPSTIX is the only inflatable manufacturer that produces in Europe.
4.2 Careful selection of materials
In order to create premium iSUPs, the basic material used must also be right. TRIPSTIX suppliers are European specialists and know their craft. Manufacturing in the EU also guarantees that PVC and glue meet defined environmental standards, something that tends to be left to chance with Asian imports. EU sourcing and manufacturing also result in a better carbon footprint overall.
4.3 Thorough engineering
From core to outer layer, ClustAir boards have a total of three PVC layers. This makes them extremely robust. Dropstitch boards have a maximum of two layers. But it is not only the basic design of the complex and therefore difficult-to-manufacture tube structure that is well thought out. Every detail, no matter how small, is put to test again and again in many iterative processes and constantly optimized. So that in the end not only premium quality is created, but the world's best iSUP.
5. More safety with ClustAir iSUPs
A standard feature of every ClustAir board is the pressure relief valve. It prevents the iSUP from being damaged due to excessive pressure inside the board. This usually happens when the board is accidentally over-inflated and/or left in the sun for too long. This is because the pressure inside the SUP can increase so much that the material cracks. The overpressure valve of ClustAir boards solves this problem by opening at a defined pressure to allow excess air to escape. This easily and effectively counteracts damage or even bursting of the board.
Up to now, relief valves have only been installed in Dropstitch boards in the rarest of cases.
6 Additional performance features of ClustAir boards
The ClustAir technology not only beats the Dropstitch technology in many core points but also brings new performance properties into play:
Dropstitch SUPs offer a large surface at the nose due to the uniform board thickness. It therefore can happen that the wind pushes the paddler backward and in the worst case the paddler simply can not get off the spot. Since the ClustAir technology has a sloping volume distribution away from the middle and thus a thin nose, TRIPSTIX-iSUPs pierce through gusts of wind. This allows the paddler to move forward quickly with reduced effort even in strong headwinds.
6.2 Directional stability
The tubes existing in ClustAir iSUPs do not only provide incomparable stiffness, but also a high tracking stability. Specifically, this means that the paddler can perform more paddle strokes on one side before having to switch. This saves power and gives an added advantage when it comes to speed, such as in race SUPing.
6.3 Better gliding characteristics
And last but not least: The ribbed underwater hull of a ClustAir iSUP breaks the water surface, which allows the paddler to glide much better compared to boards with Dropstitch construction. This can cause the feeling of sticking to the water surface.
Inflatable SUPs in ClustAir technology therefore shine with
- unmatched stiffness
- unique formability
- reduced pumping effort
- high durability
- more safety and
- completely new performance characteristics, such as wind resistance, directional stability, and a better gliding behavior
In our opinion, these six arguments lead to the best inflatable SUP in the world with ClustAir technology. Have our arguments convinced you? Have you made your own experiences with the mentioned situations or respective tec features? Then let us and the SUP community take part here in the comments - we look forward to the exchange!