In this interview with Raúl Delgado, Starboard’s Inflatable Paddle Board Product Manager, we take a look at behind the making of inflatable paddle boards, and how our Innovation Quality slogan still drives us today to create the best iSUPs in the world. Simply put ~ more pressure, more performance.
Our jobs in the R&D department are quite simple: make the good great and the great even greater. That’s why for 2021 we took our inflatable bestsellers and improved their shapes, as well as introducing the acclaimed inflatable foil boards and the unparalleled stability of The Wall.
~ Raúl Delgado / Inflatable Product Manager
We started making boards in 1994, and helped grow the paddle board sport since 2006.
By the year 2000, our customers started to refer to us as the “Innovation Quality“ brand and we introduced that as our brand’s slogan. This keeps reminding ourselves that we need to deliver innovation and quality in all products, each and every time. We are in spirit the underdog brand that wants to make technological breakthroughs, to remain a positive impact and contributor within our industry.
The above pictures show an example of the double chamber construction which we introduced 10 years ago in our Ocean Rescue board. In addition to the added safety and meeting nautical regulations for coastline explorations, the second chamber also adds tremendous stiffness when inserted in the correct shape and position.
Now, 10 years later, what makes Starboard’s inflatable boards stand out from the mass and why do we believe its ahead not only in innovation but also in quality?
As Starboard’s HQ is in Thailand, it allows us to make frequent quality control trips and to work closely with our assembly lines, as the distance to the manufacturing facility is short. A member of the Starboard R&D or the QC team travels at least once a month to China to visit the factory, check the production lines, the final product or to introduce new methods of building boards.
The templates for all Starboard boards are precisely cut by a three-axis computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine. Yet the perfect template is only as good as the alignment of the dropstitch fabric before cutting. That’s why a bi-directional reference system was put into place.
Starboard introduced the lightweight, extra stiff and robust woven dropstitch with fusion lamination. It took us five years of development work before we were confident that the technology was market-ready.
For our value lines, we introduced linear knitted dropstitch to meet a lower weight, high stiffness and high standard reflex on the inflatable boards. You can see the uni-directional lines along the surface of the board. Diving into the assembly details, when screening the logos and art on the boards, the block screen housing can be adjusted with a precision of ¼ of a millimetre, making sure that the position of the logos is centred and equal for all boards.
One of Starboard’s innovations that has left a remarkable positive impact on the world of inflatable boards is the welding technology. This is done along the rails of the boards, for all of them, starting at the price point Zen boards all the way to the high-end Deluxe Double Chamber boards. The mechanical bond created between the different layers of PVC material extends the life span of the inflatable boards to be in line with the lifetime of the PVC skin itself. Traditional adhesive methods create chemical bonds that are prone to the negative influence of solar radiation, corrosive saltwater and the strain caused when folding the boards. Whereas the mechanical bond of the PVC relies solely on the strength and durability of the material itself.
Once the board has its shape, all accessories are assembled on the board using CNC-cut templates, enabling great precision and repetition.
The hardest hurdle in the production of the inflatable boards is perhaps Starboard’s quality control criteria, which is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. The boards are inflated beyond the maximum recommended pressure for 72 hours in order to find leakages or weak spots on the boards.
The tolerance for the rocker lines of the boards lies within a couple of centimetres, which in the world of inflatable boards represents high challenges. Aesthetic criteria are the final details in order to approve the boards in quality control. After this, boards are wrapped in paper and packed to be shipped.
We always put more pressure on ourselves, to ensure that our work will meet your expectations. As we do make a lot of boards, some may still have slipped through our systems. If so, then please contact us right away so we can further improve our products and showcase that our customer service is meeting your expectations.