Inflatable SUP’s – Which C4 do I want?

C4 Waterman has a lot to brag about. They designed and innovated the first inflatable stand up paddle board, coined the term iSUP, and are known for building the stiffest, lightest and highest performing inflatables on the market. Over the years, the C4 lineup has diversified exponentially. The CMAC was the first epoxy SUP designed specifically for the river. With thicker rails, a little added kick rocker in the nose, and a concave deck (for additional stability), the CMAC surfs, paddles down river, and actually feels like it was meant to be paddled on moving water (as opposed to the ocean). Somewhere around 4 years ago, the 10’6″ CMAC iSUP was released. This was a pretty revolutionary board for a few reasons. For starters, it was inflatable, and ultra portable. You could deflate this board, roll it up, and travel half way around the world in search of glassy barrels for no additional baggage fee. It also came with indestructible nylon fins that could withstand impact forces that would crush an ordinary fin / fin box.
Now, 4 years later, it seems as if C4 Waterman has an inflatable option for everything from 12’6″ racing boards, to sub 6′ short boards – as well as every in between.

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Inflatable board diversity is the name of the game with C4 Waterman.

The goal of this review is to help a consumer determine exactly which C4 Waterman inflatable is right for them. In order give the reader the most accurate information possible, we reached out to C4 Waterman owner / board designer, Dave Parmenter, and asked him a few detailed questions. Here ‘s what he had to say:

Q: What specific differences are there between the Sub Vector (8’1″ iSUP, 9’3″ iSUP and 10’0″ iSUP) boards and the CMAC (10’6″) iSUP’s? Width? Rocker profile? etc…

A: The CMAC models are wider and have a fuller nose and tail plan shape, and the rocker is more of a three-stage configuration: Flatter in the middle with the tips flipping up. The SUB-Vector Models are more surf-based  plan shapes and rockers, which allow them to fit into tighter places in waves, and the more streamlined bullet shape makes them paddle faster in the flats with less yaw.

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Surfing the 8’1″ Sub Vector in Salida, CO – The Office Wave. “Honey I will not be home until after dark, I am still at the office”

Q: Are all 3 of the Sub Vector iSUP’s the exact same design, just different sizes (similar to the kayak world – manufactures build one mold and make it either bigger or smaller) ? Are there subtle design differences between them? Are they direct take off’s of the expxy Sub Vectors? Or a little bit different…
A:All the SUB-Vector iSUPs are the same template and rocker configurations…just longer. Inflatable boards, even C4’s, can only be loaded with a certain amount of performance-enhancing features. All the iSUP Vector Series plan shapes are taken directly off the composite hard board models.

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Prone surfing the Sub Vector on a glassy river wave. The board shape lends itself more towards performance surfing and having a good time on smaller river waves.

Q: What does the term Sub Vector mean? I know that it is a board name, but is it a design term as well?
A: This name is derived from a well-established surfboard model known as the Stubb-Vector, designed by Dave Parmenter back in 1992. It was the very first high-performance ‘funboard’, and began the retro surfboard trend we see today.
Q:  Is the 10’6″ iSUP the same design as the original 10’6″ CMAC epoxy board? Or are there some differences because it is an inflatable?
A:The only allowable similarities, due to construction limitations, are the plan shape and bottom curve/rocker, which are more or less identical to the original hard board CMAC.

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CKS Junior Squad member Andy L surfing the 10’6″ on the Downtown Wave – Buena Vista, CO. The 10’6″ is awesome for paddling down the class II+ river park, and stopping for a surf at the play spots.

Q: What is it about the C4 construction process that makes the boards so light, able to be filled to such a high PSI (stiff) and durable? Do you guys to things differently (in the construction process) than other companies in the industry?

    A: The chief differences between the C4 inflatable (Rigid AirCore) construction and virtually all the other inflatables on the market are:
  • The gauge of the material. C4’s PVC skins are double layered, twice as thick and of a higher quality, as well as being UV-resistant compared to most the competitors single layer construction
  • The rail seams where the top and bottom skins meet are fused, have a  4X seam tape overlap, and are combined with a higher quality glue and proprietary bonding process.  These construction methods  make it overbuilt for durability – in an area that needs to be reinforced.
  • The interior drop-stitching, all the thousands of plastic fiber ‘cilia’ that lock in the board’s rocker and allows it to be inflated to nearly three times the PSI of inferior brands. The number of drop-stitches are approximately triple, compared to other brands.

Q: When you google inflatable SUP’s, there are lots of boards for nearly half of the price. What differences are there between a C4 and those boards?
A: Keep in mind that literally all the other inflatables on the market are made from vastly inferior materials, can only be inflated to about 7-8 PSI max, and thus will ‘taco’ or severely bend under the weight of a typical paddler. They also possess far less density of drop-stitching, so they cannot lock in rocker, and indeed many of them do not even have rocker. The C4 iSUPs are not even in the same class as the price-point inflatables——best indicator of this is that the C4 iRescue line is built on the same specs as the iSups, and they must meet or exceed the demanding requirements of national and international lifesaving and even military agencies.

Q: The Rapid Rider has been coined as the true river specific inflatable sup board? What specific features does it have that would make it excel on the river (both downriver and in river surf)?
A:The Rapid Rider has that pedigree because C4 was the first to invent and explore the new sub-sport of running rapids on an SUP, thus we have the 5 or 6-year head-start on everyone else in designing boards and paddles and devising technique. Specifically, the Rapid Rider models are unique because of their hips-back, needle-nosed plan shape; this provides enormous stability at low speeds because of the wide tail, and greatly shortens the turning radius for trick and hotdogging, i.e. whipping into standing waves and other hydraulic features. Furthermore, by having the widepoint moved way back to the control/turning area, the nose area is greatly reduced and thus won’t be grabbing the water and fighting the rider. And this plan shape moves the center of pressure of waterflow further back so it syncs between the paddler’s stance, enhancing control and sensitivity.

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CMAC (Charlie MacArthur) taking the Rapid Rider down the Grand Canyon.

Aaron Koch surfing the Rapid Rider in Sayluta, MX. The nice thing about the Rapid Rider is it's versatility; ocean, river, flats...it can do it all.

Aaron Koch surfing the Rapid Rider in Sayluta, MX. The nice thing about the Rapid Rider is it’s versatility; ocean, river, flats…it can do it all.

Q: When would someone want to buy a vinyl fin board, and when would someone want to purchase the Cuttlefish board (question applies to our customers on rivers as well as coastal markets)?
A: The vinyl-finned boards are good for entry-level uses, shallow waterways, rental/lesson fleets, or in any applications where safety and durability and minimum maintenance are desired.
The Cuttlefish set-up allows for use of actual hard, high-performance surf-based fins to be used on iSUPs; aside from the interchangeability aspect of the Cuttlefish base plates, surfing-style performance capabilities are possible, as well as the possibility for experimentation and customization. The iSUPs can be used without the fins, too, in certain applications, further increasingly the adaptability and safety of the C4 iSUP. For river applications, Cuttlefish iSUPs can be up-marketed for elite users to conform to their local conditions, and fleet/entry-level usage can modify the fin array to conform to their safety, conditions, and clientele needs.

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The Cuttlefish fin option allows you to use high performance FCS fin options with your inflatable SUP. This is particularly good for ocean surfing and high performance river surfing in deep water.

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Fixed nylon fins have their time and place. The Rapid Rider was built for use in the river. Shallow water and lots of rocks can pop off high performance fins – in this case you would want nylon “indestructible” fins.

Q: Who designs boards for C4? Are they all Dave Parmenter’s designs? Or is it a collaboration? What technology(s) do you all use for inflatable board design?
A: All the hard, molded composite C4 models are designed by Dave Parmenter, although surfing legend Mickey Munoz recently joined the design team this summer and has three new Munoz models in the works for 2013. Also Parmenter collaborated with 4-time World Surfing Champion Mark Richards on the 9’2” MR Model.
All iSUP models are designed based on collaboration with the entire C4 Skunkworks team, and are normally based on successful and popular hard board plan shapes and rockers. Prototypes are drawn up and glue-up using the team’s specs, and then tested in mainland rivers and lakes, as well as the south shore Oahu surf.

Thanks to Dave Parmenter for taking the time to answer these questions. Here’s a recap at the C4 offerings that we have for sale here at CKS, and the intended use:
The CMAC 10’6″ iSUP – This is the most versatile SUP offering from C4. It can tour, run rivers and shred on a wave (both ocean and river). It has good rocker for surfing, yet the thickness and shape needed to offer enough stability to make it down a Class II+ / III river run.
The XXL iSUP This is a 10’9″ and 34″ wide version of the CMAC. It is a popular board with heavier paddlers (>190) and people who are looking to push the limits of downriver paddling. The added stability makes it possible to cross gnarly eddylines and bigger water features.
The Sub Vector series (8’1″, 9’3″ and 10′) The Sub Vectors are versatile boards that absolutely RIP on waves. The 8’1″ is the perfect option for kids, women and light paddlers who want a board that surfs well, and also paddles down river or on flat water. Heavy paddlers can still use the 8’1; it makes a really fun short board (for both prone and SUP surfing).
Rapid Rider Many people consider this to be one of the best surfing C4 inflatables, and overall best surfing inflatable SUP’s on the market. With a wide tail, needle nose shape and good overall rocker, the Rapid Rider can paddle down rivers, but also surfs with the best of them.
The Pufferstick This is an inflatable short board, that as C4 says, “you can stuff your board into an overhead barrel and then the overhead bin” . Kids will love this board, because it is small and easy to manage. Adults can surf it on beach breaks, and even steep, fast river waves. Another attractive feature of the Pufferstick is it’s price tag – it retails for only $429.95, and is currently on sale for  $329.95.

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