The Dropstitch Revolution 2.0

Dropstitch continues to evolve and change the future of the inflatable market as companies like Gumotex innovate to make the technology their own.

At the 2016 PADDLEexpo, the Dropstitch revolution was evident, as inflatables from SUPs to iKayaks utilized this game-changing technology.“Inflatable are on the rise,” we asserted in the Buyers Guide Magazine, attributing the increase in inflatable performance to Drops- titch’s superior rigidity.

Dropstitch, which involves using vertical fibers of uniform length to connect an upper and lower face of waterproof, airtight material, allows for inflatables to achieve pressures of up to 15 psi, creating rigid and stable inflatables. Stiffer hulls and firmer boards equal higher performance, while increased durability means greater potential for exploration.“Dropstit- ch hulls capable of inflating to higher PSI also help reduce friction and drag as crafts move through the water, minimizing wake and the energy required while enhancing tracking and glidability,” explained inflatable company Woosung.

“Dropstitch—a high tech material that lets us build new, innovative inflatables that are stretching boating world boundaries,” clarifies NRS on their website.

This year we are seeing the Dropstitch revolution continue as more companies continue to incorporate it into their products and start to think even further into the future and make the technology their own.

Woosung and NRS are among companies who produce their own material in an attempt to make a fabric that is more rigid, more stable, more airtight, and more affordable. Gu- motex, a well-established Czech company on the inflatable market, is another who has embraced the Dropstitch revolution head on. Currently the majority of Dropstitch products on the market are manufactured using some form of PVC plastic as the outer layers.This year, Gumotex has taken it one step further.

By pairing Dropstitch fibers with the rubber used in Gumotex inflatables, they have created an entirely new material, a Dropstitch 2.0, if you will, that they think will be even more revolutionary.“GUMOTEX Dropstitch is based on a totally different material composition than competitors ́ products, consisting of several different layers,” asserts Lucie Kadlecovà. “This ensures better protection of the airtight layer, lower weight, easier packability, and hi- gher resistance against damage. Products made of GUMOTEX Dropstitch could have lower weight – 1m2 could have 1/3 less weight than comparable material with PVC coating.”

At PaddleExpo 2017, GUMOTEX presented a prototype of their SOLAR, an inflatable two-per- son kayak with the bottom and seats made of this new Dropstitch material.The boat looks promising – firmer, and possibly faster and more stable, with increased handling in more difficult water. They also assert that Dropstitch made with rubber, rather than PVC, will be more flexible, and hence, more resistant to impact and damage.

They would know. Gumotex has been in the rubber and textile production business since the 1950s, their company name derived from the manufacture of their rubber products. In- terestingly, inflatable boats are a relatively small part of their diverse company production. It is no wonder then, that Gumotex is already looking beyond the inflatable boat market for uses for their new material.

“Besides boats there is big potential for use in water sports, but there is even wider poten- tial for this technology innovation,” states Kadlecovà. She sees Dropstitch 2.0 potentially used for rescue systems–from flood control barriers to rescue footbridges, stretchers, or as part of inflatable tents, etc. It is not an unreasonable assumption. Dropstitch is already used in floating docks, high-pressure rescue lifting bags and airplane wings.

It is clear that the Dropstitch revolution has only just begun. It is evident that new technolo- gies are still being developed that will have major changes and impacts on the inflatable market and beyond. After all, product development is innovation, and it only takes one company to take a risk for the entire market to follow suit and change…

By: Anna Bruno, Kayak Session, Paddle World and Sup World Mag editor.