Inflatables are the perfect option for individuals looking to get into paddling or diehard paddlers on the go. They’re lightweight, affordable, and there’s countless different options. Inflatables are often thought of as flimsy or unstable but that couldn’t be further from the truth—they’ve come a long way since they were first invented and some are even comparable to riding a traditional hard board.
With so many options to choose from, picking the iSUP best suited to your needs can be a daunting task. We researched and rounded up six of our current favorite inflatables on the market and put each through a rigorous test. Here are our thoughts.
The Nuts & Bolts: New for 2019, the 9’6” Compact is a full-sized SUP that folds down to half the size of a conventional iSUP. The board is ten years in the making and features PACT technology—a malleable yet durable material with a high-resolution thread matrix. The board is 9’6” x 32”, with a volume of 222 liters.
The board comes with a lightweight, five-piece paddle made of high-modulus carbon, a simple click-in fin system, and a top of the line pump. Included with the board is a specially designed bag, complete with closed cell padding on the handles, concentrated shoulder padding, brushed cotton shoulder and back cushioning, and adjustable shoulder straps.
Our Take: The Red Paddle Co. 9’6” Compact is one of the best travel boards we’ve tried to date. The pump packs a punch and makes the board easy to inflate. The board comes in a travel pack that houses the board, pump, paddle, and fins and is easy to carry as a backpack.
When fully inflated, the board is ideally suited for flat water but also performs well in small surf, further qualifying it as the ultimate travel board. At the end of the day, the board is easy to pack down and everything fits easily back into the pack, with room to spare. This board doesn’t come cheap but it’s definitely one of the highest quality inflatables out there.
Tower Mermaid iSUP 10’4” Package
The Nuts & Bolts: The Mermaid iSUP is an updated version of Tower’s most popular board, the “Tower Adventurer.” This board rings in at 10’4” x 32” x 6” and features a diamond groove deck pad, a 2+1 fin configuration, a roll-up carrying strap, a towing ring on the nose, a cargo net, an extra handle in the front and back, and a leash attachment ring on the tail. The iSUP package includes the board, fin, hand pump, and an adjustable three-piece fiberglass paddle, plus a two-year warranty.
Our Take: The Mermaid iSUP is a great all-around inflatable for the every day paddler. With two built-in fins and a pump included, it’s easy to inflate and set up. The added thickness makes it extra rigid and it glides smoothly and efficiently across the water, making it a suitable board for both beginners and more experienced paddlers.
The deck pad makes paddling with your furry friend an option and the cargo net makes it easy to stash your things for a hands-free paddle. Although it doesn’t come with a bag or a leash, the price is right and when you purchase, you have the option to add them on for an extra charge. Weighing in at 26 pounds, it’s easy to transport and could easily be taken on an airline as a checked bag.
iRocker All Around 10’ Wide Package
The Nuts & Bolts: The iRocker inflatable SUP package comes with everything you need to be on-the-go and on-the-water. The package includes the board, adjustable fiberglass paddle, an ankle leash, backpack, hand pump, and a repair kit. The board is 10’ x 32” and can hold up to 370 pounds.
New for 2019, the kit comes with a dual chamber, triple action hand pump that inflates the board 100% faster than a standard dual action hand pump. The board also includes an action mount on the nose that is compatible with cameras, rods, speakers, and phones. Additionally, the board comes with D-rings at the rear and a front cargo area for maximum storage.
Our Take: At 10’ x 32”, the iRocker All-Around Wide SUP is wide enough to be ultra-stable, yet is still responsive enough to maneuver easily through the water. The powerful pump makes set up a breeze, while the backpack makes it easy to pack things away for your next adventure. The crocodile textured deck pad is soft and comfortable underfoot, making the board well suited for long days on the water.
The detachable fins attach with a unique clamp-in technology, with no screws required, which also helped expedite the setup process. There are a number of optional add-ons, one of which is a SUP to kayak to conversion kit, which is great if you want to mix things up. The iRocker All Around Wide Package comes with everything you need to paddle at your local waterway or your bucket list destination, all at an affordable price.
Blackfin Model X Package
The Nuts & Bolts: The Blackfin Model X 10’6” iSUP is designed to perform well and accommodate paddlers of all skill levels. The package includes the board, rolling travel backpack, adjustable carbon shaft paddle, coil ankle leash, dual-chamber hand pump, and a repair kit.
New for 2019, Blackfin’s boards feature a Triple Layer Composite PVC in their construction, allowing them to be 20% lighter, while still maintaining military-grade durability. The board also features an action mount on the nose and three removable fins, allowing for a variety of fin configurations and a more compact pack when rolled up.
Our Take: At 10’6 x 35”, the Blackfin Model X is a very wide, stable board. This makes it ideal for heavier paddlers or those looking to fish, practice yoga, or hit some whitewater. With handles in the rear and front, it’s also a great board for paddling with kids on the deck, as there are plenty of places for them to hold on and it can carry up to 450 pounds.
Despite the width, the board cuts through the water with minimal drag, allowing the rider to maintain a decent speed. The board is well suited for travel, as it packs down into a travel backpack with wheels, a huge plus in our book.
Isle Explorer Inflatable Package
The Nuts & Bolts: The Isle Explore iss constructed with military-grade PVC and is designed to withstand even the most trying of conditions. Available in 11- or 12-foot options, the board is 32 inches wide and six inches thick. The package includes the board, travel bag, travel paddle, coil leash, touring center fin, and a hand pump. Meanwhile, an electric pump, dry bag, board sock, and life jacket are also available as optional add-ons.
The board also features a six-point bungee system on the nose and a four-point bungee system on the tail, providing ample storage options. Additionally, the board includes nose and tail grab handles, a rounded carry handle, tail mounted D-ring, and a groove EVA traction pad for maximum comfort.
Our Take: The Isle Explore is a high quality iSUP with a fun color scheme to boot. The board is stable, maneuverable, and glides smoothly through the water. The rigid construction makes it well suited for flat-water paddles, touring, yoga, and even small wave surfing.
While many boards feature bungee systems on the nose, the added tail bungees were appreciated for longer paddles and overnight SUP adventures. The board and all accessories easily pack down into a convenient travel backpack, perfect for a short hike to the lake or checking the bag during international travel.
Sea Gods Infinite Mantra Yoga iSUP
The Nuts & Bolts: Weighing in at 28 pounds, the Infinite Mantra iSUP is 11’ x 34” with a volume of 280 liters. The body is constructed from reinforced Denier nylon drop stitch fabric sealed with a DWF fusion layer to help the board maintain its shape.
The board features a six-point tie down bungee in the front, rear D-ring, a carry strap, and front/center/rear handles. Included in the kit are a travel bag with wheels, dual chamber inflation/deflation pump, center fin, and a three-piece aluminum paddle. Additionally, the Infinite Mantra comes complete with an oversize deck pad for yoga and a UV printed high traction EVA graphic pad.
Our Take: The Infinite Mantra is one of the most aesthetically pleasing iSUPs we’ve come across—full of pinks and purples, it is a work of art that’s best described as a hippy swirl of color and imagination. At 11’ x 34”, it is on the bigger side, meaning it is incredibly stable.
The width and stability combined with the fun colors make it the perfect platform for practicing yoga on the water. Despite the size, it glides well through the water, so it’s a solid all-around option as well. The large, flat deck is perfect for shuttling kids or friends and it receives the puppy stamp of approval as well. Due to its size, set up takes a little work, but deflating the board and packing it away is easy and everything fits nicely into a rolling backpack.
The article was originally published on Standup Paddling
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