Updated (03/22/17) With the number of inflatable SUPs I have been reviewing of late, the time is just about right for a Top 3. I have been, quite literally, hop skip and jumping from one iSUP to another as the blow up version seems to be on some kind of a renaissance mission. I can’t complain because the boards have been, for most part, a joy ride.
The Best Inflatable/Blow Up Paddle Boards in 2017
|Volume||280 Liters||240 Liters||364 Liters|
|Weight Capacity||385 lbs||220 lbs||265 lbs|
|Board Weight||28 lbs||23 lbs||27 lbs|
|Prices||Check Amazon||Check Amazon||Check Amazon|
The iRocker 11”
This is a true rock star of the inflatable universe. The board just about ticks all boxes of an outstanding blow up SUP experience. It has got the looks, the performance, and can be transported around like you would anything else. The iRocker feels light out of the water, and on it, the iSUP is as tough as they come.
Military Grade Construction
I would not be exaggerating when I say that the iRocker feels near indestructible. The materials used and the craftsmanship ensure that the inflatable is as stable and rigid as a hardwood board. The iflatable paddle board’s outer skin is crafted from military grade PVC, enabling it to withstand the extremes and still maintain its shape and colour. An internal triple layer of drop stitch forms the core of the board. What impressed me was that the core is six inches thick when inflated, providing a superior platform to stand on. Compared to its competition that offers only 4-inch thickness, the iRocker feels a step ahead of the pack.
Ease Of Use
One of the reasons why the board comes at No.2 on my list is because it is a very simple and easy to use iSUP. The major concern with inflatable is the time taken for inflating and deflating it. To address this, the iRocker has provided an excellent air pump that almost matches Red Paddle Co.’s Titan for performance. The dual action system pumps air during the push down and the pull up. There is no wasted motion. When the motion feels a bit tough to continue, remove a little screw and switch from High Capacity to High Pressure and inflate the board. It took me around 5-7 minutes to reach the recommended 15-PSI. After that, all you have to do is attached the central fin and you are good to go on the water.
A Rocking Performance
It is not for nothing that I called the board a rock star. It performs just like one when it comes to SUP. The iRocker travels fast and straight when set upon the still waters of a lake. The ‘bounciness’ one tends to associate with inflatables is minimal, while the glide is smooth and effortless. One paddle stroke can set the iSUP racing across the water surface. The 30-inch width provides much needed stability to complement the speed of the board. Check out the picture below of the iRocker next to the Ride 10’6. The iRocker has a typical touring board shape making it faster then the Ride. The Ride’s all-rounder shape naturally makes it a little slower. In return you get even more stability and a more versatile board that even allows you to surf small to medium waves. One really isn’t better than the other. It all depends on your preferences.
The 2+1 fin setup allows the inflatable stand up paddle board to tackle different water conditions and come out on top. Remove the large detachable fin, and you can ride the choppy waters of rivers and stream past the turbulent currents of an ocean. The board can ride the waves too, providing top notch control and manoeuvrability. Having tested the board in different conditions, the iRocker never disappointed. With a weight limit of 385 pounds, you can bring on additional gear, or even have your kids hop on for a ride.
Ticks All Boxes
The iRocker comes a 2-year warranty and a customer service that I can personally vouch for. Probably the best part of the board is its economical price point. I can’t think of a better board in this price range. Recommended to anyone looking for an all-round board with a economical price point.
The Red Paddle Co. Ride
Second, I have the 10’6” Ride from Red Paddle Co. This board is definitely one of the best inflatables I have set my foot on, and not without reason. Before testing the Ride, I was very much a hardwood loyalist. Anything else was a compromise in my opinion. Then I tested the Ride. It was both, an eye opener and a memorable experience. The board felt like nothing filled with air. It was strong, rigid, sturdy, and pretty much anything a hardwood board is.
Much of the reason why the Ride feels so rigid and upright, without the slightest hint of flex, is because of its tough construction. Red Paddle Co is using a brand new construction called MSL Fusion. MSL Fusion completely removes the hand gluing of the 2nd layer and the “board within a board” scenario that you know from other double layer constructions. The new construction process uses machines at the raw material stage. These machines inject a 2nd layer of high density structural PVC to each board, creating a board which has all of the advantageous properties of a double layer board. However, it completely removes the human factor in producing the product and at the same time reduces the weight of the boards by up to 6lbs. The benefit of the superior construction is that the board can be pumped real hard, harder than most other inflatables. The Ride’s 25 PSI limit is more than a few points than what other boards can take: iRocker (15 PSI) or the Pathfinder Inflatable (15 PSI), for instance. The result: it doesn’t feel like an inflatable on water.
Inflate And Deflate In An Instant
The good iSUPs get the major details just about right. The great ones nail the finer details too. The Red Paddle Co. Ride has been blessed with one of the best air pumps that comes along with the board – the Titan. Just like its name, the pump is big on performance. There are two chambers melded into one: a high volume / low pressure chamber, and a low volume / high pressure chamber. I could blow up the board in under 5 minutes. It comes with an accurate pressure gauge to easily monitor the PSI. Deflating the SUP is easy too. All you have to do is push in a little pin and twist it slightly, about 1/4th. Then roll it up, stack it in the backpack and you are good to go. It sounds almost too easy and it actually is.
The Three Fins
This is where my opinion gets a bit divided. On the one hand, the triple fin system offers more control and manoeuvrability on choppy waters. You will find the iSUP easy to paddle across strong currents and even take on a wave or two like a pro. When it comes to white water and ocean paddling, the Ride is top notch. The problem is that the triple fin system lets the performance slip in flat waters. Beginners might find the board a bit difficult to keep in a straight line when paddling in flat water. The short fins are really not designed for tracking. This is a common issue you have with a thruster fin setup. While shorter fins allow for maneuverability, a longer center fin helps track straighter. This leaves you with quite a bit of work to do. Inexperienced paddlers will have to paddle on both sides of the board to maintain a sense of direction.
The Ride Is Definitely A Good Ride
With the iSUP from Red Paddle Co., I finally understood the tremendous potential that inflatables possess. They don’t require a dedicated storage space, can be transported in a backpack, and offer a cost effective option, especially for those wanting to test the waters of the sport. The Red is definitely worth the investment and definitely deserves to be names as one of the best inflatable SUPs in my eyes.
Starboard Atlas Zen
Starboard has been releasing a stellar line up of hardwood and inflatable boards each year, continuously working and improving on earlier models. At first glance, the Zen seems to be everything that has been said about it. The board feels like a true all-rounder that you can use for a variety of purposes. You can take it out for a short cruise on the lake, or get the adrenaline pumping by racing it on the flatwater.
At its core, sits a 4.75-inch drop stitch construction that gives the board a thick, stable base. When inflated, this core becomes as tough as nails and will not flinch or flex one bit. Then you have a double layer PVC laminate that forms a durable skin over the inner core. Where the Zen is slightly ahead of the competition is in its 2+1 Rail Band feature. An airtight inner Railband keeps everything nice and tight in the interior section. The outer Railband adds to the toughness of the inflatable stand up paddle board’s body. The third Railband sits on top of the board, acting as a strong compressor. The cherry on top of the cake is the heat resistant glue that acts a protective cocoon. You can stay out longer in the sun without worrying about the Zen heating up.
The Starboard Atlas Zen feels light and easy on the water, allowing you to glide further with a single paddle stroke. This is because of the board’s shape. The SUP tapers nicely to the front and the rear as well. The smooth oval shape enables the board to streamline through the water surface with a minimum of fuss. Definitely one of the better cruisers available in the market today.
Fin Set Up
This is my favorite part of my third favorite iSUP. The reason the board turns out a good performance in varied conditions is because of its fin set up: A traditional 2+1 arrangement, with a large, detachable central fin and two smaller fixed fins. Attach the large fin and the Atlas Zen tracks in a smooth, straight line in flatwater conditions, which makes the board such a good touring option. You will find that a minimum of effort is required in keeping the board in a straight line, going forward. Remove the central fin when the time comes to take on white water challenge. The two smaller fins can cruise through the challenging waters of the open ocean and even take on small waves.
The Small Details Matter
I have already said that the small details separate the good boards from the great ones. The Zen is testament to this fact. The board’s nose has a slight lift that maximizes its aerodynamic shape for touring and speed. The bungee cord attached to the front of the board allows you to carry a nice lunch or additional equipment with you while cruising the river. Another detail that impressed me is the neoprene paddle holder at the tail of the board. You can simply dock your paddle as you carry the board around or get your daily dose of yoga on the lake.
Multi-Tasking All Rounder
Starboard’s Astro Atlas Zen is one of the top options for a lightweight, portable, all-around blow up paddle board. It can be used in a variety of conditions, and offers solid stability, enhanced glide, and good speed.