BLACKFIN Model XL iSUP Review
- Lots of upgrades and additions including 3 added color options for 2020
- More action mounts, fishing mounts and 19 D-rings!
- High weight capacity -- great for multiple users
- Extra cargo capacity at both front and rear with 3 carrying handles and 2 passenger handles
- Sturdy build with triple layer composite, core stitching and carbon rails along the sides for structural integrity
- High Quality carbon paddle shaft and lightweight nylon blade
- New center fin box is self locking for convenience, but no longer the standard US fin box
- May feel slightly large for smaller users
Last Updated: April 2, 2021
*Note – iRocker just launched their new 2021 version of the Blackfin Model XL. Click here to check out that board but keep in mind that you can also still purchase the 2020 version at a discounted price right now. We will also be updating this review very soon to tell you more about the 2021 Blackfin Model XL.
BLACKFIN 11’6” XL Model Review
The BLACKFIN model XL has been upgraded again in 2020. BLACKFIN took their amazing 2019 XL SUP board and enhanced it with additional components and sturdy construction. Overall specs remain the same at 11’6” in length and 34” wide with a 6” thickness. BLACKFIN also held onto the triple-layer composite construction that made the 2019 model 20% lighter (which we love!). The 2020 model adds several more components which does add a touch of weight but nothing that impacts performance. The 2020 model has a towing D-ring, 19 deck D-rings (kayak seat compatible), 2 regular and 6 mini action mounts, a fishing rack mount, and even a sand spear mount. The new XL model also extends the EVA foam traction pad through the rear of the board so it overlaps the inflation valve for ultimate range. The pad is stamped with the BLACKIN logo for both texture and aesthetics. This adds functionality and style — it feels more comfortable underfoot than the standard crocodile texture and looks cool too!
The BLACKFIN model XL is a great SUP board for all round use. It is stable, well-equipped and handles nicely in multiple scenarios. Just slightly larger than the BLACKFIN model X, the XL also works well for larger users — or multiple users, since it has extra handles for passengers or kids. BLACKFIN carefully evaluated what elements would make this the ideal board for various excursions. This is more than just a simple board for floating tourists who want added stability (although it works great that way too). The XL works great in lakes, will handle a bit of waves or white water, glides and tracks nicely, has multiple fishing mounts, and is a good option for touring or even SUP yoga! The size makes it an ideal board for multiple water conditions and outings.
In addition to the versatile design, the BLACKFIN XL has extra storage space for gear or cargo. The 2020 model adds two more D-rings in the rear (increasing from 4 to 6), which makes the cargo space much more usable. Criss-crossing bungee cord will secure a cooler, swimming gear, or other gear conveniently. You can also attach one (or possibly two) kayak seats and use the XL as an all-day, get-to-the-most-remote-area possible SUP board that is both stable and convenient (SUV roof rack not required). An upgraded fin installation system also makes it so users can easily install various fin configurations.
We are impressed with the engineering and thoughtful design upgrades on the 2020 BLACKFIN XL.
SUP Board Specs
|Max Capacity||485 lbs|
|Recommended Inflation||15-18 psi|
|Fins||Nylon, Quick-lock, removable|
|Paddle Type||Full Carbon shaft, Nylon blade|
|Materials||Triple Layer Composite PVC, Drop Stitch Inner Core|
Who Should Buy This Stand Up Paddle Board:
The BLACKFIN Model XL is a fantastic board for the following:
- The XL is great for taller, larger users or multiple riders
- It is designed to handle various water scenarios and makes a great all-round board
- Works great as a stable board for first-time users or SUP beginners
- It is ideal for longer-rides with cargo or a friend
- Is a great option for SUP yoga or fitness!
- The added D-rings and mounts on the 2020 model make it ideal for fishing or a long day at the lake
- Extra length and a slightly narrower width keeps the XL extremely stable, so it is a great way to haul children for a family outing
- The carbon rail design makes it easy to maintain balance while gliding along the water, so you feel balanced and stable
The Model XL is great for the following conditions/situations:
- Flat water paddling in lakes, bays, marinas, etc.
- Touring or Long distance SUPing alone or with friends
- SUP Fishing
- Paddling through the harbor, light ocean waves
Performance – Stability
The BLACKFIN XL model 11’6” is extremely stable — it is one of BLACKFIN’s most stable SUP boards. The 34” width makes it easy to maintain balance without having to lean significantly side to side when paddling. Taller users will find the XL easier to manage; however, smaller users shouldn’t discount the XL since it is actually one inch narrower than the BLACKFIN X and better suited for multiple riders. We tested the BLACKFIN XL in different scenarios and found it to be consistently stable — whether loaded up or with just one rider. The XL provides a feeling of balance and control while maintaining that fun SUP feeling on the water.
Moms and Dads who want to load a child (or two) on the XL will have plenty of cargo capacity, handles for safety, and a lightweight, sturdy paddle to move your crew through the water. The 485lb max capacity enables two riders to glide along together — and still take some lunch! Couples who want to enjoy a day together on the lake will both fit comfortably on the 2020 extended deck.
There is a tremendous benefit to the user-friendly stability of the BLACKFIN XL. We are impressed with both the structural design and functional engineering on this stable SUP board. This is a great option for veterans or novices alike.
The BLACKFIN model 11’6” is a good all-round board that will handle well in most water conditions. This is slightly larger than the Model X, so while you can dip the rear and pivot as needed, it takes a bit more leg and upper body strength to turn quickly. Tight turns are possible but not recommended; we advise riders to allow for both time and adequate space to turn the board — especially when loaded with gear. The XL is ideal for new users who don’t want to carve and dodge but are looking for comfort and stability.
BLACKFIN upgraded their board design in 2019 with triple layer composite construction and carbon rails that hold the board steady and stable in the water. This reduced board weight by 20%. The 2020 model maintains this lighter design so the board itself does not weigh you down. The additional components add a touch more weight out of the bag, but this does not affect maneuverability or control.
One thing the BLACKFIN XL does well is glide. You can sail along at some pretty respectable speeds on this sturdy board. While it takes a minute to get going, once at speed, the XL glides along nicely. Tracking is also smooth and effortless as the board seems to just guide you through the water. Slightly more surface area along the water holds the board in line so riders feel stable even when you pick up speed.
The 2020 model XL changes up the fin configuration slightly. Rather than self-locking side fins with one hatchet style center fin, the new model features a more aggressive style center fin with a lower profile to cut through the water. All three are now self locking so users can easily pop them in and out as needed. This new system has several benefits. The self-locking feature makes it so users won’t struggle to get fins in and out which is sometimes the case with the US box system. Also, fins can be interchanged for multiple configurations. The fins are also sturdy fiberglass and less prone to cracking or breakage.
BLACKFIN Model XL Build Quality – Materials
Construction on the BLACKFIN model XL is impressive. The triple layer composite and carbon side rails are a brilliant design. You get the advantage of stiffness and stability while still able to roll the board up when you’re finished. The internal drop-stitch core of BLACKFIN’s XL SUP gives the board its structure. The drop-stitching expands when inflated and holds the board together via a complex webbing system that secures the outer PVC layers and is what gives the board its shape and makes it feel like a hardboard.
The carbon rail itself is built into the side of the board. When the board is deflated, you can see the rails gently hold the sides of the SUP up off the ground. This design adds strength and helps the XL maintain a robust structure. The rails do make rolling the deflated board a bit more difficult due to added stiffness, but if you take the time to fully deflate and dry the board, it can easily be rolled to fit back in the bag.
The BLACKFIN XL is a long, multi-function board with a gently pointed front end for touring capability and tapers to an 18” wide, squared-off backend. It has a little rocker in the nose to keep it up out of the water — and no tail rocker which makes it ideal for speed and touring scenarios. The 34” width helps offset the length so you have the advantage of speed and stability but a slightly narrowed mid-body for maneuverability. The nose tapers to 31” beginning just past the deck pad and narrows gently to about 8” at the top. The advantages of this shape are added stability, functionality, cargo space and weight capacity. The disadvantages are slightly-limited maneuverability and a wider turn-radius.
The design of the board has been engineered to maximize both stability and functionality — this is a great do-everything SUP board. You can haul stuff, kids, your dog, fishing gear, kayak seats, a cooler and even fishing spears on the BLACKFIN XL.
The 2020 BLACKFIN XL is loaded with extras. A few of the new features on the 2020 model include:
- Digital printing on the 2020 model reduces fade and scratches
- 3 Additional color options on Model XL
- 2 action mounts in cargo area
- 2 mini action mounts in rear of deck pad
- 2 mini action mounts compatible with new sand spear mount on each side of the board (4 total)
- 2 fishing rack mounts in the rear of the deck pad
- 2 fishing rack mounts in rear of deck pad compatible with new BLACKFIN fishing rack
- 2 added d-rings for a larger rear cargo area (There are now 18 d-rings on the top of the board and 1 on the bottom)
- New larger logo stamped deck pad
- Deck pad now extends all the way past the inflation valve to the very back of the board
- More convenient, much easier to use and install, flip lock center fin
As mentioned above, BLACKFIN did change both fins and lockboxes on the 2020 model by eliminating the standard US fin box on the center fin and replacing it with a new, more aggressive style fin and self-locking box. For some users, this may be a concern, but in testing we found the new fins to perform every bit as well as the 2019 model. BLACKFIN should release more fin options in the future, so depending on your water conditions or geography, you may want to opt for additional river fins as needed. However, we found the sleek, nylon fins that come standard on the XL to be responsive and sturdy; they will accommodate the needs of most users. The fins track nicely so you glide smoothly across the water with adequate turning efficiency.
The deck pad is another upgraded feature on the 2020 model. The thick EVA foam pad is one continuous piece that runs 98” down the length of the board. It now extends past the inflation valve to the rear of the board. The new deck pad has sleek ridges about 4” apart that line the middle of the pad. This standing area (length of the ridges) is about 55” long, with additional length underlying the rear cargo area. The deck pad is stamped with BLACKFIN’s cool logo which adds texture for both foot comfort and visual aesthetics. Additional action and fishing mounts have been added on top of the pad which further secures it to the board.
Carrying Handles: 6” long
There are three 6” carrying handles on the BLACKFIN XL. One is in the front, for convenience when carrying the board to/from your destination. The handle on the rear of the board is useful when pulling your board into the water. Both of these handles are tough nylon and measure 6” long and 1” wide. The one in the middle of the deck pad is heavier and wider — it is 6” long and 2” wide with extra padding for added comfort and grip since this is where you will most likely carry the board solo. All of the handles are reinforced so they won’t break or shred with use.
BLACKFIN went all-out with additional mounts and components. They thought of everything when considering how and where to include features that make the XL useful and convenient. In addition to the three carrying handles at the board’s fore, middle, and aft, there are also two 8” handles that lie adjacent to the bungee cord in the front cargo area that makes the perfect place for children to hold on while you guide them in the water. These are removable.
The 2020 model also adds more D-rings, with 6 rings in both front and rear cargo areas. This also extends the bungee-supported cargo in the front — making it 50% larger than on the 2019 model. Another D-ring sits under the nose of the board for towing.
Additional mounts have been added on the 2020 model, which now includes two action mounts in the cargo area; two mini action mounts in the rear deck area; four action mounts compatible with the sand spear mount on each side of the board, and two fishing rack mounts in the rear of the deck pad. BLACKFIN spared no expense when outfitting the XL for whatever adventure you can imagine.
Another upgrade for 2020 includes a new, lighter carbon-shaft paddle with a slimmed nylon blade. This feels noticeably lighter in hand compared with the 2019 paddle, and the thinned out blade is both more efficient and compact. This paddle is easy to hold and feels capable in the water.
This is an exceptionally high-end paddle to be included as part of the purchase price. Full carbon paddles are available aftermarket that will cost you upwards of $200 out of pocket and feel only slightly more sturdy than the BLACKFIN XL paddle. You can shop around for specialty paddles if needed, but we find this one to be firm and sturdy and should suffice for most XL users.
Once again, BLACKFIN includes a great triple action, dual-chamber pump with the BLACKFIN XL kit. The high-volume hand pump is the same, but BLACKFIN did upgrade the hose this year so it is more flexible and durable.
The pump has dual chambers with three settings. Setting #1 allows air in and out through both chambers. Setting #2 pumps air in from both chambers (more efficient, requires more strength). Setting #3 pumps air in from one chamber only. There is also a psi gauge on top. This is an impressive pump. It fits nicely in the SUP bag, but chances are, you may find yourself using it for any and all types of home inflatables. It is powerful and will blow up your SUP in no time.
One accessory we highly recommend considering is the new electric pump offered by iRocker/BLACKFIN. The electric pump plugs into your vehicle to inflate your board while you unload gear, food, children, and equipment. It saves you a ton of energy right out of the gate since you won’t wear yourself out pumping up the board in the first 10 minutes. The electric pump also deflates the board! It will remove all the air from the board so you can roll it up and store it easily.
The BLACKFIN XL backpack is high quality and spacious, with plenty of compartments for organizing and storing your accessories. The backpack includes wheels on the bottom and a handle on the top so you can pull it along the road or through your garage as needed. (We don’t recommend dragging it through the sand.) There are also padded shoulder straps and a waist strap to wear it on your back as well.
The backpack includes the following:
- Main compartment for your board and paddle.
- Large front compartment for the manual pump. It is nice to be able to store the pump away from the board so you don’t have all the heavy gear in one pocket.
- 2 side mesh pockets, each with rear zipper pouches. These smaller pouches are another new feature this year and provide a great spot for keys, a wallet or other small items.
- Roller wheels on the base of the bag.
- Pocket above shoulder straps made specifically for iRocker’s new electric pump
The BLACKFIN Model X comes with a high-quality, coiled leash. The leash attaches to the rear D-ring and is coiled so it won’t drag in the water and won’t get in the way while paddling. It also swivels nicely so you don’t get all caught up in your leash. There is a small key compartment inside the ankle strap where you can stash your car key (you may have to look closely to find it — but once again, this is BLACKFIN being thoughtful).
Included is a standard repair kit that includes an inflation valve wrench and a few patches. Additional repair items are available from BLACKFIN as needed.
iRocker/BLACKFIN includes a wide array of additional accessories:
- Kayak kit (seat and kayak blade)
- Kayak Seat Cushion
- Shoulder Carry Strap
- Cup Holder
- Camera Mount
- Cell Phone Holder
- Electric Pump
- Selfie Stick
- Cooler Deck Pad
- Fishing Rod Holder
- Fishing Rack and dual Rod Holder
- Push Pole and Sand Spear attachment
- Sand Spear Mount
Company Review – BLACKFIN
We are consistently impressed with the customer service and value provided by BLACKFIN/iRocker. This is a reputable company that is focused on customer satisfaction and quality products. BLACKFIN has quickly emerged as an industry leader thanks to the company’s focus on quality, engineering, and a constant desire to improve their products.
You can read our full BLACKFIN company review here.
Bottom Line BLACKFIN Model XL Review
The BLACKFIN XL is a fun, well-built, and thoughtfully engineered SUP board that will work for both SUP veterans and beginners alike. Whether you plan to use it for its enhanced stability, many accessory options, stable feel in the water, or for its extended cargo capacity — you can’t go wrong with the XL. Check it out today to use for your next river run, family day at the lake or fishing trip!
Justin Taylor, Head Paddler
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