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Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review – 2023

Blackfin XL Ultra Review

9.9

Overall Rating

9.9/10

Pros

  • Easy to carry and paddle (ultra lightweight at just 23 lbs
  • Ultra portable - the most portable large paddle board on the market today
  • Great performance, from speed to stability
  • Durable, high quality construction thanks to x-woven dropstitch + carbon fiber rails
  • High volume SUP, good for larger paddlers, beginner paddlers worried about stability, and even more advanced paddlers who want a portable iSUP.
  • Great kit that includes quality electric pump and surprisingly stiff 5 piece carbon shaft / nylon blade paddle
  • Good warranty (3 years on seams, 2 years on rest of board)

Cons

  • This is a tough one. There are things we’d like to see on this board, but don’t think possible without losing the ability to fold in half (longer deck pad w/ raised tail pad)
  • Being SUPER nit-picky: we think iRocker could shorten the fins by 1”-2”.

By combining the ultra portability and high quality construction of the Ultra Series with the larger platform of the Blackfin XL, iRocker has created possibly the best large all around paddle board on the market today.

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The iROCKER Cruiser Ultra is lighter, faster, and stiffer than their original Cruiser.

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The Blackfin XL Ultra is the newest addition to iRocker’s Ultra series – and we couldn’t be more stoked to review this board. At 11’6 x 34” x 6”, the board has a listed weight capacity of 360 lbs, yet is only 23 lbs and folds up into a backpack ½ the size of a normal iSUP backpack. In addition, the board feels light and responsive on the water while still being very stable – very impressive.

Read through our full, in-depth review of the new Blackfin XL Ultra to find out how the board performed in all our testing. However, the quick summary is that the board performed phenomenally. It’s stiff and rigid, very stable, fast, and can be loaded up with tons of gear for everything from overnight SUP adventures to fishing with your kids. However, what impressed us most is that the board is able to do all that as an ultra-compact SUP that is easy to backpack or travel with.

We think the Blackfin XL Ultra is one of the most versatile SUPs we’ve tested in a while would be a great SUP for paddlers who:

  • Want to cruise casually across the water, be it a lake, ocean, or slow-moving river
  • Need a high-volume SUP that they can backpack miles in to a beautiful remote location
  • Want to travel with their board and not sacrifice stability or performance
  • Need a family board, a board for fishing, or a board for long paddling adventures

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Spec Sheet

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
In addition to solid performance, we love the look of new Blackfin XL Ultra
  • Main Category: All-around, large paddlers, compact
  • Board Dimensions: 11’6×34”x6”
  • Listed Board Weight: 23 lbs
  • Listed Max Capacity: 360 lbs
  • Recommended PSI: 16 PSI
  • Fins: Twin fin, snap-lock
  • Paddle: 5 piece, carbon shaft + nylon blade
  • Materials: X-woven drop stitch, carbon fiber rails, triple layer composite PVC
  • Price Range: Mid ($$)
  • Warranty: 3 years (seams), 2 years (board)

Performance Review of the Blackfin XL Ultra Stand Up Paddle Board

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
At just 23 lbs, the board feels very good on the water – easy to get up to speed, and cruises nicely
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The Blackfin XL Ultra is extremely versatile and can be used for just about everything, from fishing to overnight adventures
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
Being able to pack all of this down to such a small, comfortable backpack without losing performance is incredible

Overall Score: [9.9/10]

  • Stability: 9.7/10
  • Speed: 9.2/10
  • Tracking: 9.1/10
  • Maneuverability: 8.6/10
  • Construction Quality: 9.8/10
  • Features/Accessories: 9.8/10

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Stability Rating: [9.7/10]

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023

We feel very comfortable saying that larger, beginner paddlers will feel very stable and comfortable on the Blackfin XL Ultra. The Blackfin series has always been some of the most stable ‘big board’ SUPs on the market, and the Ultra XL is no exception.

The Blackin XL Ultra is 11’6 x 34” x 6”, giving paddlers a total volume of 259 liters. As you can see in the photos, the board keeps the exact same shape as the regular Blackfin XL. It tapers slightly in the nose and tail, but keeps a good amount of width throughout the middle sections of the board. This is a very stable shape, but not overly stable and does a great job of balancing stability with speed.

Speed Test: 9.2/10

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
Top Sprint Speed:5.6 MPH
Average Cruising Speed:4.5 MPH
SUP Board Guide’s Speed Testing:
To obtain our speed test results, we use a Speed Coach Sup 2. This gives us accurate readings on how fast we are paddling and our current stroke rates. For the top sprint speed, we paddle as hard as we can for approximately 10-15 seconds and then record our average speed. For the casual test, we paddle at 40-35 strokes per minute for approximately 30-60 seconds and record the average speed.

We found the Blackfin XL Ultra to be a fairly fast, lightweight iSUP and much faster than we would expect from a 34” wide board. It’s a great option for those who need stability and/or the ability to carry a lot of gear AND who also want a SUP that is still fast.

In our testing we found the XL Ultra to get up to speed easily given how lightweight the board is.

The board feels light in the water, but not too light, and is easier to paddle than most other large iSUPs.

At sprint speed, we were very happy with how fast we were able to paddle the SUP and think we could have pushed those speeds even .1 or .2 mph faster if we had a more stiff paddle (more on the paddle below).

We are big fans of the shape of the board with how it narrows in the nose and tail, somewhat similar to what you would see on a touring board. It makes the board fast even with how wide it is throughout the middle of the board.

I also paddled the board with my 6 year old and some gear. While the board slowed a little bit, it didn’t feel sluggish even with that extra 50-60 lbs of squirrely kid on board.

Tracking: 9.1/10

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The Blackfin Ultra comes with two 9” fins. These fins dig deep in the water and gives the board fantastic tracking capabilities
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
At 34” wide, we did not expect the XL Ultra to track as well as it did.

At 34” wide, we expected the XL Ultra to track like it’s original, non-compact twin. We thought it would track fine for a 34” wide SUP, but did not expect it to track as well as it did. This is an iSUP that tracks very well and is more forgiving to those paddlers who don’t yet have 100% proper form.

We found the two 9” fins to grab the water very well and keep the board straighter than the tri fin set up of the original Blackfin XL.

Maneuverability: 8.6/10

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
It’s easier to turn the board using advanced strokes vs standard forward and reverse sweeps
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
Step back turns are slightly more challenging given the lack of a full-length deck pad

The Blackfin Ultra XL’s maneuverability is about what we would expect from a board that is 11’6” long and 34” wide.

While the twin 9” fins keep the Ultra XL straight when paddling, we found them to make the board slightly harder to maneuver. This was most notable for me when doing standard rear sweeps. With the rear sweeps I could really feel the water pushing against those two fins. I was still able to turn the board 360 degrees in under 5 strokes, but it was more challenging.

Fortunately, the board is also lighter weight (again, just 23 lbs), which gives the board a good, fun feel on the water and beginner paddlers who aren’t great at more advanced strokes won’t in reality even notice the decrease in maneuverability.

Frankly, we think that the average paddler will be glad to exchange maneuverability for better tracking. However, we have a feeling that if iRocker would shave 1”-2” off the rear fins they could improve the maneuverability while not drastically reducing the tracking capabilities of the board.

The other feature we would like to see on the board is a full length deck pad. That would make it easier to perform a step back turn and really turn the board on a dime. However, this is a little challenging given this is a compact SUP that folds in half and I will gladly trade not having a full-length deck pad for that portability.

Construction Quality: 9.8/10

Bend Test Results: 1” (extremely good results)

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The entire Ultra series is significantly lighter than their original counterparts.
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
Other compact SUPs have been much less rigid than the iRocker Ultras
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
A 1” bend is stellar for such a lightweight, compact iSUP.

In order to evaluate construction quality, we use a standardized bend test where we place (3) 50 lb sand bags on the middle of the board and measure the amount the board bends under that weight.

The Blackfin Ultra XL performed fantastically in our testing, which is impressive given how iRocker knocked off 4 lbs of weight vs the original XL Blackfin.

From a construction standpoint, the XL Ultra uses the following:

  • X-woven drop stitch (which is lighter weight than v-knitted but also more stiff)
  • Triple layer composite PVC. This is iRocker’s sales language that essentially means you have 2 full layers of PVC that surround the drop stitch core plus another more proprietary layer that they don’t want to fully disclose to everyone. As far as we can tell, we think this is referring to some of the layers on the rails.
  • Dual layer PVC rails + carbon fiber strips embedded in the outermost layer, with top and bottom reinforcement strips.

The build quality of the 2023 Blackfin XL Ultra gives the board a stiff and solid feel on the water. The board also looks good from the outside. The rail lines are straight, there isn’t any glue spots, and the d-rings and action mounts are securely glued to the board. Overall, we were very happy with the quality of the Blackfin. This year we’ve seen an overall trend of better quality construction with brands across the board, and the Blackfin lineup is no exception to that very positive trend.

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
Here you see the dimples created by the X-woven dropstitch
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The Blackfin XL Ultra has a recommended max PSI of 16 psi
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The rails look clean and straight, and we like the extra rigidity and protection provided by the unresined carbon fiber strips

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SUP Board Guide’s Bend Testing:
In order to attest to the rigidity of each board, we use a bend test curated by Supboardguide. In order to obtain the results, we inflate the board to its maximum recommended PSI and then place it across two sawhorses that are 7 feet apart. We then take a measurement in the middle of the board. Then, we place 150 lbs worth of sandbags on the middle top of the SUP. Last, we record its displacement (the movement from its original position). We use this method for every board we test as a way to mathematically compare boards across a common denominator.

Features/Accessory Review: [9.8/10]

Though not quite as feature heavy as the original iROCKER Cruiser, the Cruiser Ultra still has a healthy balance of versatile features.

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The Blackfin XL Ultra comes loaded with all the accessories on the original XL (quite a feet given the Ultra folds in ½ and is super compact when stored)
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
Here you see the nice board shape and quality lines of the XL Ultra

When we first heard that iRocker was making an Ultra version of the Blackfin XL we thought they would remove some of the features of the regular XL. However, that’s not what happened. The XL Ultra comes with almost all the features you find on the regular series. This includes:

  • 17 D-rings
  • Front, Middle, Rear carry handles
  • Sand spear and scotty mounts for fishing
  • Split deck pad
  • Front and rear removable bungees
  • 3 action mounts (2 front, 1 rear)

So, the main difference is that you get a split deckpad (needed to be compact), and 1 less d-ring. We’ll trade that for the ability to put the board in a bag ½ the size of the regular board.

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
Even though this is a big board, because the backpack is so small and the kit is so lightweight, it would be very easy to hike into a remote lake with

Included Accessories:

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The XL Ultra comes with everything you need to get out on the water: a 5 piece paddle, electric pump, leash, and repair kit
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The 5 piece paddle, while not super stiff, is much more stiff than other 5 piece compact paddles we’ve tested
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
We love the small bag for the pump and other accessories

One of our favorite aspects of the Ultra XL is that it comes with everything you need to get paddling. This includes:

  • Compact backpack (which is also very comfortable even on hikes)
  • 5 piece, 28.8 oz. carbon-fiber and nylon blade paddle (adjustable to 77” to 86”)
  • 12 V electric pump (one of our favorite electric pumps)
  • 10’ coiled leash
  • Two 9” tethered flip lock fins
  • Accessory pouch (fits pump, fins, leash, and repair kit)
  • Repair kit

Overall, we love this kit and all the accessories it comes with. The electric pump is one of our favorites and continually ranks as one of the best electric pumps for a sup. It’s reliable (we’ve tested it for several years now), quick, and we love the square form factor and how easily it fits into the included accessory pouch.

We do have one slight issue with the paddle: it’s a little on the long side for paddlers under 5’2”. For the average paddler, this won’t be noticeable at all, but for the shorter, advanced paddler who wants to sprint, they might find the paddle to be just a tad long. However, given that iRocker needs to be able to break the paddle down to 5 pieces I’m not sure this is something they could fix. If they can, we’d love to see them make the paddle adjustable from 74” to 86” and not just the 77”-86”.

Summary Review of the Blackfin XL Ultra Compact SUP – 2023

Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP Review  2023
The Blackfin XL Ultra might just be the most all-around compact SUP on the market today

The Blackfin Ultra XL Compact SUP might just be the most impressive compact SUP we’ve seen. Typically, compact SUPs are not just compact when folded, but also tend to be a little smaller in general.

However, iRocker has proved to the SUP industry that you can make an ultra compact SUP that has enough width and volume for large paddlers and not lose performance at the same time. In doing so, we think they have made not only one of the most interesting iSUPs for 2023, but also one of the best inflatable SUPs on the market today.

Happy paddling! We hope you enjoyed this review of the Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP. If you have any questions or comments please leave us a comment below!

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SupBoardGuide

Heyo! At SupBoardGuide.com we are a team who love the water, the outdoors, and are more than grateful that our full-time job allows us to review stand up paddle boards. We paddle year round (it helps that we are just about 2 hours outside of Las Vegas), and we bring in a wide range of paddlers with the goal of providing our readers with the best, most in-depth, and accurate stand up paddle board reviews.

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