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RedPaddleCo 12′ Compact iSUP Review – 2024

Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact iSUP Review


Overall Rating:



  • Fantastic portability and storage due to the ‘Compact’ format
  • Excellent cruising speed
  • Great stability for a 32” wide board
  • Fantastic ride quality due to the 4.7” thickness
  • Light in weight but still super well made
  • Great after-sales and warranty from one of the most well-established brands in the business
  • Officially our favorite compact SUP for travel adventures


  • Not cheap, but you’re getting a lot of quality and performance for your money
  • No towing point or handle on the nose

An impressive 12’ all-round iSUP that has all the performance advantages of being just 4.7” thick – and it’s a Compact too!

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review

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Red Paddle Co invented the ‘compact’ iSUP format in 2019, allowing boards to pack down a whole lot smaller, thus greatly increasing their practicality for travel, transporting and storage. Their Compact range has been hugely successful and now includes five different models, with the Red Paddle Co Compact 12’0 being the latest addition to the range. It’s designed as a touring/cruising board with greater stability and speed than the other compacts, yet still offering those essential compact advantages.

However, this is more than just another compact board – it’s breaking entirely new ground. What sets it apart from everything else on the market is its thickness – or lack of. Most inflatable paddle boards are 6” thick, but a thinner board gives a much better quality of ride – if it can be made stiff enough to work. Red Paddle Co uses 4.7” drop stitch in their Ride range, the smaller sizes in the Sport range and all the other sizes in their Compact range. But this year is the first time they’ve used it on a 12’ board, something no other brand has ever dared to do, because the longer you make a board, the more bendy it becomes. So this board represents a huge gamble by Red Paddle Co, and the big question is; has it paid off? Read on for the full story, but you can get a pretty good advance idea of our general verdict from the overall score of 9.7 that we’ve given the board! It is for sure a really exciting and high performing package.

We think the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact would be a great SUP for paddlers who:

  • Love the idea of a really versatile all round board for traveling
  • Want plenty of stability but also plenty of performance too
  • Enjoy that ‘hard board feel’ with your feet nice and close to the water
  • Like the confidence provided by the excellent warranty and worldwide after-sales service from one of the longest-running and most well established brands in the iSUP business.

Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact Spec Sheet

Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact Spec Sheet
The elegant plan shape of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact can clearly be appreciated in this photo. Those smooth continuous curves from nose to tail deliver an equally smooth and continuous feel to the ride
  • Board Category: Compact Touring
  • Listed Board Dimensions: 12’0 x 32” x 4.7”
  • Measured Board Dimensions: 12’0 x 32.25” x 4.7”
  • Listed Board Weight: 22 lbs
  • Listed Max Capacity: 265 lbs
  • Recommended PSI: 20
  • Fins: Twin click-fin
  • Paddle: 5 piece adjustable
  • Board Shell Construction Materials: MSL PACT Fusion
  • Drop-stitch type: woven
  • Warranty: 5 year international

Performance Review of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact Stand Up Paddle Board

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The 4.7” drop stitch used on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact puts the rider closer to the water and significantly increases the stability of the board too.
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact sits low to the water, feeling more like a solid board than an inflatable.
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The very distinctive segmented deckpad on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact boards makes them easier to fold up into a very small package when deflated.

Overall Score: [9.7/10]

  • Stability: 9.4/10
  • Speed: 9.4/10
  • Tracking: 9.2/10
  • Maneuverability: 8.9/10
  • Construction Quality: 9.8/10
  • Features/Accessories: 9.9/10

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Stability Rating: [9.4/10]

This is where the reduced thickness of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact really comes into its own. Having your feet closer to the water’s surface just makes you more stable; period. It lowers your center of gravity and significantly improves the primary stability of the board, particularly in bumpy water conditions. (This is exactly why race SUPs have ‘cockpits’ or ‘dugouts’, to get the racer as low as possible). You wouldn’t think that just 1.2” less thickness could make such a difference, but it really does. The Compact feels more like a hard board in this respect; much more connected to the water rather than floating above it. It makes for a really nice stable paddling platform.

So what does this mean in terms of who the Compact 12’0 is good for? The average weight paddler will most certainly find this board extremely stable, and great for loading up with cargo, or other family members (or indeed both) to go exploring. It’s a fantastic machine for taking the kids out to cruise around the offshore islands or reefs! Meanwhile, heavier paddlers who would normally be looking for a 33” or maybe even 34” wide board, will also find this Compact 12’0 more than adequate in terms of stability, and can thus enjoy the more sprightly performance resulting from the narrower width. This only works up to a certain point though; ultimately a very heavy paddler will always benefit from a thicker board.

Speed Test: [9.4/10]

Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact
Top Sprint Speed:5.85 MPH
Average Cruising Speed:4.85 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 35-40 strokes per minute for approximately 30-60 seconds and record the average speed.

This was yet another performance aspect of the Red Paddle Co Compact 12’ that came as a pleasant surprise. There’s no real indication from the shape or look of the board that it’s going to score so well in the speed department, but it most certainly did. Its sprint score is very good, although the board does develop a bit of bounce when you’re really cranking hard, due to less inherent rigidity in the design. However, you’re not buying a 12’0 Compact to win races on. Where this board really delivers is for fast cruising. It’s just really easy to hold a good speed on; it glides easily through the water with minimal fuss, and you don’t even realize you’re going fast until you look at the speedo.

The progressive nose rocker really assists in this respect too, the board just glides very smoothly over the bumps. Again, you can definitely feel the flex, but it doesn’t seem to hold it back. Instead it actually seems to smooth things out, and you just feel the advantage of being lower to the water, the board just feels low drag and comfortable. It’s a great machine for paddling longer distances, or for more fitness oriented paddling when you’re trying to work a sweat up.

We were intrigued by the fact that Red Paddle Co have set the two fins to be very slightly toed in (ie angled in just slightly), which typically results in a slight speed reduction, so we asked them what their rationale was for this. Apparently they tested many different angles (including zero), and found that the very slight degree of ‘toe’ made very little difference to the top speed but significantly improved the tracking performance, particularly for less experienced paddlers. The fins are also quite soft, which also takes a slight toll on top speed. So in theory the board could be slightly faster still, if so desired!

Tracking: [9.2/10]

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The significant fin area provided by the twin fin set-up on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact helps with the excellent tracking.
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP
The Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact holds its course really nicely for a board with a very all-round plan shape.

Considering the rounded continuous curves of its plan shape, the excellent tracking performance of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact came as a very pleasant surprise. It doesn’t feel locked in like a race board, but after a while you realize that you’re not having to change sides with your paddle very often at all. For sure, you expect reasonably good tracking on any board with 12’ of length, but this board is still over-achieving in this respect.

So why does it track so well? Sitting slightly lower in the water is definitely assisting (especially if there is any cross-wind, which is noticeably less of a problem on this board than when paddling a 6” thick board), but our take is that the twin fin configuration is playing a major role in keeping this board on track. As the fins are relatively large, there is quite a large area of fin engaged in the water, nearly twice as much as with the single fin configuration you’d find on most 12’ boards. The slight ‘toe-in’ on the fins also contributes to the directional stability.

Maneuverability: [8.9/10]

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact
It’s enjoyably easy to sink the tail on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact and spin the board around using step back turns.
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP3
Despite being a relatively long board, the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact responds well to reverse sweep turns and steering strokes.

When a board is 12’ long and 32” wide, you know it hasn’t been designed with maneuverability at the top of the wish list. Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised by how the Red Paddle Co Compact 12’0 performed in this respect. Yes, it does feel quite long but it most certainly doesn’t have that ‘barge’ feel that many longer wider boards do, where trying to turn quickly just takes a whole lot of effort, nor does it feel completely locked in like a raceboard does, or indeed many of the larger touring boards do.

The rounded tail and smooth continuous curves of the plan shape definitely plays its part in this, but Red’s decision to move to a twin-configuration fin on their recreational boards is also significant. It does seem to unlock the tail a bit; bringing the pivot point (center of lateral resistance) that bit further forward. The softness of the fins also helps them break out that bit more easily. You can spin the board around through 360 degrees with around 4 reverse sweep strokes or cross-bow turns, and any reasonably competent paddler will have no problem with maneuvering the Compact in any respect.

Step back turns are comfortable and easy, as the board has a light feel and it’s always easier to sink the tail on a 4.7” board than it is on a 6” one! You do notice the absence of a raised ‘stomp pad’ so you have to be a bit careful with your back foot placement, but it’s easy enough once you get the feel for it.

Construction Quality: [9.8/10]

RedPaddleCo 12'
The patented RSS battens that slot into pockets on each side of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact add significant rigidity to the standing area
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The full length stringers that run down either side of the deck on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact can clearly be seen here.
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact Review
The full length stringers on the bottom of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact give a distinctive look to the underside of the board
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The way that Red Paddle Co create the rails on all their boards is of the highest quality and contributes to the overall stiffness of the board

Red Paddle Co have always been at the forefront of iSUP construction, with a very long list of ‘firsts’ and industry game-changers since they started making iSUPs way back in 2008. Red Paddle Co boards take a long time to make (they claim 72 hours per board, which is 10x longer than the average), but the result is a product that just oozes quality. Red Paddle Co were the first company to utilize ‘fusion’ construction when they introduced their ‘monocoque structural laminate’ (MSL) process in 2016, and for 2024 the Compact boards use MSL®1000, which Red Paddle Co claim to be ‘the pinnacle in drop stitch technology; at 1KG lighter per square meter than MSL, it utilizes next generation weave technology and a super-fine fiber matrix to create a highly malleable, featherlight product’.

The board certainly is very light – aided further by the decrease in overall surface area thanks to the reduced thickness – but it doesn’t feel flimsy. The ‘Rocker Stiffening System’ (RSS) battens that insert into a pocket on each side add a lot of rigidity to the area where you stand, preventing that classic ‘sag’ in the middle, typical of longer and thinner boards. The rigidity is further enhanced by the longitudinal stringers, which run down either side of the deck and underside. The board is very happy to be inflated to 20PSI, which adds a bit more stiffness too.

The fundamental difference between a ‘Compact’ board and a regular iSUP is that once deflated, the Compact can be folded in half longitudinally, and then folded up. We found it almost impossible to keep the 12’0 Compact exactly folded in half when packing it away, but by folding it from the tail rather than the nose we managed to get it to its proper packed-down size . You may need to experiment a bit to work out the best way to pack it down.

Board Stiffness:

Red Paddle Co 12' Compact iSUP bendtest
Before placing 150 lbs of sandbags on the top middle of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact
Red Paddle Co 12' Compact iSUP bendtest
After placing 150 lbs of sandbags on the top middle of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact – a flex of 1.375” which is consistent with the reduced thickness of the board

Stiffness Test: 1.375” Bend

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.

While this is slightly above average for a 12’ touring board, it needs to be considered in conjunction with the board’s thickness. The two main elements of design that determine a board’s rigidity are the way the rails (sides) are constructed, and the board thickness. It takes extra time and cost plus a lot of extra expertise and quality control to build a more sophisticated rail, whereas making the board thicker adds no extra complexity to the construction process at all. This is very much why 6” thick iSUPs were ‘invented’ in the first place; it’s the quick-n-dirty way to make a board more rigid. A 6” thick board will always be significantly stiffer than a 5” board. The difference is exacerbated further with longer boards and narrower boards.

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
You can feel a bit of flex in the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact when you paddle hard. However, the RSS stiffening battens mean that the board stays rigid in the middle area where you’re standing.

However, outside of increasing stiffness in an iSUP there are no actual design benefits to making a board thicker, indeed quite the opposite, which is why you don’t ever see 6” thick recreational SUPs in solid construction. So this is the gamble that Red Paddle Co have taken by making the Compact 12’ just 4.7” thick. They have opted for the greater performance and improved ‘feel’ of the thinner board, backing their excellent rail construction and stiffening systems to make up for most of the loss of rigidity from the reduced thickness.

Has it worked? We reckon it has. Yes, it does feel a little less stiff underfoot, but as we’ve explained in each of the performance sections, it actually doesn’t seem to matter. The board feels great on the water. Indeed, the slight extra degree of flex seems to add a bit of extra shock absorption to the ride.

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Features/Accessory Review: [9.9/10]


Red Paddle Co 12' Compact
The Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact has a generous amount of deck pad, although no stomp pad to tell you when you’ve reached the back of the board. There are four cargo mounts in the rear and 3 straps up front plus an action camera mount.
Red Paddle Co 12 Review
As can be seen, there is a slight degree of ‘toe’ on the twin finboxes on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact.

The Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact comes with a fairly simple set of fittings – 4 D rings in the tail area, and 3 straps up front, along with an action camera mount. The rearmost of the front straps is secured by D Rings, the other two are held by bungee mounts; less convenient for other sorts of cargo attachment. The straps can be tensioned, and hold their tension much better than on the previous models. The rearmost of the front straps also has a second D ring mounted a few inches along it, so that you can easily and securely pop a water bottle under that bit of strap.

The central carrying handle is very comfortable and well padded, and we really like the extended longitudinal handles on each side, perfect ‘hang-on handles’ for the extra passenger you’re carrying to hold on to, and good also for moving the board around when on the water.

The deckpad is in smaller segments, as can clearly be seen in the picture. This is to make the board nice and easy to fold up, and it works well; you don’t really notice the divisions underfoot, especially as the pads have the excellent raised diamond configuration which is just great for grip underfoot. There’s no ‘stomp pad’ at the rear, but you can tell when you’ve got your foot as far back as it goes for step-back turns when you encounter the valve or the leash fixing.

The only omission that we’d like to see Red Paddle Co correct for future years is adding some sort of handle on the nose for carrying and towing, as it’s such a sensible and useful safety inclusion. Red has advised us that there is no handle or D Ring in order to make the board fold up more easily, but this could easily be overcome with a bit of ingenuity, as Red have already displayed with their various other fittings.

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The leash fixing and inflation valve on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact are each to the side, in order to allow the board to be folded down the centreline
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The bungee straps on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact can be tensioned as required. Notice the excellent ‘hang-on handles’ perfectly positioned for a passenger sitting in front of the paddler.

Included Accessories:

The Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact comes complete with an excellent bag, the legendary twin-cylinder Titan II pump, 5 piece paddle and a coiled leash as standard.

Red Paddle Co 12' Compact iSUP Review
he click-in fin system on the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact has to be the easiest system of them all

The Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact comes as a complete kit, so you have everything you need to go paddling. The bag feels somewhat bulky to carry on your back when it’s fully loaded as it sticks out quite a long way, but it’s still far smaller overall than a normal iSUP bag. It has very comfortable shoulder straps and a waist belt, and the built-in water bottle holder is a nice touch.

The Titan II pump is bulky, but about as good a pump as you’ll find for inflating your iSUP with the minimum of effort. The changeover switch allows you to use both cylinders to get the board up to shape, and then when the going gets tough you can switch it to pumping from just the skinny high pressure cylinder, which makes it pretty easy to get up to the 15-20psi.

The 5 piece paddle that the board comes with is a great improvement on Red Paddle Co’s earlier attempts to build a travel paddle. Red has cleverly color-coded the sections so it’s easy to work out which bit clips onto which. There is a little bit of play between the sections when it’s fully assembled, and it’s not the stiffest paddle in the world, but it functions nicely. The shaft is carbon, while the blade is nylon, so it’s light but also durable enough that you won’t need to worry about banging it on rocks (or your youngsters using it to make sandcastles on the beach!). The Leverlock adjustment system means there is no ‘shaft furniture’ to catch your hand on when changing sides; you adjust the length of the paddle from the concealed lever built into the handle. If you’re not familiar with the Leverlock system it has been around for a number of years and is used by many brands. It’s a very clever system, and it’s easy to order spare parts for it should something break; check out

The click fin system developed by Red Paddle Co is definitely one of our favorites. Slot the fin in, and push it back to click it into position, then put the pin through the hole in the base – job done! 5 seconds to install or remove. There’s an allen bolt built into the fin box which you can tighten onto the fin to lock it even more thoroughly into position, but we quickly got out of the habit of using that as it just didn’t seem necessary – the system works just fine without it. And what we really like is that the system is based on an FCS fin box, so you could use any FCS-compatible fin with it if you wish. Which you may choose to do if you’re planning on paddling a significant distance, as the fins supplied are relatively soft; great for messing around with or riding in shallow waters, but stiffer fins will increase the tracking and stability yet further.

Traveling with the Red Paddle Co 12’ Compact

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The Red Paddle Co 12’ Compact was the perfect board to take with me to the Big Island in Hawaii. The lifeguard, who is an excellent paddler, was also extremely impressed with the quality – he usually gets very nervous when he sees us mainlanders with inflatables.

This past year I also had the opportunity to take the 12’ Red Paddle Co Compact on several amazing SUP adventures, including:

  • Hawaii (big island)
  • Portland, Oregon
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
Paddling the lakes in Portland, Oregon is a nice change up from the desert paddling in St. George, Utah
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
You can see here how well the 12’ Compact by Red Paddle Co glides through the water vs riding on top of the water.

Obviously, the 12’ compact is a SUP meant to travel with – so I tested it out. I checked the SUP on both flights to Hawaii and Portland, and on all 4 flights the bag did fantastic. Not only did it hold up to the airline baggage handlers, but I was able to pack a lot of my gear inside the backpack next to the iSUP. This made it very easy to travel with, and adding some clothing made me feel even more comfortable with the baggage guys throwing around the pack!

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review

Overall, if you’re looking for a high performing travel SUP, I’m not sure you’ll find a better option than the Red Paddle Co 12’ Compact.

Summary Review of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact – 2024

RedPaddleCo 12' Compact iSUP Review
The Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact is now officially our top recommendation for a compact traveling iSUP

The 12’0 Compact breaks new ground, combining the performance and stability of a longer board with the low-rider feel from the thinner 4.7” drop stitch, plus the added bonus of being from one of the best-established brands in the business with a renowned warranty and after-sales service. That’s already a whole lot of boxes ticked right there, but then on top of all that it also comes with the huge additional plus point that it’s a compact too! If you’re looking for a board to take with you on your travels, that packs up real small, yet will deliver really nice all round paddle boarding at your destination, then this is our pick of the bunch. Yes, it’s pricey, but you’re getting a whole lot of quality for your money.

Red Paddle Co have also recently released the 12’0x28” Voyager in 4.7” thickness, and we know they have other long 4.7” boards in the development process. The really interesting question now is whether this will prompt other brands to look at producing longer boards in 4.7” thickness. Or indeed, in the Compact format? While Red Paddle Co have the undoubted advantage of their patented RSS system which definitely plays its part in making the 12’0 Compact work so well, there are some impressive stiffening techniques being used by other brands out there. Will they rise to the challenge? If they do, we’ll be sure to let you know. For now though, Red Paddle Co have this market all to themselves, so if you’re in the market for a high performance compact then the choice is really simple.

Happy paddling! We hope you enjoyed this review of the Red Paddle Co 12’0 Compact. If you have any questions or comments please leave us a comment below!

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Heyo! At 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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