For that last few months I’ve had the opportunity to test a Red Paddle Company 11′ Sport SUP and review it. I got it on loan and had planned on taking it to Florida in March and April, but as you’ll read below that didn’t happen. I managed to test it in the lakes of northern Minnesota after the lakes thaw.
NOTE: For those of you who follow the site, you might be surprised that PaddlingLight started covering SUPs as this has been primarily a canoe and kayak website mixed with philosophy about and advocacy for wilderness and wild places. Ultralight trips are being accomplished on SUPs, and SUPs are a way for people to explore the wilderness, so we’re going to cover the topic now and then when something fun comes along. In this case it’s a Red Paddle Board 11′ SUP review.
Red Paddle Co. describes the board as:
The 11’ Sport fits perfectly between the Ride and 12’6” Shapes. Faster to paddle than the Rides and quicker to inflate than the 12’6” boards.The Sport is the perfect fast cruiser for those paddlers looking for a board that can get them around the bay or up the river with speed and glide but can still pick up a small wave.
The board itself is inflatable, 11 feet long, 30 inches wide and 4-3/4 inches thick. The board has a squared off stern and a fin box for a removable fin. Red Paddle Co. used its RSS battens on both sides to help stiffen up the board. It inflates via a valve in the stern and has a set of bungees just forward the deck pad. There is a carry handle centered on the board. The board shipped with Red Paddle’s Titan Pump and a luggage-style wheeled bag that converts to a backpack. It also includes an all-around fin.
Pumping up the board is relatively easy. The first couple attempts were difficult and some parts of the process never got easy. To pump it up, you first inflate the board to about 1 psi. Then you push the RSS batten, which is a plastic flexible but stiff batten into a pocket on the board’s rails. The video on Red Paddle’s website makes the process look easy. But, I found that it took significant force to get the batten into the pocket. The only way I could get it to go was to take a paddle, insert the paddle into the string loop on the batten and pull with almost all my might. I expected the process to get easier as the pocket loosened up with use, but it never did. After getting the battens in, it’s a monotonous 10 or so minutes of pumping until the board reaches full inflation. Then the fin goes into the fin box. This should have been easy, but the bolt that was shipped with the board wasn’t long enough. I actually had to find a thin rock about a 1/16th of an inch thick to slide into the fin slot to rest the bolt on so that the bolt would reach through the hole in the fin. After I figured this out, the longest part in assembling the fin was sorting through gravel at the boat ramps. Total inflation and setup time averaged about 20 minutes. Once inflated, the carry handle is placed perfectly for a balanced carry.
To take down the 11′ Sport, you deflate the board, pull out the RSS batten (again using a paddle and might to get it out) and take out the fin. I rolled the board around the Titan Pump and then put it into the bag. It didn’t always fit right, but somehow I almost always managed to get the board, pump and paddle into the bag.
I’ve paddled a few paddle boards now and they all vary in stability. Most of the boards that I’ve tried that are built for cruising seem extremely stable. This board was about the least stable cruising board that I’ve tried. That said, it felt okay for stability and I adjusted quickly to the point where walking around the board was possible and shifting my balance wasn’t an issue. Over the 4th of July weekend, some of my family came to visit. And they all were able to stand up on their first attempt and paddle around without any issues. There was an 8-year-old girl and her family swimming at the dock one day we were out paddling and we asked her to flip the board so my niece would take a plunge. She manged to flip it by throwing her body over the board and then pulling until my niece fell in. We asked her if she would like to try the board and she got up on it and paddled it around without any issues.
Tracking seemed good with only a little bit of crabbing down the lake. I used the stand-and-switch technique to get speed and the board seemed to do well with between 4 and 6 strokes on each side. Maneuverability was also good. The board responded well to draws and posts with no issues. I was able to maneuver into tight spots along the shore with no problems and if I really needed to spin quickly just taking a step back freed the nose enough to make quick 180° turns.
I wasn’t satisfied with the speed. While it seems okay for the size, I found myself pining for a faster board. On long lakes, it seemed to take forever to get to my destination. While I thought it would be fun to get a board that could handle smaller waves, I never had the opportunity to paddle it in any waves. For northern Minnesota and touring, it definitely wasn’t long enough. When it came to speed, I really felt the compromises the designers made to balance the expected uses between touring and playing. While I haven’t tested it, the Red Paddle 12’6″ Explorer [Buy at Amazon] might be a better board for paddles looking to go a long distance.
On the water, I could definitely feel that I was on an inflatable. The board flexed about how I would have expected it. While I can’t confirm, it seemed like after long uses the board deflated some and was more flexy at the end of the paddle. My visiting family also commented on this. I weigh about 200 pounds which puts me at the end of the recommended weight for this board though, so the flex may be less for lighter users.
I never had a chance to backpack around the storage bag, so I can’t comment on how well it works. It looked like it would work just fine for shorter distances. It is larger than I expected though. My original plan was to paddle on the Gulf of Mexico and around Sanibel Island with it. When we were packing our ’08 Ford Escape for the trip, we found that it took up much more of the storage that we could afford to give up in a family of three, so the SUP stayed in frozen Minnesota. While much more convenient than a rigid board, it still is significant in size.
Overall, for paddlers that want a inflatable SUP to be used on family outings near the put in, it would be a good one. My family enjoyed it. If you’re going long distances and carrying gear, you’ll want something longer. I do wish I would have been able to test it on a downwind run on Lake Superior with good waves, but the conditions and my schedule never aligned.
Buy: $1449 [Amazon Link]
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the 11′ Sport SUP on loan for the duration of the review from Red Paddle Co. as coordinated by Outdoor PR in consideration for review publication.