Thursday, March 6, 2014

Don't be an Inflator Hater!

Inflatable standup paddleboards get a bad rap from too many people.  My first & second experience was on a borrowed POS (piece of shit) that I rolled up and took East - twice.  Yes, it was great that I could travel with it, especially to an area where board rentals were mostly non-existent at the time.  But the board was heavy, slow, unstable and way to flexible.

Fast forward one year and I'm getting ready for a baja trip.  Again, nowhere to rent quality boards where I was going so I again started to research inflatables.  I settled for the Starboard 14' x 30" Astro Touring - a great board, especially against what I'd paddled in the past.  I first paddled the board back in October and thought it was alright.  It was fast, it was stable, wasn't too heavy - didn't have any of the characteristics I was afraid of.  It doesn't have the beautiful lines you can get with a rigid board, but you can still roll it up and fly with it.

After that trip, I continued to paddle the Astro and I noticed something when paddling it.  My stroke adapted to minimize bounce and I was having lots of fun paddling it.  It became a great loaner board, since it's so durable.  Every time I paddled it, I liked it more.  By December, that board became my go-to board for everything but surfing.  And even when I did take it surfing, it did alright on waves up to 3'.  By January, I started selling off my rigid boards since I wasn't paddling them anymore.  I'd fallen for inflatables.

Paddling that Starboard Astro gave me so much joy every single time I used it.  It has this far-out characteristic that is hard to measure, kind of like umami.  You don't read about it on the board websites, no mention in the specs page.  I call it the fun factor because that's what it is - so much fun.  Inflatables are fun to paddle..

This month I purchased a 14' Elite by Red Paddleboard Company.  Holy shit!  The fun factor has remained the same, but all the other board characteristics have just shot forward into the rigid board category.  It's narrow (26"), it's fast, it has a great shape, a good design, it's stable and it incorporates a standard fin box, a huge improvement.  Like other inflatables it's durable as hell, fits on my back, my bike, or in my luggage and is a joy to paddle.  But, it doesn't bounce as much, it's stable on the tail and great at pivot turns, it feels light on the water & has a full deckpad.  Look for a review in the future.

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