(The Gear Loop) - The global pandemic had been tough on everyone. Everyone apart from the manufacturers and distributors of watersports equipment, by the look of things. In short, the inability to jet off to exotic climes has seen more folk holiday on home soil over the past two years and those same folk have been looking for ways to inject a bit of spice into a bog standard trip to the seaside.
Step forward the stand up paddleboard (or SUP for short), a unique blend of regular surfboard, longboard and kayak that sees the user stand on an oversized deck while using a single-bladed paddle to propel across the water's surface. It's a mode of transport that has been around since the beginning of time, but as a pastime, it was popularised in Hawaii in the 1940s. Since then it has slowly crept across the globe but only really sparked widespread interest with Joe Public very recently.
This is partly down to the improvements in inflatable SUPs, or iSUPs for short, meaning they are no longer wobbly blobs of useless rubber that have a tendency to burst at random, while they are compact enough to fit inside a car boot when deflated. Many people have also realised that riding a SUP is generally more approachable than most water-based board sports. Large, often soft, and easy enough to lug around, the iSUP is a great addition to a beach trip or can make a day on the lake that bit more enjoyable. The learning curve is also fairly gentle.
Overall, the Aqua Marina Magma is a great introduction to the world of paddle boarding, with that package including everything you really need to get going. Better still, these iSUPs pack down surprisingly small, meaning you can get it in the car or even on the trailer of a bicycle if required.
The board itself looks great and Aqua Marina definitely has its graphics and branding on point. In fact, it's aesthetically up there with more expensive models from Red Paddle Co and Starboard SUP. However, it's not particularly fast nor responsive, so this is definitely the board to buy if you need something stable and slow upon which to brush up your skills. More advanced paddlers will likely find it a bit sluggish for long touring sessions and it's definitely not something we would recommend taking into big surf.
Aqua Marina Magma inflatable SUP
- Quick and easy to inflate
- Quality foldable paddle
- Tracks and paddles well
- Lack of carrying straps or handles
- Carry bag is a bit flimsy
- Not great in waves
In the Loop
Here's a quick glance at what the Aqua Marina Magma offers:
- 11ft 2in length, 33in width
- Volume: 330 Litres
- Net Weight: 20.9 lbs / 9.5 Kg
- Max. Payload: 330 Lbs / 150 Kg
- Max. Air Pressure: 15 PSI
- Double Wall Fabric drop stitch core
- Comes with paddle, fin, leash, pump and a carry bag
Build quality and features
The Magma 11'2" inflatable SUP from Aqua Marina is a great place to start any paddling adventure, because included in the bundle is a pump, fin, paddle, leash and carry bag, which means you can get out on the water without having to incur any additional costs. In terms of pricepoint, the Magma sits in the middle of Aqua Marina's advanced line-up, meaning it commands a slightly higher asking price than the standard all-rounder range but packs double reinforced rails for extra stiffness and a little extra volume for carrying heavier payloads.
Aqua Marina also sells iSUPs that are geared towards long distance touring, more performance orientated boards and stubbier units that go well when the swell picks up and the surfers head out. But the Magma is 11 foot 2 inches long, as the name suggests, and 33 inches wide, providing a large enough platform for even the most nervous paddle boarders to get comfortable and start building confidence when going from the knees to a full standing position.
First impressions of the Magma are good, as the quality full print graphics on both the deck and base immediately elevate it above some of the cheaper and more basic SUPs that can now be found in multiple places online and off. The double layered rail design adds extra protection to the most delicate area of an inflatable board and adds the all-important rigidity, key if you don't want a board to awkwardly flex in the middle and end up looking a bit like a giant rubber banana.
Grip is afforded by an EVA foam-covered deck pad, which manages to be both grippy and comfortable. Aqua Marina claims the "crocodile skin" inspired deck pad has been designed so it's also comfortable if you fancy pausing the paddling for a spot of sunbathing.
Towards the rear of the deck, you'll find the raised tail kick pad, which helps with initiating tighter turns for the more experienced paddle boarder. In the middle of the deck pad there's a sturdy neoprene handle to make it easy to get the board in and out of the water. Towards the nose of the board, a set of metal D-rings with elastic bungees help to keep any bags that you might be carrying firmly on the board and not at the bottom of rivers, lochs or the sea.
Underneath there's a plastic fin box which holds the included single slide-in fin. It's not the greatest fin in the world and we would have preferred something from a recognised surf fin manufacturer, allowing users to swap out for something larger to improve performance further.
Accessories and extras
The slightly flimsy carry bag aside, all of the accessories are of a high quality and feel like they are intended to last more than a single trip to the beach, which is more than can be said for much cheaper models we've tried.
The pump is a unique design and has borrowed much from the more expensive manufacturers, like Red Paddle Co. A traditional bike pump only forces air on the downstroke, which is not a problem with bike tyres that are of a reasonably small volume and need to inflate to a high pressure. However, inflating an iSUP using a similar concept would take hours and you'd be exhausted before you'd even got out on the water.
Inflatable SUPs have a valve that allows for air to be pumped on both the up and down stroke. But then when this gets too difficult, the valve can be switched and the pump will only inflate on the downstroke. This allows you to reach the required pressure of 15psi in the Magma's case with relative ease, and in only five minutes.
That's still a lot of pumping (prepare to get sweaty) but at least the pump itself has lovely ergonomic handles and a fully detachable hose, perfect for packing back into the bag.
Said carrying case holds everything very comfortably and even has space for an extra paddle if you're planning to ride in tandem. It's a lot less rigid than some bags we've used from other brands, which is nice on one hand, as it means it can be folded up quite small in the back of the car while you're out on the water.
However, the downside to this is the material doesn't look to be the most durable and feels like it could rip if you're a bit careless. Having said that, it's survived the summer going in and out of the car a few times a week.
The other slight gripe is that the bag doesn't have any wheels, but depending on your situation, this might be more of a hinderance than a help. Instead, the bag has large, padded rucksack straps which makes getting the board to more secluded spots much more comfortable.
The leash looks to be of similar reputable quality, although it isn't from a recognised surf brand like Dakine or Ocean Earth. That said, the board has isn't particularly heavy and it's highly unlikely it's going to be used in monster surf, so the need for a high performance leash is negligible.
Finally, the paddle follows the same theme as the rest of the accessories: high quality without being anything special. Folding up into three pieces for transport, it fits back together with a combination of sprung buttons and levers to allow for a wide range of adjustability. It is made from aluminium with a plastic paddle blade, which performs perfectly reasonably.
The handle is comfortably shaped for extended paddles and the paddle overall is lightweight enough to not be uncomfortable to use. There is a little bit of flex when paddling hard, but nothing that is detrimental to the overall experience.
Out on the water
Paddle boarding on a calm day is incredibly serene. Drifting along almost silently is a very peaceful pastime and the Magma does this kind of outing very well. The board tracks straight and feels stable, even at low speeds.
The extra width over the smaller boards really comes into its own here, however does mean there is more mass to move through the water and it doesn't glide with the ease of a proper touring board.
It's perfectly rigid enough for day trips and fun on the rivers or lakes, but inflatable boards in this price bracket always feature a little flex and can't really compete with rigid rivals when it comes to true performance. After all, it only pumps to 15psi, compared to the 20-22psi of more expensive rivals.
In short, if you're after a board that's quick to turn and even faster to get up to a decadent speed, it's probably best to look elsewhere.
The paddling experience on the whole is very good, however there are a couple of things we would love to see implemented to make this a great iSUP for the money. Firstly, it needs more handles. The central handle is perfect for when the board is being carried by one person under and arm, but a second at the rear and another at the front would make it easier to haul in and out of the water, while allowing two people to carry it or load it on to a car roof if you fancy keeping it inflated and moving to another location.
The next entry on the wish list is an accessory mount on the front of the board. Some rival models have a thread for mounting an action camera on to the nose. This isn't a deal breaker, but as a keen photographer, this sort of thing is always on this reviewer's mind and would make a nice addition.
This is a fine starter inflatable stand up paddle board (or iSUP) that comes with all of the kit that'll you need to get on the water and having fun fast. It's also reasonably priced and the accessories bundled into this package are of good quality and feel built to last. You can obviously spend a lot more and get a more refined SUPing experience, but those dipping a tentative paddle in the water likely won’t notice the little niggles.