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(The Gear Loop) - Navigating the choppy waters surrounding inflatable stand up paddle boards (or iSUPs, for short) is tricky and often confusing. There are just so many brands out there offering pump-up vessels that claim to rival their EPS and foam core counterparts, but this isn’t always the case.

In fact, the market is littered with cheap and cheerful boards that look like they represent great value, but often end up in the bin after a couple of uses because they scrimp on materials, flex like a limp banana or just aren’t able to cope with much more than floating around mirror-like lakes.

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Shark SUPs are different, as they are fashioned from hardy 50 PSI drop stitch material, pack innovative features that promote smoother paddling and offer a double layer laminated high density material and triple rail edge for increased stiffness.

The idea is that you pump one of these up to the recommended 20 PSI and it feels almost as firm as its hard-bodied rivals, allowing users to paddle further and faster with that added peace of mind that the inflatable beneath them isn’t going to implode when the going gets tough.

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Our quick take

There is always going to be some trade-off with performance when it comes to inflatable stand up paddle boards. The bottom line is, you just can’t get the same structural rigidity with an inflatable that you can with some of the finest EPS and foam core rivals.

But then these are a nightmare to transport to the beach and most novice riders will unlikely notice the difference in performance anyway.

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What we like about Shark is that they offer many of their boards in two different thicknesses, both five-inch and six-inch. The latter is always going to be the stiffest, but not necessarily the best for lighter riders.

The offer of a five-inch boards means lighter riders get all the added benefits of a more connected paddling experienced, increased stability and a lighter, more responsive board feel in the water. On the other hand, the six-inch models will benefit the larger, heavier rider by providing a much firmer platform to paddle on.

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At this price, we can’t help but feel the Shark Touring range represents excellent value for money and is a great option for those looking to take their paddling to the next level, but don’t want to compromise the ease of transportation an inflatable offers. In terms of rivals, the Aqua Marina Magma comes close, but we were more impressed by Shark's overall build quality and attention to detail.

Shark SUPs Touring inflatable stand up paddle board review: stylish, solid and great for ad hoc adventures

Shark SUPs Touring inflatable stand up paddle board

4.5 stars - The Gear Loop recommended
For
  • Tough 50 PSI drop stitch material
  • Great paddle feel
  • Easy to transport
Against
  • Fin box is fiddly
  • Paddle blade shape is basic
  • Bungee cords are a little flimsy

In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the Shark SUPs Touring iSUP

  • Weighs 10.4kg
  • Comes with carry bag, carbon-shaft paddle, pump and more
  • Ideal rider weight up to 80kg
  • Available in 5 or 6" thickness 
  • Max pressure 25 PSI for stiffness
  • D-rings and bungee cords for stashing gear
  • Grippy deck
  • Kick-pad for fast turns
  • Coiled leash included
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Design & features

Like many iSUP rivals, Shark sells its boards in a pack that includes an extra tough carry-bag, made from hardy nylon and packing reinforced zips, clips to keep everything in place, straps for wearing it on your back and wheels.

Inside this comfortable and well-engineered sack, you’ll find the paddle board itself, alongside a carbon shaft/nylon blade paddle, high pressure dual-action hand pump, a premium coil leash (perfect for avoiding snagging on watery plant life), plastic quick release fin and a waterproof phone case, should you wish to take your smartphone out on the water (brave).

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There’s plenty of room inside this carry bag, making it really easy to slide the iSUP in and out, while the addition of wheels is nice. It’s just a shame the axle for these is so narrow and the bag so tall. We found it toppled over a lot when trying to wheel it around. Like those cheap hand luggage bags you find in airports.

Shark recently overhauled its graphics (again) and the stealth grey with contrasting bright orange looks fantastic. There are also some refreshed graphics and touches that make it look and feel a lot more premium. It now easily competes, visually at least, with the likes of Red Paddle Co and other more expensive brands on the market.

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On the deck, you’ll find it covered in a high grip pad for the majority of the useable space, with a handy reinforced carry handle in the middle of the board. At the rear, Shark has added what it called the Shark Kick Tail (SKT), which is essentially a raised kick-pad, like those seen on surfboards, to help users initiate a step-back turn technique - unweighting the nose and using the body weight to pivot the board on its tail.

Perhaps the only things that let the overall design down are the bungee cords, which are fairly flimsy and slack and don’t inspire much confidence when it comes to keeping precious cargo tied down. Red Paddle Co., for example, uses a neat adjustable cargo system that feels a lot more secure.

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The other is the fin box system, which although is clever in the way it can handle both Shark’s quick release plastic fin and any standard surfboard keel fin systems you might find in a local surf shop, it can be tricky to remove said fin after paddling.

The action requires a lot of striking and wiggling a sharp plastic blade with the palm or butt of your hand to precisely line up arrows before it can be removed. It can be frustrating, especially when hands are cold. Top tip: it is easier to do this when the board is inflated, as the flexible fin box system is great for packing away, but not so good for ease of use when slack.

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Performance on the water

The particular model we tested was the 11’8 x 30” x 5” offering, which is designed for lighter riders and packs a slimmer five-inch profile, compared to the standard six-inch offered by many of its competitors. 

This means smaller riders aren’t faced with extra-fat flanks that sits too high out of the water, catch the wind and generally don't do much for stability or ease of paddling.

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With a 260-litre volume, this particular board took a fair amount of pumping to get it up to the recommended PSI, although the provided dual chamber pump did work very well. If you want our advice, invest in an electric pump and save yourself the workout.

Ideal rider weight is pitted at 80kg, although this board will struggle on with up to 180kg onboard, just don’t expect performance to be razor sharp. However, it's added peace of mind if you want to carry some luggage.

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This reviewer weighs around 72kg and sits well within the recommended height and size parameters, which is likely why we found the dimensions to be just right. 

The narrower profile of this touring model never felt unstable and the paddling experience was relatively effortless. Granted, there wasn’t much chop around on the days we tested it out, but the Shark Touring SUP would glide across the water’s surface with minimal input from the paddle.

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It’s also a lot easier to carry down to the water’s edge (especially if you are vertically challenged), while the relatively lightweight 10kg mass is surprisingly easy to drag in and out of the wet stuff. 

There are cleverly-placed D-rings for stashing kit on the deck and one under the nose for towing, although it would be great to see an additional carry handle placed on the nose somewhere, as it would make it easier to drag the board out of the water.

To recap

Well-made, easy to paddle and even easier to to set-up and pack away, the touring outline of this inflatable SUP offers a sharper and more efficient paddle experience for those who want to travel further and faster. The option of both a 5 or 6" profile means a plethora of rider weights and heights is covered off. With plenty of lashing points, a clever - if a little awkward - fin system and a neat stowage bag, this is a sweet all-round iSUP package that doesn’t cost the earth.

Writing by Leon Poultney.