(The Gear Loop) - The Red Paddle Co. 11ft Sport adopts a unique position in the company's model line-up, cleverly blending characteristics of the easy-going Ride models with the racy elements of the skinny, single-minded race boards.
Measuring 11ft dead in length and with a board width of just 30 inches, this might initially feel like a slightly daunting set-up for those new to inflatable paddle board game, but Red Paddle Co. employs a few unique touches to make sure this is as approachable as possible.
The first is a unique construction process, which is both more robust and stiffer than many cheaper rivals on the market, while the second is the addition of RSS batons, which firm up the flanks even more.
Throw into the mix the fact that Red keeps its rails (the edges of its boards) down to a skinny 4.7-inches, and you have an iSUP that really performs in the water, while offering a stable and approachable surface upon which to hone your skills.
We took the 11'0" model out in various conditions, ranging from some fun, choppy surf to a mirror-like harbour, dragging the large "all-terrain" bag with us to see just how easy it is to live with.
Red commands a hefty price hike over its closest inflatable rivals, but there are a few good reasons for that. Firstly, the build quality is second to none and the design, feel and finish of the board and accessories is excellent. Secondly, this iSUP performs well, barely flexes under load and offers an easy paddle that doesn’t feel bulky or cumbersome.
The fact that it blends the qualities of an all-rounder/entry level board with a sportier, more touring-friendly template ensures it is easy to live with for most skill levels but goes the extra mile for the more experienced, even with kit strapped to the front. There’s clearly still some disparity between the performance of a hard board and an inflatable, but Red Paddle Co is closing that gap fast.
Red Paddle Co. 11ft Sport Touring Paddle Board Package
- Fast and effortless
- Fantastic build quality
- Racy dimensions
- Pack is heavy on the back
- Carbon Adjustable Paddle is fiddly
- Fin system not as simple as others
In the Loop
Everything you need to know about the Red Paddle Co. 11ft Sport Touring Paddle Board Package in brief:
- Board length: 11'0"
- Board thickness: 4.7"/120mm
- Board volume: 234 Litres
- Board weight: 10.45kg / 21.34lb
- Board width: 30"/762mm
- Bag size: 980mm (H) x 380mm (W) x 360mm (D)
- Bag volume: 134 litres
- Fin system: Removable Red Box US Fin universal
Design and features
As with the 9ft 6in Compact MSL model we tested recently, first impressions with Red Paddle Co. kit are always good. The all-terrain bag looks the business and comes with a set of chunky plastic wheels so you can drag it along.
That said, the bag itself is sizeable and not exactly the sort of thing you want to be hiking with for a long time, but Red does a good job of cushioning the blow with padded shoulder straps and carry handles.
It's also really roomy and, thanks to a new pump design (it folds up and sheds its handle), there's more space inside, which is great for stashing a wetsuit, towel or any other items you might need.
New for 2022 are a couple of clever innovations, including the revised cargo strap system that has flat elastic straps to make stowing bags of all sizes a bit easier. There are also myriad D-rings dotted around the deck that allow things like drinks bottles top be clipped on safely.
Plus, Red has revised its RSS battens so they are now super bright (so you don't forget to insert them) and easier to deal with thanks to a new design and fresh materials.
The outline of the board is somewhere between a racing board and an all-rounder, so packs Red's so-called Speed Tail and general tapered outline. This allows the board to cut through the water with greater efficiency, while that tucked in tail provides greater manoeuvrability.
A large single fin is found on the bottom, which helps the board track in a straight line, although the provided fin is basic. That's why Red has used a fairly universal fin box, because it knows many owners will likely want to experiment with fin design.
Packing and inflating
The board comes neatly pre-rolled into the bag and we are convinced it's impossible to ever get it to pack down as small as it comes from the factory. The carbon handle paddle is broken down into two pieces, while the pump, fin and other accessories (waterproof phone case and leash) are neatly stashed inside the rolled board or in designated pockets.
The Titan II pump now has folding feet, which reduces the, erm, footprint. Plus, the handle neatly slides out to save on space, too.
It's a dual-chamber set-up, so users can use both chambers to speed up the early stages of pumping and then switch to a single chamber for the final top-up.
It took us five or six minutes to get the thing inflated the first time, which isn't bad at all. The fact is, the early stages of inflation seem to zip past, but pumping up to 20-22psi takes the time. It's a long and sweaty process.
Many owners resort to an electric pump, which runs off a vehicle's 12V lighter socket, and it's easy to see why. Manual inflation is enough of a workout, let alone paddling for several hours.
The fin then slots easily into its box, although the universal design means there is some fiddly set-up with placing the nut in the right location so the bolt catches. Thankfully, it features a tool-less design, so you can tighten things up with your fingers.
From here, it's simply a case of attaching the provided leash, clipping the shaft of the paddle into place and entering the water.
However, we found sand or grit can easily interfere with the carbon paddle and salt water residue means it doesn't really slide into place properly. Best to keep things clean, tidy and potentially greased to avoid any unwanted hassle.
Performance on the water
A little caveat before we begin: despite the fancy new colours, we couldn't find/didn't insert the RSS battens, which likely had some effect on the overall stiffness of the board. They may have been missing from the bag, or we didn't look properly, but we deliberately pumped the thing up to 22psi to combat this and honestly didn't notice a huge amount of difference.
The key effect on performance was when we messed around in some small choppy surf, where solid rails are necessary if you want to catch waves without bogging down and falling off the thing.
But this board isn't designed for that, as the relatively relaxed profile means there's not much rocker to speak of, so the nose tends to dig in anyway. But this profile has been deliberately selected fort its ability to slice through flat waters at speed, which it does with gusto.
In essence, this is a fantastic combination of a big, stable all-rounder and the skinnier racing boards that give up much of the stability and ease of use for all-out speed.
Red claims the Sport 11'0" is designed for riders wanting to explore for more than two miles, so throws into the mix an effortless paddling experience with enough space for cargo.
This 11'0" model is optimised for riders up to 90kg, but there's a slightly longer 11'3" model with more volume for the larger paddler. Similarly, really big distances can be covered by the even larger 12'6" variant.
This reviewer weighs around 72kg (pre-large lunch), and we found the length and volume to be spot on. It proved to be fast and nimble, with plenty of room to stick a kid on the front (in flat waters) or carry some cargo when attempting larger distances.
Although not really designed for it, we managed to stash a Yeti cool box on the front of the board for one short trip to a local secret beach for some lunch, with very little effect on the overall performance. On calm waters, it still paddled beautifully.
Compared to the Compact variant that we also tested, there was far less flex in this board. Although obvious due to the fact it doesn't pack down so impossibly small, it's still testament to the excellent build quality. When properly inflated, it's about as close to a hard board as you'll can get at the moment.
The new deck pads are grippy and comfortable, while the over-all look has been improved on the outgoing models thanks to fresh graphics and more muted colours.
Red Paddle Co. cements its reputation for making arguably the best inflatable paddle boards in this fiercely contested and often baffling marketplace. The build quality is second to none and this Sport model uniquely blends stability and easy paddling with speed. When pumped to 22psi, it’s about as close to a hardboard as you can get with the convenience of something you can shove in the car boot.