A Weekend with Isle: Testing the Latest SUPs, Hybrids and More in Mission Bay

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When the first frost hit the mountains of Colorado, Paddling Life took advantage of an offer from Isle and Purple/Orange PR to head to Isle’s home base of sunny San Diego to test out their new lines of SUPs and more for 2024.

After touching down, we headed to their headquarters for a quick walkthrough the line by product head Jimmy Blakeney, a man who needs no introduction in the world of paddlesports. Also on hand was Isle marketing director Reed Naliboff, espousing on the brand’s latest and greatest technologies.

Isle Sup
Getting the rundown in the Isle headquarters by marketing director Reed Naliboff.

In the morning it was time to test them on the water ourselves, first at a dawn patrol surf session (well, maybe not quite dawn) at Mission Beach across from our basecamp at the Catamaran Resort & Spa. There we tested out Isle’s marquee line of softtop surfboards, including its shortboard Nugget, as well as its two new inflatable surfboards, just two inches thick and complete with rails thanks to the company’s proprietary composite Infinity carbon fiber, giving them near hardboard-like rigidity. To demonstrate, Blakeney propped one up on a bench and jumped up and down on it. “No way you could do that on any other inflatable board,” he said, to a bunch of nodding heads.

Jimmy Blakeney, walking the crew through the line before walking his piggies off the nose…

After lunch, we headed to the “bay” side of the resort, testing its ISLE Play Series of inflatable docks and other accessories, including its “Tube-O-Line,” Basecamp Raft and Runway Raft—complete with the Dog Ramp, a U-shaped inflatable “dog entrance” accessory, which Blakeney demonstrates with a wet crawl-up and body shake. Kids from the beach see us and paddle and swim over to join in, cannonballing off the tube-o-line in front of their parents, who just checked off a box on their Christmas list ideas.

Then we tested out such SUPs as its bring-the-whole-gang Megaladon, a monster SUP that comes in 12-foot-long/45-inch-wide and 15-foot/56-inch-wide sizes, both 8 inches thick. Beef cake is the best way to describe them, with capacities of 650 lbs. and a whopping 1,050 lbs., respectively. Go ahead and bring the cooler and kitchen sink. Attach it to their Basecamp and Runway Rafts and you have a true party platform.

Isle Sup
The mission: Test these boards on Mission Bay.

But it wasn’t all fun and games on the play series. Next, after a product demo by Jimmy Blakeney, we got a breakdown on the models, in both the Classic and Pro series—all of which are convertible to also become a high-performance sit-on-top kayak. The drumroll please: The sleek Explorer is narrower and faster; the best-selling Pioneer, with a wider tail for extra stability; is a stable all-arounder; and the Switch a blend of both, with a wider, more pointed nose for cutting through water. The Switch is also Isle’s the best-selling hybrid watercraft, allowing users to easily transition from SUP to kayak in seconds on the water. Included in the package is: one seat, one paddle, the pump, a storage bag, and a SUP.

Then we hopped on them all, the Classic line as well as the new Pro series, the latter incorporating its new Infinity carbon material in its Pioneer PRO and Explorer PRO models for enhanced rigidity. A patented material technology exclusive to ISLE, the inflatable composite material delivers 200-300% increased rigidity to the inflatable category without adding weight or bulk.

Consider it a high-performance boost for 2024 to Isle’s top-selling Pioneer SUP as well as its Explorer, augmenting its already bomber Air-Tech construction with new Infinity carbonfiber, increasing glide, rigidity, stability and efficiency. How it works: a six-stringer chasis (one on each rail and center, mirrored on the bottom) of a proprietary carbon/thermoplastic matrix gives the board a buzzword “high flexural modulus,” the resistance of a beam bending under load. You can still roll it up, yet when inflated and under tension the material stiffens rock hard. Since every time a board flexes it loses energy to the water, says Blakeney, this added rigidity ups its performance, especially when combined with its six-inch dropstitch construction. Voila! The glide and stiffness of a rigid board in a portable, lightweight inflatable.

Isle Sup
It’s a Sup, no wait, it’s a kayak! The hybrid design lets them do it all.

The big story is that all its SUPs, in both the Air-Tech Classic and Air-Tech plus Infinity Pro Series (including the Pioneer, Switch and explorer), are now “hybrids,” doubling as sit-on-top kayaks with the addition of a cushy inflatable seat and footbrace. The attachment options are endless thanks to its Isle-Link attachment system with G-hooks the whole way along the board for endless customization. Bonus: its breakdown “Remix” paddle, available in carbon and alloy, has an extension that instantly turns your SUP handle into a kayak blade. Simply tuck it under your deck rigging and switch whenever you want. “Our big story is being able to do both, with everything you need in one package,” says Blakeney, adding that the comp[any also gives to 1% for the Planet and also supports the “Sea Trees” program that plants algae to reduce carbon. “We’re becoming a hybrid company, adding seats and foot rests to al boards.”

Other attributes of the Pioneer Pro, which comes in three sizes (9’6”/10’6”/11’6”), include full coverage deck pad offering comfort and grip for the likes of yoga, pets and kids; a new better-than-bungees Gear Management System that lets you easily strap on gear via infinite clip-on points; a backpack-carry package; ultralight stretch leash; Magnet-Link for easy water bottle attachment; and a nifty carrying handle that lays flush to the board for getting prone (as for yoga). On the fin side, choose between rigid of flex, and long for tracking or smaller for shallows and maneuverability (5-,7- and 9-inch). And it even has a bar code on the bottom of each board so you can pass info on it along to friends and passersby. For colorways, they’ve dialed that as well, from a choice of subtle pastels from sunsets to the Paddling Life fave, lumen “We’re working on a lot of little things to make the whole experience better,” says Blakeney.

It’s new Switch Compact Pro board also turns heads, still employing its Infinity fiber for rigidity but rolling down to half the size of a typical inflatable SUP by folding longitudinally first and then rolling tighter than ever thanks to a two-part/”hinged” fin box lets the board roll up smaller as well, instead of being impeded by a big piece of plastic.

Isle Sup
Testing the Bixply E-Sup motor on Mission Bay.

The next day we upped the game, giving the boards a tech upgrade, turning them into an “E-SUP” by attaching a Bixpy electric fin motor, tooling around the bay at sunset to the marvel of other SoCal boat partiers. “Think of it like the E-assist bike market,” said Bixpy owner and founder Houman Nikamenesh, a former neuro-physiologist who thought first about entering the E-bike or drone markets but, with those categories crowded, in the end decided on kayaks and, now, SUPs. “We designed it from the ground up for kayaking, from its weight to its size and power. It’s a hybrid, with a closed system including a propeller inside an impeller housing. Complete with sea grass grills to keep kelp out, the prop system either comes inside a fin or attaches to the stern.”

With sales being about 60 percent direct-to-consumer, so far their market is about 75 percent kayak and 25 percent SUP. But the latter is growing. “You can put them on anything inflatable,” he says. “Even giant swans.” While the fin/E-motors are attachable to most fin boxes on the market, Isle is the first company to really embrace it, making a specific bracket mount for Bixpy that can be attached to a Sup or kayak’s stern as well for sit-down propulsion.

Isle sup
Paddle, schmaddle…we’ll take the Bixpy E-motor, thank you…

Saying it easily gets up to the hull speed of most recreational watercraft (about 4mph), Nikamenesh adds it’s a 1-HP motor with a remote control you wear on your wrist with forward, reverse and stop modes. Delivering 70 minutes of full-speed ride time (or 378 watt-hours; 768 for the bigger model), and moving 130 gallons of water per minute, its waterproof battery, which attaches beneath the deck rigging in the stern, also floats. Charge it up when you’re done in just five hours on an AC outlet, with a solar charger also available.

Abondanza! Solo Stove’s Tyler DiGiovanni whipping up some bayside pizzas in the new Solo Stove Pi Prime pizza ovens.

With that, on both SUPs and hybrid kayaks, we donned a few quick-dry apparel pieces from Free Fly Apparel (its hoodies are da bomb) and zinged across SoCal’s Mission Bay to Ventura Cove Park where we met the Solo Stove Team and pizza-maker extraordinaire Tyler DiGiovanni, who whipped up mouth-watering ‘zas in the company’s new Solo Stove Pi Prime Pizza Ovens.

Isle Sup
Yes, fun times were had by all…

In an odd juxtaposition, next to us on the beach when we landed in our latest-and-greatest equipment was a guy fashioning a homemade sail to a makeshift boat using plastic cutting boards from CostCo for its keel.

Afterward, bellies full, we Bixpy-motored back across the bay, took a few plunges into the water, and settled in for dinner before a night of Solo Stove s’mores around a beachside campfire. All in all, not a bad way to escape winter’s hold back home…and know what to put on our Christmas list for next spring.

https://islesurfandsup.com

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