Get Pumped! 8 Inflatable SUPs to Get You On the Water in Style


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Inflatable SUPs are a gamechanger that are here to stay. The reason: a shallow learning curve (just hop on and go); ease of transportation and storage; and, thanks to drop-stitch construction—incorporating millions of tiny threads holding the top and bottom together when inflated—on-water performance that mimics that of their hardshell cousins. Simply pump them up to the desired PSI (usually around 15), paddle away and then roll them up for easy storage in your car, garage, closet or even office cubicle. Following are a few you’ll see on the water this summer, all tested, vetted and wetted on the slow-moving rivers and lakes of colorful Colorado. Time to get pumped (fist bumps/knucks!)

The Lineup

LEVEL6Level6 11.6 Ultralight

Plan on hiking your SUP into lakes, hidden estuaries and other hard-to-reach secret spots? The 11.6 Ultralight from Canada’s Level6 bills itself as 30 percent lighter and more compactable than most other boards of the same size. Its Lilliputian stripes owe themselves to its Mono-layer fusion (instead of gluing two layers of PVC together, the material is fused with heat and pressure, making it lighter and stiffer. Its rigidity is also beefed-up by a carbon rail running the length of the board. Unlike boards adapted from ocean wave designs, this one, measuring a touring-efficient 11’6”x32”x4.7”, was built to be lake-specific from the beginning, combining stability, tracking and speed into a package suitable for beginner to advanced paddlers. Use it on lakes, bays, mellow flatwater and even SUP yoga, then roll it up, put it in the back of your car and hit apres. It comes with deck bungees, deck pad, tool-less cruising fin, high-pressure two-way pump, repair kit, and roller carrying bag with retractable handle and shoulder straps. Info:


From urban estuaries to wilderness rivers and backyard ponds to alpine lakes, the Thrive series of SUPs from NRS (four sizes: 9’10”, 10’3”, 10’8”, 11’) are your do-it-all, do-it-anywhere boards. With a beginner-friendly shape, they handle touring, fitness paddling, easy river running and more. We got our hands on the 11-footer and found it affordable and functional for forays onto our local lake and mild sections of our town river. While compromising a bit of maneuverability and speed, its 36-inch width and 6-inch thickness makes it yoga-stable, so go ahead and bring the dog and wine glass. Its thickness also lets in inflate to 20 PSI for rigidity—augmented by an acrylic compound integrated into the deck, improving stiffness without adding weight—while still folding compactly for transport and crawlspace storage. Heavy-duty, PVC drop-stitch construction and double sidewalls increase durability against errant rocks. It comes with three removable, interchangeable, plastic fins to customize your setup; D-rings and bungee cord for rigging; three carrying handles; high-pressure pump with gauge; carry bag; and repair kit. Info:


Hats off to the Hala Rado from Hala Gear for a versatile all-arounder especially suitable for larger or expedition paddlers who want to dabble on both whitewater and flat. Measuring 10’10″x35″x6″, it’s beef-cake stable while blending such whitewater features as welded seams for durability, a Progressive-River Rocker profile and retractable 9” StompBox2 fin system. The StompBox fin is especially innovative, providing spring-loaded retractability whenever you hit a rock; no more Supermanning off face-first into the water. All this makes it a great choice for longer paddles where rapids are followed by stretches of flatwater. For the latter, and general lake or ocean bay touring, a long waterline gives it a fast hull speed that maintains momentum after just a couple of strokes. Hala SupWant to head out overnight? The board’s hefty weight capacity of 325 lbs. and large, easy-to-rig deck also make it perfect for camping and gear-heavy trips; or paddling around the lake with extra passengers like Fidos or the kiddos. We used it on a mellow flatwater stretch of river and moved our cooler and portable BBQ to a beach on the far side. Available as a complete kit, it comes with lever-lock adjustable carbon paddle, rolling backpack, hand pump, fins and repair kit (plus a bomber five-year warranty). Info:

Badfish SupBad Fish iSHAPE

Perfect for flatwater cruising and surfing two- to three-foot ocean swell, this baby pulls out all the stops to bridge the gap between hardshell and inflatable performance. Credit its AirLite dropstitch, which weighs less, keeps it rigid, and rolls and packs easily, and its streamlined 12’6”x28″x5″ size—the length to tour and catch the smallest green bump and the width to feel stable but not chunky underfoot. It also has two other nifty features. One is a secondary front Air Shape Chamber on top of the bow that adds volume for shedding water and punching through chop and oncoming swell. It also increases the nose rocker the tighter you inflate it; simply add air to help keep the bow up on steeper drops, prevent pearling and bust through swell. Another is its Wiki Foam Rail, creating an edge to provide clean release off waves. It works by eliminating the drag created when your board starts hydroplaning. Simply lean back and turn on the rail and brace for hardshell-like performance. It also comes with a four-point tie-down system, removable tri-fin, integrated water bottle holder, extra-wide padded carrying handle, dual-action pump, coil ankle leash and backpack board bag. Info:

RED SupRED Paddle 12-foot Voyager

RED’s newest touring board is named the Voyager for a reason: it’s designed for adventure and exploring, from transporting a picnic to the other side of the lake to loading up gear for a, yes, overnight outing. Measuring 12 feet long and 28 inches wide, its RSS system keeps it stiffer at lower pressures by simply slipping two plastic battens along the sides for extra rigidity. Meanwhile, its displacement V-shaped hull on the nose—created by tapering the cut of the drop stitch—breaks water’s surface tension for enhanced glide. Voila! Less effort to paddle longer. The concave nose also creates more bungee space for lashing down gear. The rubberized edge of its tail also aids water release and increases speed. What we really like: its three carrying handles for different hauling options. With a twin fin set up for tracking and easy maneuvering in shallower waters, it also comes with removable FCS center fin via finger bolt for deeper water and more trackability. And you can tell some thought went into its carrying bag; it comes with rollers and everything perfectly compartmentalized, including fins, pump, repair kit, and breakdown paddle. The bag’s “Transformer” feature also lets you just take the straps and pump for lightweight hauling. Info:

Isle SupIsle Pioneer 

Isle’s best-selling inflatable SUP, the Pioneer, is a great price-point SUP designed to get you into the game and onto the water, affordably and comfortably. Built for all skill levels and everything from flatwater to slow-moving rivers, it’s stable for first-timers and lightweight for hauling down the path to the put-in. The board measures 10’6″x34″x6”, with the extra width and thickness serving up a capacity for 285 lbs. and the stability for bringing the dog and yoga mat. Bringing more gear? Use its front and rear bungee system to tie-down coolers, drybags, fishing gear and more. The entire package—which goes for just $495—includes coil leash, nylon touring fin, travel bag, iSUP pump, and carbon/hybrid, three-piece adjustable paddle. And that leaves you with enough money left over to buy a round of celebratory après drinks after your paddle. Info:

Body Glove SupBody Glove Performer 11

Body Glove’s (yes, of wetsuit fame) Performer 11 is another price-point SUP and the beach sport company’s top-selling SUP in North America. For good reason. First, it’s priced at just $400, making for an easy entry into the sport. It’s also beginner-friendly, inflates in under five minutes and rolls up into a lightweight backpack that’s easy to carry and won’t cramp storage space. An improved overall shape makes it more streamlined, while AirFrame XT construction—a unique layering/dropstitch system with triple-layer stringers and side rails—combines with puncture-resistant PVC to create a solid platform no matter where you paddle. Bonus: wood grain Clear Tek for an earthy, outdoor aesthetic and laser-engraved foot placement guides so you know where to stand. Body Glove SupThe company is also partnering with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every unit sold. The package includes a three-piece adjustable paddle, electric and dual-action hand pump, coil ankle leash, repair kit, cell phone drybag, and storage backpack. Info:

iRocker BlackFIn Sup iROCKER Blackfin CX

Ranging from 19 to 21 pounds, iROCKER debuts its re-engineered Ultra Collection of four lightweight, compact SUPs, all great for traveling by plane, car or even foot. We got our hands on the Blackfin, whose built-in carbon rail and cross thread drop-stitch—fused together in an X-shape—boosts rigidity and stiffness. Measuring 10’6”x32.5”x6”, its shape is designed for speed and tracking, which we experienced firsthand racing the long straight-away on our local lake. It also comes with a weight capacity of 320 lbs., meaning you can go tandem with the kids or spouse. Cool feature: When it comes time to pack it up, you can fold it in half lengthwise and then roll it up into an uber-compact package 50 percent smaller than its previous models; then slide it into its padded pack with adjustable straps come haul-time. It comes with two touring fins, a 12V electric pump, coil leash, repair kit, five-piece paddle and carrying pack. Info:

BOTE SupBOTE Wulf Aero

Want a stable, lightweight, easy to paddle and, perhaps most important, price-point-friendly SUP for easy entry into the SUP lifestyle? Consider the BOTE Wulf Aero, which dings your pocketbook only $529. (Plenty of wallet room left over for Mexican food on the shuttle home.) It comes with a backpack for carrying, 3-piece adjustable paddle, 10-inch removable Aero center fin, hand pump, and an 8-foot coiled leash. Weighing 20 lbs., it measures 10′4″×33″×6″ and comes with a BVA foam deck pad to shed water and provide a soft, grippy surface. ​You can’t go too wrong. Info here.




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