Chances are you have come across at least one photo of someone on a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) on your social media feed recently. That’s because SUP is one of the fastest growing paddle sports in the world. It’s a cross between surfing and canoeing, and although it’s been about for a long time as a sport (and even longer as a way for early cultures to fish and transport possessions along waterways), it’s really been in the last 10 years that there has big a huge growth in this highly accessible sport. This is partially because about 80% of the SUP market is now inflatable boards (iSUPs), which have the advantage of being able to pack down into the boot of a car.
The wider a SUP, the higher the level of stability, the more forgiving they are. Effectively, the less likely you are to fall off it. The trade-off for the stability is usually speed, but if you’re just looking for a board to have fun with and be able to fit the kids (and dogs on) then a 33’’ wide SUP is a good place to start. It’s already really caught the imagination of my toddler!
After some research, I came across iRocker, a relatively new company based in Florida who have grown a reputation for high quality, good value boards. I bought the Cruiser 10’6’’ (long) x 33’’ (wide) inflatable SUP Package, their bestselling model that has tones of positive reviews online. The package deal offered on the iRocker website includes: the SUP; backpack; adjustable fiberglass paddle; ankle leash; hand pump; repair kit; and free shipping to Europe. Most importantly of all, it also comes in 5 colours. To be honest, one of the biggest attractions for me was the price point. Currently, you can buy the Cruiser package for £549 which is around £200 cheaper than most other comparable models from other manufactures on the market.
Won’t an inflatable board burst?
iRocker use high quality quad layer PVC – which they claim is military grade – in all of their inflatable paddleboards. The quad layer construction offers four layers of protection and the high density internal core is held together with tight stitching that has heat welded seams which have been pressure tested. I’m fairly sure you could try and hammer a nail (not recommended) through this board and it would be tough to make a dent in it.
What’s it like to inflate?
It usually takes me around 10 mins to get up to the 15psi pressure that iRocker recommend, using the supplied dual chamber, triple action hand pump. The pump has a large easily read colour coded pressure gauge and the ability to switch the chambers as you pump is a brilliant feature (the more pressure in the SUP needs the easier the pump can become). If you want to splash out, you can also invest in the company’s 12V electric pump at an additional cost of £90. I haven’t tried it yet, but I can see the attraction if you have a few SUPs or plan to be out on the water regularly.
Is the build quality any good?
For a product that’s on the lower price point of the SUP market (for the Cruiser model) I’m very impressed by the build quality of the board itself and the gear that comes with the package deal. The backpack is made of a tough hardwearing material, with high quality stitching and high levels of paddling on the shoulders. The paddle packs down into three parts that fit inside the backpack and is easily customisable to multiple heights. The ankle leash is also of a high quality with a strong Velcro strap (the colour even matches the board). The carry handle is nicely padded and the cargo net at the front and the 16 D-Rings are all useful touches. If you find an issue with the build qulaity, iRocker also offer a 2 year warenty on all of their boards.
Does it paddle well in the water?
Yes, it’s great. The Cruiser model is suitable for all skill levels especially beginners. iRocker claim that the 84cm of width and the extra wide tail make it their most stable board and “possibly one of the most stable iSUPs on the market”. I’m 6’’2’ tall and so far I’ve had the iSUP out on a river with a strong wind and out on choppy seas, and I’ve found the board to be incredibly stable. It has a tri-fin setup, with two permanently fixed smaller fins (these are removable in the latest model) and a larger removable flip lock 9” central fin to help keep the board in a straight line when it’s in the water. The quick release mechanism to attach the central fin is simple and robust. Even in choppy waters there is much less flex than I was expecting which is impressive for a board full of air. (If you would like something with even more support, the company also make the Blackfin paddleboard which has the added advantage of a carbon rail along the board. You’ll pay extra for this extra stability though.)
One additional benefit of the iRocker that’s worth a mention is that the company also offer a SUP to Kayak conversion kit that includes a moulded seat that attaches to pre-installed points on the board and a fiberglass kayak blade. I’m hoping to get my hands on one soon, and I’ll write a review as soon as I do.
If you’re in the market for a high quality, good value iSUP, then the iRocker Cruiser is worth buying. There are other great boards on the market, but for the money, the iRocker is hard to beat for someone looking to get into the world of Stand Up Paddleboarding.
You’ll find the entire iRocker and Blackfin ranges here.