Despite a similar size range among this month's featured boards, their feel and general use will differ markedly and will give plenty of options for the discerning rider.
With many looking at their first board early in the 2016 season, something with a bit of utility is always a good choice. A well designed board with good balance and buoyancy can make learning easier, but also won't sell you short in the long run with ability to adapt to varied environments and uses.
These are among the best multi-use boards out there and represent a great cross section of the utility boards we offer.
The Red Paddle Co 11' Sport, introduced in 2015, is a multi-use board designed with speed in mind. This is accomplished by keeping the width to 30" while going a full 11' on the length and giving it a sleek, streamlined shape.
Red Paddle Co has lightened their fleet for 2016 by shifting to a new single layer construction. While we appreciate the easier carry, our on-the-water testing has shown last year's 2015's to feel just a tad more rigid and substantial under foot than the new 2016's with Red's MSL technology. Deal breaker on the MSL? Certainly not, but consider a bargain 2015 board a worthy pick-up though. A 2016 model on sale would certainly be also worth considering.
While some people might value ease of carrying the most, the slightly heavier 2015 carries a little more momentum and performs better in less than perfect conditions involving wind, current, or chop. On flat water the difference is slight and unless comparing the two side by side the user is unlikely to notice much difference.
The 11' Sport is a great choice for paddlers who want a fast board that can still be used for all around paddling.
At 11'2" long and 32" wide, this board works well for a wide variety of conditions and paddling types. All design parameters tend toward industry averages to make it as universal as possible.
11'2" length makes it fast enough without going the full 12'6" of a touring board. 32" inches wide places it right between a 30" speed oriented recreational board and a 34-35 inch stability board.
The narrow pin tail improves the speed slightly but sacrifices a bit on stability in turns, especially when the tail is partially submerged. It has an understated graphic design that is unlikely to go out of style. It's a good, safe choice if you don't have a specific rider or use in mind and want a board that can be put to various uses.
This board is relatively new on the scene and has been adopted by various instructional programs for good reason. It is a fantastic all-around inflatable SUP with a great mix of stability, speed, and maneuverability.
It's 34" width gives beginners the confidence to take their first strokes and performs impressively for intermediate to advanced river running. It has enough buoyancy to enable 200+ lb riders have a lot of fun on waves that would be too small for a surf board or smaller SUP. The Earth River SUP 11-0 was designed by a leading SUP instructor and innovator on the Atlantic coast, and it does not disappoint in actual use.
Features include a contoured tail pad with a raised back to assist with tail drops and pivot turns, stainless steel attachment points, a double action pump for fast inflation, and a sturdy and comfortable travel no frills backpack. It has three permanently attached 4" flexible fins, so fin loss or breakage is out of the picture. Despite the attention to durability it's one of the lightest boards in its size class, coming in at just 24lb.
At 10'10" long, 35" wide, and 6 inches thick, this behemoth of a board is all about volume and stability. Even the nose and tail have a blocky shape - almost rectangular - which further maximizes its volume and stability.
It won't be the fastest or most agile board on the water, but it solves some problems for the extra large rider, or someone who wants to haul a lot of gear or family members.
It is also a good, stable choice for SUP fishing or Yoga. Think of it as the cargo van of SUPs. It has a campy, quirky look that is kind of fun and a contrast to the more sophisticated styling of other quality boards. Recommended for lumberjacks, linebackers, and people who will pay a premium to enjoy the water without getting wet.
__________________________( www.pumpedupsup.com) is on online store specializing in high performance inflatable stand up paddle boards and accessories and providing free telephone consultations at 1-877-777-1769.