*Review first published on http://www.swellhaven.wordpress.com while travelling around Australia – 2015
We have been travelling around Australia for four months now with a kombi full of surf boards and an iSUP (inflatable stand up paddle board) for those days when there’s no surf – be that because we are camping inland; there are lakes to explore, or there isn’t much of a wave but we still want to get out on the water.
Travelling with the SUP has been awesome. Although I admit I initially tried to figure out how we could transport a hard board, I have absolutely no regrets in going for the inflatable in the end – quite the opposite. While I believe a new version of our board has subsequently been released by C4 Waterman, the commentary below relates to inflatable SUPs in general…
1. Space saving! This was our reason for going for the inflatable. Without roof racks on our kombi we can only transport boards inside the van – and to a maximum of 9 foot or thereabouts. So instead we added a small roof rack to the back of the bus and boom, a deflated isup all rolled up neatly in its bag fits in no problem. If you don’t have a car with roof racks or you don’t feel comfortable loading a board on to your roof etc – then the iSUP solves all those problems. It also means if you only live in a small apartment, it packs up small for storage and won’t take up all of your hallway or balcony…
2. Easy to transport. similar to space saving, but by ‘easy to transport’ I mean you can sling it on your back in its rucksack (which comes with the board) and hike down to the nearest beach. Inflating it at the beach means you can keep your hands free for carrying other kit. I imagine this would be great for families too – leaving you free to carry that esky, hold the dog leash or grab the nearest child. Do bear in mind it does weigh a bit though, so unless you’re a muscle man, you probably won’t want to hike too far with it on your back. SUPs are often pretty cumbersome though so same applies to a hard board that you’d prefer not to hike too far with.
3. Easy to inflate. Okay so yes, you can argue that inflating it is a hassle which you don’t get with the hard board, but there have to be some compromises. And really, we’ve been pleasantly surprised how quickly you can inflate it. The iSUP comes with a hand pump, although I know some SUP schools use compressors to avoid manually inflating. In a matter of five minutes of pumping, the iSUP is ready to go. It does get a lot harder as the pressure increases towards the end, but hey, it’s a good warm up!
4. While some Inflatables come with fins which are fixed into the board, the C4 model we have has a fin box and removable fins. That way, if you happen to snap one of the plastic fins, you can replace them without being stuck with a board with broken fins.
5. It’s a ‘soft’ surface for yoga. By this, I don’t mean it’s a floppy board like a jumping pillow with a hole in it… At full inflation, the iSUP is a rigid platform, but if you think SUP yoga might be of interest, then the inflatable board is very forgiving when that headstand on water doesn’t work out quite the way you planned. Trust me.
6. Durability. These inflatables are super tough. Hit rocks – it’s forgiving. Drop it – it bounces back. I’ve worked as a SUP instructor and seen iSups hired out to numerous customers – trust me; these can take a lot more of a beating than glass boards!
So, with all of these great features, why wouldn’t you go for an inflatable every time? Look, the above pros made the iSUP perfect for our travels. It really depends on your requirements and your expectations. An inflatable is never going to perform with the speed, efficiency and accuracy of say, a long, sleek, traditional board. That’s like comparing apples and pears. Our model is also supposed to be the ‘surf’ model of the iSUPs, but again you’re talking about a board with plastic fins and the whole structure flexes a lot more than a hard board in the surf. We did take it out on some small waves in Noosa and had a great time, but it would take a pretty skilled surfer to get it really performing IMHO.
Areas for improvement:
We had some issues with the pressure gauge on our hand pump not working properly – but the supplier was happy to replace it. We also managed to get a fin stuck in the board, so just make sure you’re screwing the fins in properly – they’re the usual surf FCS system.
All in all, with its fold up nature and ease to get on the water, the iSUP has been the perfect travel companion for us … and did I mention the dog loves it too?
More information on the C4 Waterman Inflatable SUPs can be found on their website.