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Review of the 2016 Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Sport inflatable paddle board

The 2016 Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Sport inflatable paddle board is a new model for 2016. The 11′ Sport gets a big brother! The 12’6″ Sport is designed to be a fast paddling, good gliding, stable board suited to those who wanted an 11′ Sport but needed something bigger, and didn’t want to choose the 28″ wide Race board and forego stability or give up speed and glide if opting for the 12’6″ Explorer.

The Sport boards have been designed for a slightly more experienced paddler, offering a step up in speed and dynamic performance from the Ride family of boards, but not the out and out speed at the cost of stability of the Race or Elites. The shape of the Sport models allows the board to cut through the water which is matched by incredible glide, thanks to the drawn out nose, but preserves stability with the squared off tail.

So does the 12’6″ Sport really slot in between the Rides, the 11′ Sport and the 12’6″ Race and Explorer, or is the paddler going to suffer from analysis paralysis trying to figure out which is best? Let’s take a look at the details, how it paddles, who it’s good for and how it fits into the Red Paddle Co range. So let’s begin with the 2016 Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Sport review and walk around video.

TL;DR: This was the board everyone wished for last year. It slots into the Red Paddle Co range perfectly and offers up one of the most sought after sizes in stand up paddle boards, 12’6″ x 30″. For many, the 11′ Sport wasn’t enough, the 12’6″ Sport has got you covered. Form an orderly line, we have plenty in stock!

The bag

The 2016 inflatable sup bag is an updated version of the 2015 bag with a thicker internal coating on the bag material and upgraded support for the zip. It features an easy loading system where the bag zips all the way along 3 sides opening up wide so you can get your gear in and out very easily. For your board, you have the strap to hold the board wrapped up but there is also a handy internal cinch strap which keeps your board positioned and secure in the bag during travel. Bag dimensions: 37″ high, 14″ wide and 12″ deep.

Red Paddle Co SUP Carry BagSpace is aplenty for the pump, fin, RSS battens, a 3 piece paddle, leash and even wetsuit, PFD etc. The Titan Pump comes with the board wrapped around it which is a great space saving technique and something I continue to do. It also keeps the pump secure with the board when cinched down. With previous pumps, this wasn’t such an issue but as the Titan is a little bulkier it makes sense to use the space inside the rolled up board for something, keep it secure in the bag and have room for more. I’ll get into this more later in this review but thanks to the new construction process/material of the board, it now also rolls tighter leaving you even more room in the bag for extras.

Carry handles on both sides, as well as the top and bottom give you, and baggage handlers, plenty of places to grab and carry the bag. The Sherpa backpack system also features in 2016 so you can carry the bag on your back with comfortable shoulder and waist straps, or tuck them away out of sight and away from baggage belt monsters and just roll the bag on the integrated wheels and be confident the bag will arrive safely. See more photos of the bag here.

As packaged from the factory the board is protected by a layer of plastic to separate the board from itself when rolled, the fin in a small bag, the RSS battens in a plastic sleeve, the Titan pump in it’s own bag and a bag that bundles the whole lot.

The pump

The majority of the Red Paddle Co line now comes standard with the awesome Titan Pump. The 8’10” Whip and 9’4″ Snapper come with the Red Paddle Co Ezee HP since they are small, low volume boards. The Titan makes pumping the board a much quicker process. The angled foot base and wide handle work well for me with my long legs and wide shoulders. I always found the Ezee and Ezee HP a little small to get my frame around, kinda like an elephant riding a bike. Anyway, Red have taken into account some of the ergonomics for comfortable and efficient inflation as well as doubling the input volume of air with every stroke. Pump up to about 8-10 PSI on the included gauge and then you pull the red plug out of the back of the handle, affix to the little nub so it doesn’t flap around, and continue on the HP side to go all the way to 25 PSI. The Titan still beats any electric pump I’ve come across in inflation time, but yes, you do have to do the work…

Inflating the 2016 12’6″ Red Air Sport took me 5 minutes and 32 seconds including the time required to insert the RSS battens. Add another 30 seconds to attach the US box style plastic fin and you’re good to go!

The board

The Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Sport is a new model for 2016, so let’s go back in time to find out why they have introduced another board at this length. This is the 4th board in the Red Paddle Co inflatable SUP range at 12’6″. For many, 12’6″ is the one of the default lengths for paddle boards which can be vaguely attributed to early SUP racing events and the board length classes they chose. As the sport became more popular, brands designed for this class (length) in mind. As the sport exploded, many more board shapes and lengths came onto the scene, but brands stuck with this length as a base.

To give the 12’6″ Race a “truer to the name” shape, it was slimmed down to 28″ wide for 2015 and that’s fine, if you want to race and think about balancing all the time but to many, it was just a bit too narrow, myself included, so they could only really opt up to the 12’6″ Explorer, which is no slouch, but at 32″ wide, is a bit slower, or explore options with other brands.

Anyway, we still have these race classes and boards like the 12’6″ Race and Elite are designed for those paddlers, but for an experienced paddler or amateur racer who does not need out and out speed at the cost of stability, the 12’6″ length offers extremely good glide and at 30″ wide in this board a very stable platform to enjoy paddle boarding.

The 12’6″ Sport is 5.90″ thick as compared to the 11′ Sport at 4.75″. This offers a stiffer board with more volume better suited for larger paddlers. The 11′ Sport is a great board but didn’t really have the all round carrying capacity for paddlers above 180lbs. Sure it’s rated to 200lbs but it’s best to come in under the limit to get the most from a board in all conditions and the 12’6″ caters to many more paddlers be it for glide/speed or payload.

The board includes many of the 2016 upgrades as seen in the other Red Paddle Co models. Most notably, the MSL Fusion construction, new padded handle, uprated stainless steel tie-down rings, integrated leash d-ring and tail handle.

MSL-Red-Paddle-Co-construction-light-weight-inflatable-paddle-boardsThe board finish is so good it looks like a regular hard board. For this we have a new construction process to thank. It is called MSL Fusion, or Monocoque Structural Laminate Fusion, and what it does is basically eliminate a lot of excess glue and human error. In previous years, the “board within a board” Red Paddle Co is famous for was primarily glued together, making a super durable board but adding extra weight and the potential for hand gluing or human errors. This new process consists of industrially fusing and pressing the inner layer of polymer to the high density drop stitch core at the raw material stage. Same “board with a board” construction but with material that is now structurally more sound, even more rigid, as well as lighter. More details about MSL over here.

Tech talk aside, what does this mean for the paddler? Well, the cosmetic finish is drastically improved as I’ve mentioned, the boards are about 20% lighter over the 2015 models, and since they are fused and machine pressed together, they are essentially one piece instead of 2 layers, and are structurally stiffer at lower pressure. Red, and I also, still recommend a pumping pressure of 18-20 PSI for most applications to make the most of these benefits and improve overall performance.

Red Paddle Co have famously tested the durability and toughness of their boards over the years, see a 2014 board taking a beating. Knowing that the 2016 MSL construction boards are even stronger should put your mind at ease!

With no 2015 model for comparison, the 2016 12’6″ Sport weighs in at 24lbs, including battens and fin. Red Paddle Co are careful not to make the boards too light. Yes, there is such a thing. Obviously the weight is there for rigidity and performance reasons, but we also need some weight in the board to control it in rougher waters or wind. A board with some weight is predictable and stable making it better suited to all paddlers.

As with the 11′ Sport, the 12’6″ comes with RSS battens which are designed to counter the effects of the paddler’s standing position and weight, the point around which inflatables can flex. RSS battens improve stiffness by up to 50%. That said, it is hard to notice any flex at all when paddling a Red Paddle Co board.

Up a little closer we can see the edges of the material are cleanly cut, the glue lines that previously wandered are all now dead straight thanks to the robots. The tie-down d-rings are now stainless steel with heavy duty bungee cord. The center carry handle is now padded. There is now also a carry handle integrated into the leash d-ring on the tail which is excellent for pulling the board through waves, up the beach or generally just holding on etc.

The US style fin box is shorter than in previous years and was upgraded mid 2015 on other Red Paddle Co boards to lower the profile of the box for less drag and to allow the board to be rolled more easily and tightly. The supplied US box fin is a dolphin fin shape which is the standard for most paddle boards. It offers good tracking but allows manoeuvrability as well.

Further updates to the range featured on this board are the Red Paddle Co logos on the top and underside of the nose are now screen printed on rather than a layer in itself, further saving weight.

The rest

The package includes a repair kit with glue and patches. A waterproof phone case that comes with inflation instructionspump tips and care tips inside. A wrapping strap to keep the board rolled up.

On the water

I’m 190lbs, give or take, and the 11′ Sport is a great board, but at my weight it just isn’t quite enough board for me to really enjoy. If the water is a bit rough, a boat goes by, the board just sits a little low in the water and is a little slow. The 12’6″ at 5.90″ thick, but the same 30″ width, is just what the doctor ordered and what it seems like many had longed for last season. Longer and thicker for more carrying capacity but still the fast shape. Winner!

The board has excellent glide and tracks well. Has more nose rocker than a race board to go over chop or rough waters rather than pierce through it, this helps with general stability and comfort in paddling. Board is noticeably narrow in the forward section for speed but the mid board width carries almost all the way to the tail to maintain stability. The square tail makes it easy to move up and down the deck while being confident in the stability of the board and to turn the board by sinking the tail a fraction.

Will also surf small waves thanks to extra nose rocker and the squared off tail/wide deck area.

Deck pad is large and comfortable. It has a “crocodile-skin” textured finish which provides ample grip for general use and is very comfortable. Forward of the deck pad is a handy cargo area with the new for 2016 stainless d-rings and bungee cord.


  • Length: 12’6″
  • Width: 30″
  • Thickness: 150mm, 5.90 inches
  • Volume: 350 liters
  • Weight: 24 lbs board only, 32 lbs with backpack and pump
  • Max payload: 285 lbs/130 kg


  • Likely the best/fastest cruising and touring SUP for beginner/intermediate paddlers or amateur racers
  • Top notch finish
  • Super stiff at 5.90″ thick and with RSS battens
  • Quick inflation with the Titan Pump
  • Comfy handles, useful tail mounted handle
  • Large and comfy deck pad
  • Excellent glide and tracking


  • Titan Pump again. It’s just a little bulky but more than makes up for it in pumping speed and comfort
  • Racers may want to upgrade to a more race inspired fin

In conclusion

A board with a clear and deserved space in the 2016 Red Paddle co range. An excellent day cruising and touring board for those who want good glide and speed, or a great board to get your first few SUP races under your belt. Excellent value for money when you consider the excellent quality of the board, bag and pump. Find all the details here: 2016 Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Sport.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.