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Review of the 2016 Red Paddle Co 12′6″ Race inflatable paddle board

The 2016 Red Paddle Race 12’6″ inflatable paddle board is an evolution of the 2015 model. After the change from 30″ to 28″ wide for 2015, the 2016 Race is joined by the 12’6″ x 30″ Sport which caters to people seeking a fast but stable board or casual racers just starting out. The Race was considered a bit too hard core for many with the drop in width, but this year, it’s right at home in the range for paddlers who want speed and want to enter races.

The Race is the perfect stepping stone up to the Elite boards for those who want to work their way up to top level racing or the most speed during their paddle sessions. It is also the perfect board for weekend racers and people looking to paddle for fitness. Rather than slog along with an all round or wide touring board, the Race offers a fairly stable board with a fully race inspired design and features.

So now with the 12’6″ Sport in the range, does the 12’6″ Race have a place between the Sports and Elites? Or are there too many options? So let’s begin with the 2016 Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Race review and walk around video.

TL;DR: Taking cues from the Elite boards, the Race is now an even more complete board option for amateur or weekend racers or experienced paddlers looking for speed. Still comfortable and stable at 28″ wide, it offers a fast board with great stability, tracking and good glide, but still a small cargo area and of course all the Red Paddle Co high quality fittings and package. More at home in the Red range with the introduction of the 12’6″ Sport for paddlers seeking an “easier” board.

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 Race took me 5 minutes and 2 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 12’6″ Race is 5.90″ thick. Generally speaking the thicker an inflatable paddle board is, the stiffer it will be at a given PSI when compared to a thinner board at the same PSI. Red Paddle Co however use 3 thicknesses depending on the board’s application. For example a racing SUP needs to be stiff and fast so a thicker drop stitch is used. A surf style board needs to ride on rails and carve waves so a thinner drop stitch (3.93″) is used. For all round paddling and general use, a 4.75″ drop stitch is employed. Red Paddle Co have the advantage over all other manufacturers with an industry leading inflation pressure of 25 PSI so they can safely use thinner boards without a loss in stiffness.

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.

The 2015 Red Paddle Race weighed 31lbs, the 2016 12’6″ Race weighs in at 23lbs, 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.

[twentytwenty]Red Air Race Paddle board inflatable sup 12ft 6 in racing sup

Red Paddle Race top deck inflatable SUP paddle board racing SUP 12-6[/twentytwenty] [twentytwenty]Red Paddle Co Race inflatable SUP 15 bottom

2016 Red Paddle Race SUP inflatable paddle board[/twentytwenty]

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!

The 2016 Race 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 last reviewed this board in 2014 when it was still 30″ wide. However I find most still applies as the sport of SUP has grown and matured somewhat and the old review and my comments are still mostly relevant to this new shape. Here it is, with updates for the new 2016 specification.

“In the chop, the board handled quite well. No noticeable flex and was very stable. The breeze was nudging the nose around so once I found the ideal standing position (a bit further forward), a balance between keeping the nose down for tracking but not plowing into every wave, it just up and went like a rocket.”

For 2015 they moved the RSS batten pockets forward after finding many paddlers did the above in a lot of conditions. The RSS battens work off the standing position of the paddler so moving them forward meant they were centred on the paddler again.

“The next session on glassy flat water was a real eye opener. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden a board this fast. Holy cow, this thing flies. I adjusted my footing forward a little for the mirror ocean surface. This kept the nose just kissing the surface while eliminating all tail drag. The glide was exceptional and the tracking from the nose runner fin and large tail fin was keeping the board straight and true for upwards of double my normal paddle strokes per side. It plain and simple hauls ass!”

Deck pad is larger than 2015 in all directions and quite comfortable. It features both the diamond cut and crocodile-skin textured finish which provides ample grip for racing up front but a weight saving thinner crocodile skin grip down the back for buoy turns and bump riding. They have also brought the tail leash d-ring inboard locating it in the rear portion of the deck. This keeps the leash totally out of the water and saves you pressures seconds during a race. As well as bringing the rear d-ring in, they now offer the integrated handle and leash d-ring found on many other models in the center of the board to allow you to connect your leash in the middle and have the most efficient leash set up possible. A feature they have obviously picked up from listening to the racers. 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: 28″
  • Thickness: 150mm, 5.90 inches
  • Volume: 340 liters
  • Weight: 23 lbs board only, 31 lbs with backpack and pump
  • Max payload: 285 lbs/135 kg


  • Probably the best/fastest 12’6″ SUP for intermediate paddlers or weekend/amateur racers
  • Top notch MSL finish
  • Super stiff at 5.90″ thick and with RSS battens
  • Quick inflation with the Titan Pump
  • Comfy handles in the center and up front for BOP style racing
  • Integrated center handle and leash d-ring to minimise leash drag
  • Useful inboard tail leash d-ring to minimise leash drag
  • Large and comfy 2 texture deck pad
  • Excellent glide and tracking from glass race fin


  • Hmm, nothing yet

In conclusion

The Red Paddle 12’6″ Race board really moves along, glides and tracks superbly. Last year it trimmed down in width and alienated a few paddlers with the ominous “Race” name and narrower 28″ width, but as the sport progresses and matures, the Race finds it’s place alongside the other 12’6″ boards in the Red Paddle Co range. Inflatables can take a lot of punishment and abuse and I’m not sure I’d be willing to shell out several thousand dollars for a fragile carbon race board that might weigh a few pounds less but if I look at it wrong, it’ll crumble. Traveling to races with an inflatable is now an even better and more competitive option for all paddlers. Who wants all SUP racing to be on inflatables? That future may not be too far off…

For more info on the 2016 Red Paddle Race 12’6″ see the product page or call us on 1-888-252-4983.

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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.