Welcome back to another SUPboarder review and this week it’s time to look at the brand new board from Red Paddle Co, the 2017 14′ Elite iSUP race board.
Red Paddle Co started making iSUPs back in 2008, and they are definitely one of the biggest iSUP brands out there and they only make inflatable stand up paddle boards.
Specifications for the 14′ Elite. Obviously 14 feet long, 25 inches wide, 6 inches thick, 340 litres in volume, it only weighs in 11kg (24lbs) and retails at £1149 ($1799). The general overview shape of the board, 14′ long and it is relatively narrow bringing itself into quite a dramatic pin tail at the back. The fin set up of the board, it’s a single US Box fin set up with their Red Paddle Co race fin. The materials that go into this Elite. Well we know that Red Paddle Co are very proud of their materials and how they process their boards. This is made with their MSL Fusion composite which is a drop stitch internal core and the MSL itself is where they put the PVC on, but instead of it being a secondary layer, they put it all in one layer, so it’s one thickness. Takes out the issues of gluing, excess gluing and dodgy looking gluing and actually reduces all the boards by about 2kg (4.4lbs), which it did and we saw that last year when we tested our 2016 boards.
Who is the board designed for? Well, Red Paddle Co say this board is designed for a racer who wants the ultimate 14′ inflatable race board.
So that’s the internet bumf, let’s move on to our SUPboarder impressions.
We tested the 2016 14′ Elite last year and to be honest, this board, doesn’t resemble it in the slightest. It’s a completely different shape, it’s only got the same things it’s got as last year’s board are the handles are the same and the fin is the same and the fin box. (Edit: US fin box is now longer at 7 3/4″ suiting more fins) Apart from that, it’s a completely different shaped board, different things going over it, going on it, features on it.
So let’s talk about the shape first of all, 25″ wide and 14′ long, it is a speed needle, and definitely, there is quite a pronounced, so about a foot back from where you stand, the tail really comes in to a fine pin tail which is really going to help that straight line performance and getting you going as fast as possible, with the least amount of paddle changes either side. Totally different shape, the other 14′ standard race board has got more of a pulled, more of a traditional sort of rounded tail, and also the 12’6″ Elite as well has got a slightly wider tail. This sort of board lends itself to paddling straight and fast, it’s a bit trickier to do your step back turns because of the pulled in tail because you haven’t got as much width stability. So it’s designed to paddle in a straight, fast line, really good for those long distance races, getting your head down and just paddling hard.
Other new features, let’s go for the smaller new features you might not notice first and then to the largest one at the end. The other new features that we have are the RSS Battens, same batten, slightly further back than last year, last year in the video we were saying how the battens had been pushed further forward, now they’ve brought them back again and they’ve put these nice velcro tabs that hold the battens ties down which is a really smart little feature that they’ve put on the board. So the RSS Battens are there, but they’re moved further back. Deck pad’s very similar to their one last year and all their other boards. They’re always very nice quality deck pad all cut in nicely and finished off perfectly. Leashing point in the deck pad, valve’s the same as last year, all that sort of stuff. More handles, carry handles and stuff, there is not a central carry handle on this board and the main reason is because there is something else in it’s place. And it’s taken up by this batten here down the center of the board which is called a Forward Flex Control. We’ll go over a little but more how it feels on the water in a minute, let’s keep on going over the features of the board. You’ve also got things called RAM Mounts, which you can use for holding GPSs, fishing rods and all that sort of stuff, not that you’d put a fishing rod on a 14′ race board, but they’re basically a screw thread and that’s also in their front moulding section, so you can put stuff on that, it’s very nice little feature. Looking at the bottom of the board, it’s the same sort of outline bottom shape as we had in last year’s board, they’re basically trying to be as flat as possible, small amount of nose kick at the front there. The biggest thing is the nose runner has got a vast improvement in shape to it. It’s much more hydrodynamic, it’s got a much more piercing shape to it and we really feel it would work much better than the older one which was a bit clunky if you ask us. This one is a really refined piece of Red Paddle Co R&D, so that’s a nice feature on the top there. This fin is exactly the same as last year’s 2016 board. It was a great fin then, it’s a great fin now. And also the US box is the same as Red Paddle Co’s last year, very slim line, fits the fin well. (Edit: as noted earlier, box is same shape but longer for 2017).
Keeping on the 2017 features, let’s move on to the bag and pump. Now the bag this year looks very much the same as last year’s from the outside but they have changed a few minor things, all for the better I’d say. The bag feels a little bit lighter straight away, they’ve also put reflective material on the inside of the bag which is obviously going to keep the board nice and cool when you’re travelling. Feels a little bit more hard wearing, they’ve put more webbing in and around the zip area so it really isn’t going to fail. Same carry handles and back pack and all that sort of great stuff they had before. But the biggest change is you’ve got an internal pouch area in here which is basically designed to carry your paddle, bungee straps, to hold your 3 piece paddle, and there’s actually graphics as to where you put your paddle parts. Nice little feature for your 3 piece, which you generally do have when you’ve got an inflatable board because you want it all to go into one bag. Moving on to the pump, the Titan, the great Titan pump. It’s a similar thing to the bag, it looks straight away at the outset that it hasn’t had a lot of changes, graphics and size and everything are still very similar, but the pump itself what the major change is that you’ll notice is if you’re used to using an iSUP or pumping up an iSUP before, you might have been aware of that issue of when you put your valve in and then you take it apart and PPPPFFFFF, let’s all the air out and it’s a disaster and you scare half the dogs on the beach, well that used to be because there was a bar coming across the center of the valve and when you used to screw it in, the bar used to push the internal valve down but then when you let it out the valve wouldn’t release, it wouldn’t come back up. So they’ve removed the internal cross bar, which you can do on all iSUP pumps but the problem with that is, when you’re pumping the board up, the pressure gauge goes up and then comes back down again, up and come back down again so it’s very hard to get a true reading. What Red Paddle Co have done this year is made their pump hold the pressure, so you can pump the board up to 15 PSI, you can stop pumping, you can talk to your mates, and it’ll stay at 15 PSI, and then you can come back and pump it up again. The recommended pressure is up to 22 PSI now on this, so they really recommend between 15 and 22, and this board itself is pumped up to 18 PSI. So now you don’t have that back draft issue and also it’ll hold the pressure in the pump the whole time. Just a nice little feature, more refinement again. And also you get multiple different amount of clips and attachments for kites and inflatable stuff. So you can the pump for multiple different things which is a handy little thing to have you know, especially if you’re counting up the pennies to what the different is between certain boards and brands. The pressure gauge is nice and slick. They’ve also got different pressure ranges on there for your inflatables, your kites and also your recommended PSI for your inflatable paddle boards. If you’re unsure about how the Titan, it’s got two cylinders, so it’s got a large cylinder and a small cylinder, when the red screw thread is in, that means on the down stroke you pump with both cylinders, so both these cylinders are produced air and putting it in the board. When you take the screw top out here, the red one, it pumps on the single chamber. So it’s designed, when pumping is hard, you move on to the single chamber and you finish your high pressure board off on the single chamber. It’s definitely the fastest pump on the market. We’ve done pump tests on this pump and several other pumps, the Red Paddle Co Titan, a little but more refined since last year.
Performance of the board, well when we were testing the board we had it in pretty much had it in picture perfect flat conditions, which is great but at the same time, it’d be nice to test it in some choppier sort of conditions. It does perform really well on the flat and it does paddle extremely well in a straight line. I mean you can put your head down, you can not really concentrate where you are going and you still are pointing to where you had, where you aimed at before you put your head down. And it does stay on that same paddle side, you can keep on that paddle stroke, on one side for probably 3-4 more times than you would do on a standard, sort of, square tailed inflatable race board. The downside to that great straight line performance is it’s a little bit trickier to do the step back turns, so you are going to have to tune your standing position. You have to get right on the back to get your step back turns in, to get right over that pin tail. So it’s a little bit wobblier than a standard square tail racer board, so it’s just something to be aware of.
Ok let’s talk about this brand new Forward Flex Control system. Now straight away you’ll notice that this has a patent number on it, this has been patented by Red Paddle Co. This is definitely the only race SUP that has this sort of technology and has this R&D behind it. So how does it work, well, ok, it’s a carbon rod that goes through these eyelets and in to a point in the end there to make the board stiff. The way to put it together is you basically pump the board up a little bit, you slide the rod into this position so it’s loose and not in the cam lock and then you have to inflate the board to about 20 or about 16 to 20 PSI. You need to get the board stiff and you actually need to get the board to stretch a slight tiny amount. The reason then because you don’t imagine these boards stretching but because these boards are PVC these boards will stretch and then you can push the rod right into the nose of the board and then you can slip it into the cam system here and then you can push down on the locking point which then extends the rod, pushes it into the nose and flattens out your board even more. The actual fittings and the design of this system, is absolutely perfect, I can’t see a fault with it and it works really well. When we first did it, we didn’t have it pumped up enough and it was a bit hard work to get in, you’ve got to pump it up enough, that’s the biggest thing, it’s a massive difference. You pump it up enough, get 16 to 22 PSI in it and suddenly, the board gets stiffer, longer and the rod goes in really easily. And then you can push it back very easily, got to pump it up enough!
Moving on to how it feels. It’s definitely stiffer, it definitely makes a massive difference to the nose of the board. We did enter, or when you’re entering into small chop or boat wake, the board just stays in a stiff position. But what we really liked as well, is because they’ve moulded the plastic nose at the front there, it does actually shed a bit of water off, so it’s actually another feature that they’ve put in that actually sheds the water off. So I would say in a downwind situation, you’ve got another helping hand. We’d love to have tested this in downwind conditions, but we didn’t, but we think it would have shed the water off and the stiffness would have made the board much easier to surf downwind. Because then as you move back on the board to get the nose up the board would have stayed in that stiff horizontal position and it would have tilted up and down much easier.
Moving on to our deflection test, to give you an idea of deflection. Ok, last year’s Red Paddle Co Elite got 11mm in deflection, which is where we basically put a gap 1.5m apart and we put the board in the center and we put 75kg (165lbs) in the middle and then we measure the drop. So that dropped 11mm, other iSUPs they go up to about 18mm, ok, so that’s quite a varied difference there. This one, did 10mm. Ok, so it’s only 1mm less than last year’s board but 10mm isn’t very much of a drop at all, definitely the stiffest board we’ve ever tested. And that was at 18 PSI as well, it wasn’t even at 22 PSI. So it could probably even go more than that.
Negatives or downsides to the brand new 2017 Red Paddle Co 14′ Elite. Right, one negative it’d be really nice if the deck pad was a little bit more pronounced or had a tail kick at the back there. Now you notice how this is a diamond deck pad here and then it goes to a smooth deck pad, you can feel it bare foot so you know where your feet are but if this was a little bit more pronounced as in so you knew where your foot was for the step back turns it would be easier and ideally a bit of a kick pad. If it had a bit of a kick pad, the board would be completely perfect. Another thing that you could find a negative for some people, is that if you’re looking for a board that you can pump up quickly and get out on the water and paddle fast, maybe not look towards this sort of thing. If you’re looking at a board you want to pump up, tune it, get it on the water, get it as stiff as possible, then this is the board. Because it is a little bit of a faff if you feel you have to use this Forward Flex Control system every time, to put it in, it’s a bit of a faff, it’s going to take you another 3 or 4 minutes to get on the water. You know we’re are used to just pumping up our iSUPs, putting our fin in and away we go. So it takes a little bit more work to tune it. As I say, some people might find it a faff and some people might love it because it’s that tunable race side that they haven’t got in any other iSUP.
Value for money, well at £1149 ($1799) it’s probably the most expensive iSUP on the market, but to be honest, it’s not that much more expensive than other boards and it has got absolutely everything. It’s got carbon rods, it’s got RSS Battens, it’s got a nice fin, it’s got carry handles everywhere.
Who should be looking at this board? Well it’s definitely fast and it’s definitely stiff and it ticks the super light box as well, but you’ve got to be around that sort of 55 – 90kgs (120 – 200lbs), I mean you can be lighter than that, but 90kgs (200lbs) is the top level. You could get on it if you were heavier, because it’s got the volume at 340 liters, but it’s just a little bit narrow if you’re any taller, I think if you’re a tall person, in the 6’2″ – 6’3″ marks, you might find it a little tricky, just because the width of 25″ wide. If you’re 90kgs (200lbs) and below, and you want a super fast board to just basically kick ass on the racing scene this is probably the one to look at.
Overall SUPboarder verdict: well it is the fastest iSUP race board we’ve ever paddled so far and it has got completely everything on it, from rods, the RSS Battens to super light internal cores. It’s a very nice board to paddle if you want that straight line performance out of an iSUP.
For more info on the 2017 Red Paddle Co 14′ Elite, click here.