Red Paddle Company has set out to create paddleboards that have all the advantages of an infatable, with the tracking and performance of a solid board. Using a new method of construction called Monocoque Structural Laminate (MSL) technology, they may just have accomplished that.
Most inflatable SUPs commonly use a drop stitch core design, which uses two layers of woven material with stitching sandwiched in between. Filling this void with air causes the two woven layers to spread apart, with the threads used in the stitching holding everything together and providing tension. This allowed stiffness to rise with air pressure, providing a level of rigidity.
Single layer SUP builders cut the shape of the board, apply liquid PVC to the woven panels and taped the edges. This construction method creates an almost airtight seal and has the advantage of being lightweight and packable. The disadvantage is a general lack of stiffness, with these boards often drooping under the rider’s weight. This detracts from the paddler’s confidence and enjoyment while out on the water, particularly with those more accustomed to a solid board. Durability is also suspect and internal air pressure is typically limited to 15-18 psi.
Red Paddle Company improved upon this design with its double layer drop stitch boards by hand laminating a reinforced PVC fabric to the top and bottom layers. This method of inflatable SUP construction vastly improved stiffness and can accommodate pressures above 20 psi, creating a ride more comparable with a solid SUP board. Durability improved too, but weight skyrocketed, and the boards were difficult to roll up, detracting from their portability.
But using the Monocoque Structural Laminate approach, Red Paddle Company was able to coat the woven, drop stitch “sandwich” with adhesive, and then machine laminate a reinforced PVC skin to the top and bottom. By controlling the amount of adhesive used and using a machine to eliminate any cosmetic blemishes from the hand laminating, the company was able to improve performance nicely. Two layers of tape seal the quadruple-layer, heat pressed edges, helping to make the MSL boards a little stiffer and more durable than previous models, but two kilograms lighter. They also roll up easier for packing and transport too.
Red Paddle Company loaned me a 10′ 8″ Ride MSL SUP ($1379) to take for a test ride. I have moderate paddleboard experience, but my forays into the water are often far between, so every outing has a relearning curve. The Ride board easily unfurled from its roller bag/backpack and the included dual chamber Titan pump has a high air volume mode and a high air pressure mode, which made quick work of bringing the board up to the minimum recommended pressure of 16 psi.
At 34 inches wide, the Ride made the relearning curve a short one. I was up and paddling confidently with stability that was easy to maintain. The width and length of the board also allowed for my four-year-old daughter to join me on the water, sitting just in front as I paddled. With the minimum psi, the board was plenty stiff for flat water and glided nicely, never feeling at a disadvantage compared to solid boards. I didn’t notice any drooping with both of us on the board, and the decking felt good under foot with plenty of traction.
Later, my daughter took a break, and I added six more psi to the board to meet the recommended maximum pressure and headed upstream to faster and rougher parts of the river. The board was up to the task of negotiating these sections, with little cascades and eddies providing some challenges. Though the stiffness wasn’t ever an issue I did drag the fins a few times in shallow water, which raised some concerns about the fixed “iFin” system. Consulting with Red Paddle Company ensured me hot water could be used to straighten bent fins if needed.
If space constraints, the lack of an appropriate car rack, or just the ease of portability has you considering an inflatable SUP, the Red Paddle Company Ride 10’ 8” is a great contender for larger paddlers or paddlers wanting to double up. The wide stance and relatively large air volume also cater to beginners just learning to paddle SUPs. Visible construction quality is high, and the MSL technology lessens the carrying load and eases packing. Durability wasn’t an issue during the testing period though the fixed fins did cause concern and made the rolled up package a little more cumbersome. Plenty of other paddlers either commented positively on their own Red Paddle Company inflatable or wanted to try the board based on the things they had heard, reinforcing my already positive impressions.
For more information visit redpaddleco.com.