Gear Review: Xterra Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
Ever since seeing friend and former university classmate Lina Augaitis speak at FEAT and watching her ascension to be the top female SUP athlete in the world I became more and more interested in the sport myself. Typically I dive head first into any sport taking on one of the most difficult races whatever sport it is has to offer. This time I decided to ease it into rather than say taking on Maui to Molokai as my introduction to the sport.
Being a fan of the Xterra brand – I have been trusting their wetsuits for open water swimming and triathlons such as the Escape from Alcatraz and Leadman Epic 250km – I was excited when I got their e-mail just after Boxing Day promoting their 10′ Inflatable SUP. Like many, I had no idea that inflatable SUP’s could exist nor that their quality could actually surpass that of what I will group as “solid” or “non-inflatable” boards.
I’ll keep the comparison between inflatable and solid super high-level. The cheaper solid SUP’s typically feature some sort of foam core. Minor bumps, drops, impacts etc can have a devastating impact on the lifetime of your SUP. With most gear, I look at it as an investment. Sure, I can buy this cheaper option but one unfortunate turn of events could spell the end for your cheap solid SUP – and let’s put that in perspective. Starting prices for cheap SUP’s are in the $800 range.
I liked the concept of inflatable SUP for a few reasons.
1) I like gear that is easy to transport.
2) I like gear that is durable and going to have a long life span.
3) I live in a condo have 3 bikes, 2 snowboards, camping gear, golf clubs, hockey equipment, more running shoes than I can count, and all of the assorted accessories that come with that gear so storage is at a premium.
4) They are lighter than solid boards.
There are variety of inflatable SUP companies out there so how did I settle on Xterra because let’s be honest, making a great wetsuit doesn’t automatically mean you make a great inflatable SUP. What I like about the Xterra 10′ Inflatable SUP (FYI – they now have a 12’6″ board that was not available when I bought mine) is:
- Warranty – a 1 year warranty and 30 day risk free money back guarantee
- Durability – they drove a car over it. Seriously. A car. Over an inflated board.
- It weighs 28lbs compared to epoxy boards that weigh 28 – 45 lbs.
- you get a full package: board, pump, paddle, repair kit, back pack, pressure gauge. Other companies will leave out one or more of those and a paddle can cost $300 on its own. And you really, really want the pressure gauge. The pump is also from BRAVO who are touted as the best.
- You can weigh up to 250lbs. Depending on the race I am training for I range from 195lbs – 205 lbs so this rules out the vast majority of boards.
- The walls of the board are reinforced for added durability.
- Price + Quality. I’m on the Xterra mailing list so I bought mine for USD $598 whereas the website sells them for USD $1100. I still think that is a good deal but my best recommendation is to get on their mailing list. Three months after I bought mine they went on sale again and I bought another for my girlfriend.
I have been using my board about 2 – 3 times per week for several months with a typical distance of 5km – 10km though I have gone as far as 30km on my Xterra Inflatable SUP. Most of use is on the ocean though I have used on lakes and rivers as well. Point here is that it pretty much handles anything. Caveat here is don’t go do a serious open water crossing or surf waves bigger than 3 – 4 feet. If that’s your thing, there are boards designed for that. I can inflate the board in 4 minutes. Yeah 4 minutes. It deflates on it’s own in less time.
Renting an SUP from a vendor can cost $40 – $50 per hour and there is a general scarcity in terms of supply and availability. Being able to head down to False Creek for a sunrise or sunset paddle any day of the week has huge advantages. You can go get an amazing core workout or just relax on the water.
Areas for improvement:
- the side straps on the back pack could be higher quality. Until they are, only lift the back pack by the should straps. Trust me.
- the paddle is an entry level which is fine for 90% of the people out there. I ended up upgrading to a Werner 3 piece (though I also have plans to do a 60km open water SUP so factor that into your evaluation).
- the pump is good but it can be difficult to get the last 5 – 6 psi especially if you are shorter and don’t have the advantage of your height as leverage (I am over 6 feet tall). An electrical pump does exist with a governor that stops it at 15 psi (you do NOT want to over inflate your board) but you have to physically connect it to your car battery. I’ll be sitting tight until there is a version that connects to the outlet in my car or a battery pack.
You’ll notice that my areas for improvement have absolutely nothing to do with the board itself. I love it.
What else you should get:
- a life jacket and a real one not the Mustang Inflatable belt pack.
- a whistle