26 November 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Isle San Diego Racing/Touring SUP Board Review

In September I purchased my first stan- up paddleboard. I found a deal on a used Wave Storm 10′ 6″ board. These were recently sold at Costco. I found one online review and it was pretty favorable, especially considering the price, which was about $800 for a new board. After purchasing it, I did more online research (I usually do that in reverse), discovering that a 10′ 6″ board is suitable for those weighing about 170 lbs. or less. I’m 6-4 / 185. This board (the blue one in the above pix) is a foam board construction with a plastic base. It has a planing nose or hull, which is best for those using a board on the coast where there are waves. The fastest I could clock it on windless flat water was an average speed of 4.0 MPH. This was for a 30- to 45-minute workout, going “all out” for my novice ability level, doing an out and back trip.

I decided that if I was going to get serious with this sport, I needed a longer board or two. I figured that I needed a training board and then perhaps a “racing” board for more ambitious events. In my mind, that meant a 12′ 6″ fiberglass board (read “durable”) and then a 14′ 0″ carbon fiber board (more fragile, but faster).

I looked at the new prices for 12′ 6″ boards and they in the $1300-$1700 range. I could not find a local used board with a displacement nose. Since this was for training, I decided to go with a rather unknown board, made by Isle Standup Paddle Boards San Diego. I got a small pro discount, so the board cost less than a grand. (Their business model is similar to my camera bag business in as much as they deal mostly customer-direct, providing a better value — no middle man dealer or distributor). I liked their honest SUP Comparison Chart that showed the difference in stability between displacement vs. planing nose designs. This board has a displacement nose similar to a kayak or canoe. This feature was found only on the more expensive boards, but is desirable for flat water paddling. I had already purchased a carbon fiber paddle so I did not purchase theirs (they only run a $100 with the purchase of a board — a heck of a value, although they only offer a “wide body” 9″ paddle which I don’t care for). The board has a nice smooth finish and the inside is made from 1.5 lb. EPS foam inside with a rugged-looking fiberglass outer skin. I liked the fact that this board had a recessed deck, putting my weight lower in the water.

My first run on this new board at a local reservoir was in awful conditions with 15-18 MPH cold winds (ambient temps about 45F) and chop. While I was boarding, I could see the blowing snow in the mountains, just a few miles to the east the reservoir which I was on (Gunnison Reservoir). I fell off the board once, while trying to navigate in a cross wind. I finally sat down and paddled for a while until the wind subsided a bit. I found this board to be a bit less stable than the Wave Storm board, but that is to be expected because of the v-shaped nose. With the Wave Storm, while paddling in flat water I could comfortably turn my head around and look at the stern without falling over. With the ISD board, I have to be VERY careful making this move, or I’d be in the drink. With this board, I have found that I like to place my feet at a slight angle against the outer  edges of this “bathtub wall” for maximum stability and comfort. Despite having an angled deck, the water still builds up a little in the recessed pad where one stands. I did find that the displacement nose of the Isle board fared better in chop (waves caused by wind) than the planing nose of the WS. The WS nose kept slapping up and down, whereas the ISD just sliced through it more easily.

Upon testing this board on a more calm day(s), I was able to push my speed up to 4.5 MPH for a 30-minute out-and-back loop (for a 2-minute sprint, I averaged 4.8 MPH). An increase of 0.5 MPH over the el cheapo Costco board doesn’t seem like much, until you look at it as a percentage — that is a 12.5% increase in speed. I was hoping for more, but then this board, despite be called a Racing/Touring paddleboard, is not recognized as a fast one. In fact the company rep indicated that it was NOT a particularly fast board, but a good all-purpose unit. I have been told that some local paddlers, on 14′ 0″ race boards typically average 5.3 to 5.4 MPH for a 2-hour, 8- to 10-mile workout. Of course, I’m 57 years old and they might be half my age (I come from an endurance cyclist background so this upper body stuff brand new to me). Still, I wonder what the speed difference between two similarly designed boards of different lengths might be — that is a 12′ 6″ versus a 14′ 0″ board, both with displacement noses. I have heard that in flat water races, the difference in times between these two categories is about 20%. Or is that simply that the tougher guys have longer boards and the real speed difference is more like 10-15%? So the $64,000-question is…will a 14-0 carbon board yield a 15% gain in speed for me? If so, that would translate to an average speed of 5.175 MPH. A 20% increase would yield speeds of 5.4 MPH. I guess if I take the 14-0 plunge, it will be next spring and I’ll find out!

This month, the average highs here in Utah are only in the mid 40s with water temps around 38-40F, so I have no desire to purchase another board until it warms up next spring. Wearing a wet suit is mandtory, although for a flatwater workout with only a mild breeze, I never fall in. The wetsuit is just insurance — sometimes I get too hot and shed my upper non-wetsuit layer.

Overall, I’m happy with the purchase, except one thing that bugs me…the recessed carry handle is NOT centered on the board so it tips towards the stern (fin side) when carried under the arm. I know this is not rated a “high end” board, but hey guys, at least center the carry handle — something the off brand Wave Storm board did!

Wave Storm Board: 10′ 6″ long x 29-1/2″ wide x approx. 5-3/4″ thick.
Isle San Diego Racing/Touring Epoxy SUP Board: 12′ 6″ long x 29-1/2″wide x 7″ thick. Claimed weight is 32 lbs.

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