SUP Review: 10’6″ Ride SUP, by Red Paddle Co. ($1,300, redpaddleco.com)
But first…a story, of course
When I was eleven, my family went on its first real vacation. At least that’s what it felt like. As a 5th grader in Jenks, Oklahoma, just about anywhere outside of a two-state area felt like a real vacation. We flew to California, went to Disneyland, and while my dad attended meetings in LA, my mom drove us kids to Reno to visit my grandparents. Where am I going with this, you ask? Well…
My aunt worked at a department store in downtown Reno. She was finalizing a fashion show to highlight the summer lines. Who better to model kids clothes than her two adorable nephews? In my memory, the runway spanned 30 yards down the main thoroughfare. Throngs of media and fancy people packed in close, cameras flashing, jewelry and wine glasses tinkling amidst hushed whispers of approval while helicopters circled overhead. In reality, it was probably a 20-foot stage on a sidewalk in front of the store and surrounded by maybe 15-20 moms taking a break from a busy day of shopping. Jason and I modeled shorts, t-shirts, and apparently squirt guns. When our turn came, we took the stage, hopping onto finless foam surfboards placed just for us and swaying to the sounds of the Beach Boys while trying to soak the crowd with our piddly squirt guns. And that is how I became a fashion model, a career that lasted about 15 minutes, including costume changes and the time it took for us to try and catch a glimpse of Miss Nevada in her dressing room.
It was also the first time I ever stood on a paddle board. And so we get to the second time I ever stood on a paddle board, which was earlier this summer when I tried out the 10’6″ Ride by Red Paddle Co. This time on real water.
At the outset, let me just say–if you haven’t gathered it by now–I am not a SUPer. This review is from a point of view that many of you can relate to, that of a newbie to the growing sport of SUP. So for those of you looking for an expert’s take on a particular model of SUP, I’ll refer you to Google.
For a first-timer, it’s hard to imagine a better board than the 10″6′ Ride. For my money, unless you’ve got an easy means to store and transport a rigid SUP, inflatable is the way to go. The Ten Six comes in a fairly sizable bag. The fact that it has wheels and stands upright is a plus.
Upon opening the bag, I found a tightly rolled burrito that slipped easily from the bag and unrolled without complaint. The fins at the rear of the board–Red Paddle calls them the iFin system–were covered smartly with inflatable sleeves, not unlike the ones kids wear at the pool. The sleeves appear to protect the softer material of the board from being punctured or abraded by the harder plastic of the fins.
Flipping the board over, I found the top deck to be well laid out. Much of the deck is covered by a thin, closed-cell foam laminate that lends intuitiveness to the board’s surface (e.g. the blue part is for standing). In the center of the board, a low-profile carry handle appears. Aside from being a convenient place to hold while carrying the board under an arm, the handle also provides a focal point from which to orient your stance. The front of the board is bare except for a logo and a crossing bungee arrangement that can be used to secure a small load of cargo.
The air valve is conveniently located out of the way at the very rear of the deck. A half-turn to the left opens the valve’s sealed cover. Filling the board with air is easier than you might expect, especially with the Titan Pump, which comes with the board. The Titan is the most muscled-looking air pump I’ve ever seen, and it comes appropriately imprinted with an old-fashioned weight lifter. It’s two red air cylinders signal the kind of output this thing gets. The pump’s nozzle attaches to the air valve with a half-twist to the right.
When first pumping the board, the Titan uses both air cylinders. And it shows. It only takes a few minutes to get the board mostly inflated. At some point, pumping both cylinders will become more than most mere mortals can stand. A tethered release valve on the back of the pump handle unscrews, allowing you to pump with a single cylinder. There may be some SUPer hero who can get this thing up to 20 psi without switching to a single cylinder, but that’s not me. 18-20 psi is the goal, and it doesn’t take long to get there. 10 minutes or less is about what you can expect if you don’t take too many breaks.
Once the board is filled, the pump nozzle can be removed without any loss of air from the board. The air valve self-seals, a comforting notion when you’re in the middle of a lake. One thing that surprised me about the Ten Six is how rigid it is when fully inflated. A few friends who took a spin on the board were surprised when I told them that it’s an inflatable.
Plopping it into the water next to the dock at my in-laws house, I thought how easy it was going to be getting on this thing. I had seen so many photos and videos of people riding or doing yoga on SUPs that the boards look like steady little burgs of watergoing serenity. But when you first mount an SUP, it’s a little like trying to get your balance on an ironing board in the middle of a half-filled waterbed.
The going was slow at first. A few photos accompanying this post partially illustrate the process. I started–without a paddle–in a kneeling position, with my butt on my heels. Once I felt comfortable there, I rose up to my knees, then crouched on my feet and slowly rose to a full stance. At each stage, I rocked a little from side to side to get a feel for how the board felt on the still water of the lake.
Once I was up, I took up the paddle and started paddling. Red Paddle Co.’s Glass Paddle is lightweight, easily adjustable, and breaks down into two pieces. The ergonomic top handle has a soft rubber finish that makes it comfortable and grippy. Of course, I held the paddle backwards for the first little bit [Note: the flat side of the blade is the pushing side.], but soon got into a decent rhythm and was able to paddle up and down the lakeshore.
The Ten Six is nice and wide, 32 inches. That combined with the length made for a pretty stable paddling experience, even for a first-timer. Of course, I fell off quite a bit, but that was mainly due to my testing different stances and seeing how the board reacted to my movement about the deck. After a few times using the board, I felt very comfortable on it and was able to paddle quite a distance without much difficulty.
I found the movement of the board, gliding silently through the water, to be very relaxing. It was also a lot of fun. I made a game of standing at the rear of the board, letting it sink as far as it could, before sliding off and watching it launch into the air. I mastered somersaults on the deck and even managed a headstand. My kids loved taking rides with me. During the couple of months I tested the board, we spent more time on the lake than we ever had before.
Because the lake at my in-laws house is extremely still, I wanted to take the board out to a larger body of water, where there would be deeper water, larger wind-driven waves, and a little more unpredictability.
The Destination: Deer Creek Reservoir on the 4th of July. Getting up in Deer Creek was almost, but not quite, like learning all over again how to get on the board. Though quite stiff, the board does flex a little in wavy water, but not as much as you might expect. It was a steady platform even in the wake of a passing ski boat, whether or not I was ready for it (Thanks, dude!).
Storage, Deflation and Transport
When you’re done riding for the day, you can store the board inflated. It loses almost no air, even after a week or two. For transport, though, you definitely want to remove the air. Just follow Red Paddle’s instructions, and you’ll be fine. [Pro Tip: When you begin deflation, the air coming out is extremely loud. Holding a t-shirt or towel near the opening keeps the noise down.]
The Ten Six’s transport bag is pretty feature laden itself. I’ve already mentioned that it has wheels and stands up, but it can also convert into a backpack. Padded straps are concealed under a Velcro flap, and a waist strap with a beefy buckle is tucked into two side slots near the bottom of the bag. This makes it easy for carrying on a trail or in a gravel parking lot. If you pack it right, you can fit the board, pump, and paddle into the bag. All packed up, the bag stashes neatly in a back seat, trunk, or roof basket.
The SUP market has exploded in the last 4-5 years. More and more boards appear every summer as people catch on to this addicting sport. To keep up with demand, new SUP brands seem to spring up like early summer dandelions. The Ten Six is the only board I’ve tried–other than a few minutes this summer when I swapped it to try out a rigid board another SUPer had out on the lake–but my experience was a good one.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the Ten Six SUP by Red Paddle Co. It’s extremely well-made and combines the attributes of steadiness, maneuverability and glide [and fun]that made for some really great paddling experiences this summer.