It was finally time. I was in desperate need of a brand new stand up paddle board and the search was on.
I had been busting my butt all year long and decided I needed to treat myself to a new toy. What’s all that hard work for if you never get to enjoy the fruits of your labors every once in awhile?
What’s a girl to do about choosing the perfect paddle board for her lifestyle?
Fortunately for me, this is kinda what I do. So I simply went back through the archives and decided to take my own advice about the matter.
In the end, I decided on the iRocker Sport 11’ inflatable SUP.
Keep reading and I’ll walk you through how I made my decision and my uncensored and unfiltered opinion of the iRocker SPORT board. What I have to say about it may surprise some of you…
The Narrowing Down Process
There are so many choices out there now when it comes to paddle boards, how does one even begin to decide?
It’s easy to experience information overload and become paralyzed with indecision when it comes to parting with several hundred dollars of your hard-earned money. The fear of making a bad choice and experiencing buyer’s remorse down the line is hard to overcome.
It’s perfectly understandable and normal to feel that way.
The best way to go about making any important buying decision is to start off with the criteria that are pretty much non-negotiable for you — the things that you know you want in a board. This could be something like a price ceiling, a particular brand, a must-have feature…anything that will start the narrowing down process.
For me, I knew I wanted an inflatable board. I split my time between Florida and Montana and I knew I wanted something that was going to be easily transportable for those cross country trips.
From there, it was simply a matter of answering for myself all the questions I put forth in my, “5 Crucial Questions To Ask Before Choosing a Stand Up Paddle Board” article.
Where will I be paddling? Flat water reservoirs in Montana and light chop / small surf on Florida’s gulf coast. So I needed something that could handle both.
Who’s paddling? Me, duh! More specifically, a 5’ 3” female who paddles at an intermediate level.
What’s my price range? Having reviewed many different kinds of boards, I believe you get what you pay for. I didn’t want the cheapest board and I was willing to spend up to get a quality board. Of course, I still wanted to feel like I was getting value for money, however.
I Consulted My Crystal Ball As Well…
If by “crystal ball” you mean one of the myriad articles I’ve written on inflatable stand up paddle boards then, yes, I consulted my crystal ball.
I went back and refreshed my memory on some of the boards I’d written about previously. Specifically, I scanned “New ISUP Kits on the Block” and the correlating “Quick and Dirty Infographic of the Top 6 Inflatable SUPs”.
It seemed only natural, then, that I would take my own advice. In those articles, I listed the iRocker CRUISER as the “Best Overall ISUP”.
I was particularly impressed with how iRocker has managed to “one-up” the competition at nearly every level: high quality accessories that are often just low-quality after thoughts with many SUP kits, a better warranty, and a reasonable price that’s not the cheapest but is still more affordable than some other boards that I felt were inferior in one way or another.
In fact, iRocker even boasts in its Facebook advertising that,
“You can buy a cheaper paddle board but not a better one!”
I’d made up my mind that iRocker was the brand I wanted but I wanted to check out the different makes of their boards to see which board in their lineup was best for me.
As mentioned previously, I knew I’d probably encounter small surf and light chop in the places I paddle. iRocker gives high marks to its SPORT board for handling such conditions.
The SPORT is a touring style of paddle board being longer in length and narrower in width. As an intermediate paddler, this was more appealing to me than the standard all-around board.
Delivered On Time and In Good Condition
My board arrived in a timely fashion from Amazon.
All parts were included as promised and in good condition: the board, repair kit, 2-piece carbon fiber paddle, pump, carrying bag, fin, leash, a couple of fun stickers and the Quick Start User’s guide.
My board was delivered late in the day and so I had to wait until the next day before I could take it out for its inaugural paddle.
The Truth About Inflating Your Inflatable Paddle Board
How hard is it to inflate?
I was about to find out.
I carried it down to my launch point, unrolled the board, and attached the hose. My watch read — 2:43pm. Ok, let’s do this.
The pump they included was a dual action pump, meaning it inflates on both the pull up and the push down. This allegedly makes it faster to inflate.
I say allegedly because to do it this way requires much more physical exertion than just inflating on the push down. Even in the early stages, I could feel the strain on my lower back on the pull up.
Yes, you get extra air flowing through your board but at the expense of your back and about 3x more physical exertion. I consider myself fairly strong for my size, but to use the dual action the entire time to inflate my board would be borderline impossible without completely wearing myself out.
The pump has a very clear warning label saying that the pressure gauge won’t even start to register until the board reaches 7PSI. I kept the pump in dual action mode until I reached that point.
The good thing is that there’s a little plug in the neck of the pump, and all you have to do is remove the plug when you’re ready to switch to/from dual and single action.
Single action pumping is easier, but perhaps takes longer — again, I’m not so sure this is true if dual action pumping is so physically demanding that you have to stop frequently to give yourself a rest.
Stronger guys might be able to do it, but most females will have to use the single action for most of it if they want to be able to continually pump until fully inflated.
And so I carried on. I pumped and I pumped and I pumped and I pumped and I pumped some more.
I kept my eye on that pressure gauge and began to slightly despair when 15 mins had gone by and it looked like I was only at ~10PSI out of the minimum 15 required.
At this point, I readjusted the pump, my position, and my technique. Aha! This seemed to be getting me some results as I noticed more noticeable air flow going through the board once I did this.
I continued pumping for almost another 10 minutes when I finally tired of the endeavor. It was now 3:08pm — I managed to reach ~13PSI after 25 minutes of pumping and figured that would be good enough for just a little test run.
I’ll get to my performance review next but I want to say a few more words about inflating my board…
It Gets Easier
I’m willing to admit that my seemingly arduous first time inflating my board was probably largely due to user error.
🔷 I think the angle I was inflating it at caused a minor kink in the hose which restricted the flow of air.
🔷 I think my nozzle was slightly loose, too, which meant part of the air was escaping and not inflating the board.
🔷 And I think there is a certain technique to it once you get the hang of it that optimizes air flow into your board; it took me several minutes before I got this right.
I took my board out 4 times so I could test it very thoroughly before I started writing this review. Inflating my board became easier each time.
Part of it is because I knew what I was doing, but part of it is due to the board itself. A brand new board is stiffer, having never been used before.
I do believe that, after a few uses, the board develops a bit of “muscle memory”, so to speak, which makes inflating it easier and easier each time.
The second time I had my board out, it took me ~15 minutes to reach 14PSI, and the 3rd and 4th times I inflated my board, it took me 10-12 mins to reach the full 15PSI.
As you’ll read in many other reviews, the last 2-3 PSI are hard to reach and require a bit more elbow grease while pushing down to inflate. But it also requires fewer pumps at that point, too, because…physics.
Now, while I did find inflating my board became easier each time, I also know how I operate. I don’t want what little effort it takes to inflate my board to ever be an excuse for my not using it.
Therefore, I went ahead and bought an electric 12V pump you can plug into your car. Here is the model I went with:
Seamax Intelligent 20PSI Digital 12V Electric Air Pump, Designed for Inflatable SUP & Paddle Board, Fast to Reach High Pressure
It takes ~10 minutes to inflate, so not significantly less time than manual pumping, but it requires no effort on your part on the days when you’re feeling a little lazy and can’t be bothered to inflate the board on your own.
You can spend that time sorting out the rest of your gear, downing a quick cold beverage of choice, or just relaxing and enjoying the view.
Not a Beginner’s Board
Now, for the performance features.
I purposely bought a touring board. I have a large reservoir that I paddle on in Montana and I liked the thought of covering a lot of ground. The length of the board, 11 feet, allows you to go farther and go faster as well. This was an important feature for me.
The tradeoff, however, is that it’s slightly less stable. The board is only 30 inches wide vs 32-34” on a more typical “all around” board.
Upon first use, the board definitely feels a little “tippy”. You’re somewhat scared to shuffle or reposition your feet for fear of losing balance and falling in the water.
I was cautious with my strokes and movements until I worked out the limitations of the board. I didn’t want to make too big of movements and cause myself to lose balance.
The board tracked well and I was impressed with its first run.
I did feel a slight “flex” in the board, but I knew that was a result of my not pumping it up to the proper PSI.
The 2nd and 3rd times I had the board out, I wanted to test it a bit more. I managed to pump the board up to its proper PSI and felt the difference in stiffness, which helped it glide better through the water.
I was feeling more comfortable with the limitations of the board and how much I could transition weight from one leg to the other to help turn it while not losing balance.
One slightly disappointing thing about the board is that I thought it would turn with a little bit more ease than what it does.
It turns more readily than many “all around” boards, but doesn’t turn with as much acuteness as you would expect a touring board to turn with.
Overall, I would not recommend this board for a brand new beginner who’s never been paddle boarding or participated in any other board sports before. A beginner will most likely find it too unstable and I believe they would have a difficult time orienting themselves and feeling comfortable on the board.
Intermediate paddlers or those with some prior experience with paddling or other board sports should be able to adapt to the board fairly easily.
It Handles the Chop Well
On the last day of my trial run, it was windy and I went to a different part of the reservoir that was more exposed to the wind. This exposure made the reservoir choppier than what it had been previously.
Because of this, I chose to proceed with caution while figuring out the limitations of the board. I started off paddling on my knees until I knew how the board was going to handle the 1’ foot waves that were dotting the reservoir.
iRocker claims its SPORT board handles small waves and chop way better than their “all around” models — I found this to be true.
With a slight nose rocker, this enables the board to ride over the wave rather than digging into it. This is a key feature you need in a board if you’ll encounters small waves or light chop in the places you’ll be paddling.
After taking a few practice trips on my knees, I finally gathered up the courage to take a standing position on the board. The strong wind created a lot of chop on the reservoir and I felt myself get nervous as the first wave approached…
I reached forward with my paddle and gave a few strong strokes to get some momentum going as I approached the wave. I nosed over the wave and paddled through it, surprised but relieved at how easily the board managed it.
I spent about another 15 minutes paddling around in the choppy conditions, pleased at how well the board was handling.
The only thing you have to be careful of is when you’re paddling with the wave — if the wave or chop is pushing your tail, you’ll feel the tail end almost stall for a split second before carrying forward. That little pause can almost cause you to lose your balance if you’re not careful or paying attention.
Great Board, Minus a Few (Minor) Drawbacks
In short, I am very pleased with my choice in boards.
Both the board and all of the accessories are very high quality and offer great value for money.
I think thanks to my diligence in researching my choices ahead of my decision, I found a board that perfectly suits me and my needs.
While inflating the board can be challenging at first, it does get easier the more you do it. Also, I would note that this is probably not unique just to iRocker boards but to all inflatable paddle boards.
The board is slightly tippy and doesn’t have as stable of a platform, but this is typical with the narrower, touring style profile.
However, I will say that its turning ability disappointed slightly. I expected it to be able to turn with a bit more precision than what it does for a touring board. This is just a minor gripe and not totally a fault of the board, more of just a personal preference.
Lastly, one thing to be aware of is its performance in a following chop or swell. As the wave glides under the board, it can create a slight stalling action that might throw some people off balance.
Again, this is a minor detail (I hesitate to even call it a ‘flaw’) but something for people to be aware of when they’re using the board.
The good in this board far outweighs the (barely) bad: high quality accessories, great tracking, ease of handling small chop and waves, and value for money.
Overall, I’d have to agree with iRocker’s tagline: “You can find a cheaper board, but you not a better one!”
I stand by my previous reviews that rank iRocker as the ‘Best Overall Inflatable Board’. I would recommend iRocker to anyone who is in the market for an iSUP and deem them to be high quality, good value paddle boards.
Do you have an opinion on the iRocker? I’d love to hear it! Leave a comment and let me know what you think.