This past week, we received our first shipment of the new Airis HardTop inflatable standup paddle boards from Walker Bay. New for 2013, the HardTop series includes three models – the Hardtop Tour 12.5, Hardtop SUV 11 and Hardtop Stubby 9.
The Hardtop hybrid design combines Walker Bay’s patented 6″ thick AirWeb construction with RigiDeck non-skid fiberglass steps. While each of the three models features bungee attachment points for storing gear, the Hardtop SUV and Stubby also include seat attachments points, allowing sit-down paddling with purchase of an optional backrest. And with a special appeal to fishing folks, the Hardtop SUV comes with rod and tackle box attachment points.
We selected the Airis Hardtop SUV 11 inflatable SUP for our first review, as the sit-down option and extended attachment points were quite appealing. Please note, some of the information from previous Airis reviews will be repeated here.
Getting Started with the Airis SUV 11 ISUP
The box as received weighs 34.6 lbs, measuring 28 x 20 x14 inches.
Inside is the Airis backpack, a very nifty duffel bag with adjustable shoulder straps, drawstring top and side pocket. Also included in the box is a repair kit, dual-action hand-pump, gauge and instructions. The HardTop SUP 11 can be folded up to easily fit inside the backpack. The pump can be strapped to the outside of the pack, while the repair kit can slip into the zippering pocket. Folded measurements are 26 x 10 x 19 inches.
The ISUP in the backpack with pump weighs 30 lbs. Specification weights on the board alone are 26.5 lbs, but it’s possibly closer to 25 lbs.
Airis SUV 11 Inflatable SUP Setup/Inflatation
Setup for the Airis SUV 11 is remarkably simple as there is basically one piece.
First step – unpack and unfold the board.
The Airis SUV 11 features one main inflation chamber utilizing a military valve – this is located on the side rail towards the stern. The military-style plunger valve is simple to use – with your finger, twist the plunger slightly to the “up” position to inflate (air goes in but doesn’t come back out) and “down” to deflate (air comes out).
Put the pressure gauge on the included double action pump, locking it in between the pump itself and the hose. (Please note: there is an inflate and a deflate side to the pump/hose attachment.) The pump comes with a military valve adaptor which locks onto the valve with a slight twist.
All the new Airis kayaks and SUPS come with an updated pump, which we term a “dual action” pump – a single action/double action hand pump. This is defaulted to the “double action” which means the air is pushed in on the up and the down stroke. When obtaining higher pressures (towards the 3 and 4 PSI range) it becomes increasingly tougher to pump. With a simple “twist of the knob” the pump becomes a single action pump – pushing air in on the down stroke only, making it easier to reach the higher ranges.
Start pumping. After a few minutes, you will reach the 4PSI mark, where it gets tougher. Switch over to the single action feature and continue pumping until you reach the full pressure of 10PSI. If it really gets tough, try the “half pump” method by using a half stroke rather than full. Once you reach 10PSI, screw on the wingnut cap to protect the valve, and prevent air from accidentally escaping.
Deflation is just as easy. Simply open up the valve and roll up the board, pushing out the air. You can also use the deflate side of the hand pump to completely pump out the air, then lock the plunger into the Inflate Mode (air stays out). Replace the wing-nut cap to protect the valve when not in use.
One neat feature with the HardTop series – by folding the ISUP up, and then folding in half, the integrated fin is cushioned by the two sides, preventing the fin from curling while stored. Details are given in the instruction manuals.
Features and Specifications on the Airis SUV 11
The Airis HardTop board body construction features a proprietary Airweb construction – this consists of a heavy duty, seven-layer polymer coated fabric that is joined inside by thousands of drop-stitch fibers, allowing the HardTops to be pumped up to higher pressures.
While many inflatable SUPs tout 10 to 15 – even 25PSI – due to the thicker 6-inch deep body (6 inches deep) the HardTops are more rigid at lower pressures, making it easier to pump up. The suggested pressure is 10 PSI, though they can be pumped up to 15 PSI if desired – and if you’re strong enough!
The Airis SUV 11 is constructed with two slim-profile carrying handles (bow, and center).making it easier to foldup for storage. There are two bungee deck lacing systems located fore and aft. The front deck system measures 12 x 12 inches and features a rubberized base for grip; the bungee deck lacing starts 34 inches from the snout.
Two velcro rod/paddle holders are located at 55″ and 81″ from the bow, between the RigiDecks – these are two proprietary fiberglass base plates which are attached to the body, creating a solid standing platform which feels “stiff on the feet” like a rigid SUP, but still allows the HardTop to deflate and fold for convenient storage. The base plates also help new paddlers to correctly orient themselves on the board. The RigiDecks measure approximately 22 inches deep by 8 inches wide, and begin 62″ from the bow. Each of the RigiDecks is covered with a ribbed EVA foam for grip.
Behind the two “RigiDeck Non-Skid Fiberglass Base” is a 17″ x 20″ grip” traction pad, offering flexibility in stance. This is also positioned under the rear bungee deck lacing system. The rear deck lacing measures 19 to 24 inches wide by 15 inches deep, and can house a milk crate for fishing gear.
There is one rear d-ring for attaching an ankle leash.
Two side d-rings are located 52 inches from the rear, and can be used to attach further gear or to attach a seat for “sit-on-top” kayak paddling.
The hull has an integrated deep tracking fin, 10 inches x 5 inches.
We did measurement tests. The Airis HardTop SUV 11 paddle board inflated is 10 feet, 11 inches long (131 inches), approximately 31.5 to 32 inches at the widest point, and is 6 inches thick. Weight limitation is 250 lbs for person and gear.
Airis HardTop SUV 11 ISUP on the Water
We tested out the HardTop SUV 11 for short times over a couple of days.
First, I tested it in mild swells with lots of power boats travelling by. It was easy to stand up and get down, and felt pretty stable for my size (5’4″). It moved pretty well, and tracking was fine with just a slight bob. While I had only pumped it up to 7 PSI, I did not feel any bending underfoot.
Next, I added some gear to see how it would handle. The front deck lacing easily carries the backpack and pump, while the rubberized base gives just enough grip. The rear deck area easily fit a longer milk crate. Besides a great way for carrying fishing gear, I could easily see using it as a dog seat for smaller buddy.
The two velcro paddle holders work well, but they are located where one sits. This could be a good method for carrying the board – just strap in your paddle and use it as a handle. It also would work to fasten the paddle while swimming, or to haul a fishing pole. The addition of gear and weight actually helped a bit, seating the board a bit more into the water.
Next, I scrounged up a seat to try sit-on-top kayaking. The Airis HardTop SUV 11 is a wonderful sit-on-top – fast, paddles well, turns pretty easily and rides swells.
In calm water, it’s a blast. While Airis does offer an optional seat, they did not arrive with the boards. I pulled out a Seattle Sports EZ seat, and tried attaching. While this could work in a pinch, the seat is a bit too flimsy to offer long term support, and with only two attachment points, one can’t ratchet it quite tight enough. (AirKayaks note: the new Seattle Sports higher-backed seat looks more promising, but we’re hoping the Airis seats will arrive soon). Please also note that since this is basically a board with a seat, one is likely to get wet while paddling.
One other thing to note – by judicious placement of the seat, one can use gear attached to the front deck lacing as a “foot brace.”
Airis HardTop SUV 11 Bottom Line:
The Airis HardTop SUV 11 is a fun board!
It’s perfect for many members of the family, quite versatile and long enough for an adult and small kid or canine companion.
At 26 lbs it’s lightweight. Set up is very simple and takes less than 10 minutes, but for those wanting to speed up the process, investing in a 12-volt pump to kick-start the inflation process would be worthwhile. The included double/single-action pump is a great touch, making it much easier to reach the recommended 10 PSI.
The bungee deck lacing adds just enough flexibility for added storage and accessories without making it too complicated – this is a great option for kayak fishing, or for carrying camping gear.
The ability to switch to sit-down paddling provides a lot of versatility, making it a great board for family members with different paddling styles.
Best uses are on calm waters and slow moving rivers. And if it gets too hot out in the sun, it’s easy to slide into the water and climb back on board, or use it as a diving/jumping platform.
The included backpack is rugged and roomy, opening up the possibility of a trek into remote areas. It can also be stashed in the trunk of a car or checked as baggage for your next plane flight – it’s a great choice for travel.