We continue with our write-ups on the new Airis HardTop series of inflatable paddle boards from Walker Bay – the Hardtop Tour 12.5, Hardtop SUV 11 and Hardtop Stubby 9.
The Hardtop hybrid design combines Walker Bay’s patented 6-inch 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.
Our first review was on the Airis SUV 11, so this time we selected the Stubby 9 – a 10-PSI minimalist – as the simplicity and light-weight were appealing. Please note, some of the information from previous Airis reviews will be repeated here.
Getting Started with the Airis Stubby 9 ISUP
The box as received weighs 29 lbs, measuring 28 x 20 x14 inches.
Inside is the updated Airis backpack, a duffel bag with adjustable shoulder straps, drawstring top and mesh side panel. Also included in the box is a repair kit, dual-action hand-pump, gauge and instructions. The HardTop Stubby 9 can be folded up to easily fit inside the backpack, along with the pump. Folded measurements are 28 x 10 x 19 inches.
The ISUP in the backpack with pump weighs 25 lbs – the body alone is 22 lbs.
Airis Stubby 9 Inflatable SUP Setup/Inflatation
Setup for the Airis Stubby 9 is remarkably simple as there is basically one piece.
First step – unpack and unfold the board.
The Airis Stubby 9 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 couple of minutes – about 90 to 95 full pumps in double action mode – the board really starts filling out and the gauge starts to register. At 130 pumps the board was at 5 PSI, and pumping was getting tougher. We switched over to the single action feature; another 20 pumps to 6 psi, and 20 more to 7 psi. Continue pumping until you reach the full pressure of 10 PSI. This gets really tough, so try the “half pump” method by using a half stroke rather than full.
Once you reach 10PSI, screw on the wing-nut cap to protect the valve, and prevent air from accidentally escaping. (AirKayaks.com note: Okay, we confess that at 7 PSI we pulled out a Bravo HP pump with a little more torque, and it took us another 10 pumps to get to 10 PSI).
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 manual.
Features and Specifications on the Airis Stubby 9
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 the HardTops are more rigid at lower pressures, making it easier to pump up (as long as you have the right pump!). 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 Stubby 9 is constructed with two slim-profile, coated-cloth carrying handles (bow, and center) making it easier to fold up for storage. The middle carrying handle is slightly off center, making it a bit easier to carry.
There is one bungee deck lacing system for attaching gear; it’s located 26 inches back from the bow, and measures 13 inches deep, by 15-tapering-to-11 inches wide.
There are two RigiDecks – 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 7.5 inches wide, and begin 49 inches from the bow. Each of the RigiDecks is covered with a ribbed EVA foam for grip, and are set apart by 9.5 inches.
There is one rear d-ring for attaching an ankle leash.
Two side d-rings are located 41 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, 9.5 inches x 5 inches.
We did measurement tests. The Airis HardTop Stubby 9 paddle board inflated is 106 inches long, approximately 32 inches at the widest point, and is 6 inches thick. Weight limitation is 220 lbs for person and gear.
Airis HardTop Stubby 9 ISUP on the Water
We tested out the HardTop Stubby 9 for short times over a couple of days.
First, I tested it in calm water. I expected nose wag due to the board’s shortness, but it handled well. It was zippy, minimal wag and turned easily. At no time did I feel any sag or flexing. In fact, the foam-covered “RigiDecks” are extremely firm underfoot. I found that moving more toward the front of the EVA deckpads helped with the tracking (thanks Stefano!).
Next, I scrounged up a seat to try sit-on-top kayaking – in this case the Aquaglide Whitewater seat with fishing rod holders.
The Airis HardTop Stubby 9 is a great little sit-on-top – fast, paddles well, turns pretty easily and rides swells. While there are no foot braces, gear stashed in the front deck lacing could serve the purpose. There were two drawbacks as a sit-on-top; there are only two d-rings for attaching a seat – which is not quite enough for good support – and there is no foot brace. Our suggestion would be to get two more after-market d-rings and glue them onto the board, allowing one to have a four-way seat attachment. And the addition of gear to the front bungee deck lacing could be utilized as a brace.
Next, I added some gear to see how it would handle. The front deck lacing easily carries the backpack and pump, and bingo – it works as a brace. While it might hamper your paddling style, if you were just out to enjoy the day, I could easily see a small adult bringing along a small child or dog for a ride. While I did not attempt to bring along my paddling buddy Cleo (she’s much too antsy) I would not worry about claws. We do show her on the SUV 11 (image above), which features the same materials and construction.
I did go out again with my hiking buddy, Gigi. As a smaller person, she immediately fell in love with the Stubby 9; she found the carrying weight, size and handling to be great – in fact, she took it home with her.
Airis HardTop Stubby 9 Inflatable SUP Bottom Line:
The Airis HardTop Stubby 9 is a fun little board! It’s simplicity personified; small enough to haul around yet – with an optional seat – it is versatile enough to use as a sit-on-top, making it a great board for family members with different paddling styles.
At 22 lbs it’s lightweight. Set up is very simple and takes just about 5 minutes. While the included double/single-action pump is a great touch and has the added bonus of a deflate mode, one of the single-action SUP-oriented Bravo pumps would make it 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 a day of fun cruising the shorelines, dunking in the water, or for fishing.
Because the foam covered deck covers a small square footage, the Stubby is not the choice for surfing or whitewater. 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. Paddler sizes can be up to 225 lbs.
And it’s a great pricepoint. At $749, it is an affordable option for those wanting to try out the sport, but aren’t sure what they need. The small size – coupled with the roomy backpack – open 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.
The Stubby 9 is shown above next to its bigger sibling, the very popular SUV 11 inflatable SUP.
Stay tuned. Coming soon – a YouTube video on the Airis Stubby 9 inflatable SUP in the next couple of weeks.