Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: 2015 Red Air Sport 11 Inflatable SUP Board from Red Paddle Co.

We recently had an opportunity to get a sneak preview on some of the newest 2015 Red Air inflatable paddle board models from Red Paddle Co.

Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP from Red Paddle Co

Included is the new Sport 11 ISUP – a sleek, streamlined inflatable SUP featuring 120mm drop-stitch material and the revolutionary new rocker stiffening system (RSS), making it a whopping 20+% tougher and more rigid than most ISUPs on the market.

Founded in 2007, Red Paddle Company is a UK-based business focused solely on the design and manufacture of inflatable paddle boards and accessories. While well known throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand, if was only in the past couple of years that the Red Airs started arriving in the US.

Each of the Red Air boards utilize high pressure drop-stitch technology – allowing them to be inflated from 15-25PSI – and feature quadruple rail construction and double layering. Each board comes with the Red Air EZee pump, allowing one to inflate a paddle board to 20 PSI and higher in less than 10 minutes.

Red Air Explorer 2-6, Sport 11 and Ride 10-6 inflatable SUPs

This is the third in the series on the new 2015 models – the first was on the Ten Six Ride, followed by the Twelve Six Explorer. So, here is our write-up on the 2015 Red Air Sport 11 from Red Paddle Company. (Please note: Some of this will be repeated from previous write-ups.)

Red Air Sport 11: Getting Started

The box as received weighs 38 lbs, measuring 38 x 15 x 15 inches.

What's in the box.

Inside the box is the SUP body, two RSS side battens, HP EZee pump, pressure gauge, backpack, cinch belt, removable fin, instructions and repair kit – as well as a bonus cell phone case. Once rolled up, the SUP board and paddle fit into the backpack, as well as optional breakdown paddles under 37 inches.

Easily fits in the trunk of a small car.

Weight is 33 lbs for backpack, board and pump, which all easily fit in the back of a small car. The board alone is approximately 25 lbs.

Red Air Sport 11: Setup

The Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP arrives rolled up around the high pressure EZee pump, inside the backpack.

Bonus cell phone protector with instructions

While the box included instructions in French, if you locate the cell phone case (attached to the back pack), the English version is folded inside the case.

Unrolling the Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP body.

For your first set up, remove and unroll the SUP body. Lay it out face up so that you can access the military valve.

Opening the military valve for inflation.

The Red Air Sport 11 utilizes one spring-loaded military valve for inflation. These are very simple to use and feature a deflate mode (spring plunger is DOWN) and inflate mode (spring plunger is UP). By using your finger to push on the plunger, it can be moved to the inflate mode (air goes in and doesn’t come back out) and deflate mode (air goes in and comes back out). Before you go to all the effort of inflating the board, PLEASE make sure the plunger is in the inflate position.

Attaching the hose to the pump.

The included single-action pump comes with a pressure gauge, so you can monitor the board’s PSI. The gauge screws onto the pump – pull the pump handle up (so the pump body doesn’t get in the way) then start with the gauge face down and it will screw on to end face up. Make sure you screw the gauge on carefully – if it gets cross-threaded, you will hear air escaping, making it difficult to pump the board up to necessary pressures.

Attaching the pump hose to the military valve.

Next, attach the hose to the gauge. Take the military valve adaptor, and screw it onto the valve slightly to lock into position. You’re ready to pump!

Pumping up the Red Paddle Co Sport 11 inflatable SUP

The first step is to insert the two RSS fiberglass side battens. To do this, the instructions say to inflate the board until it has its shape – but is still relatively flat – as this will make inserting the battens easier.  We pumped about 100 strokes (1.25 minutes) until the board started to unfurl but the board was not firm and the gauge was not registering. This gave us enough bulk to stand the board on its side without “flopping over.”

Installing the Red Air RSS fiberglass stiffening battens

Locate the side pocket openings, then gently slide the battens into each of the side slots, until just the red string is showing. As you push, the batten will reach the curve in the board side, you can push down on the batten slightly to guide it along. AirKayaks tip: Before putting in the batten, lay it across the side rail and mentally note the pocket end. This helps locate where you need to start putting pressure as it bends around the curve.

Having used the RSS system in the past, we were aware that the first time you attempt to install the battens, you will be facing a major challenge! As the material becomes somewhat stuck to itself during the “long trip over” it was nearly impossible for me to insert the battens into the side sleeves. Before inserting the batten, we worked over the sleeve by pressing on it. It still took about 5 minutes to get the batten entirely into the sleeve – in fact, the last few inches required the back end of a mag flashlight. On the plus side, the second time is MUCH easier, and I imagine within a couple subsequent setups, it will be a breeze. So, expect to have a tough time the first setup, bring a large friend.

Flip the board and install the second batten.

Pumping up the Red Paddle Co Sport 11 inflatable SUP

Now you can complete the inflation process. After another 50 pumps the gauge started registering, and we reached 7PSI with a total of 200 pumps and nearly 3 minutes. Continue pumping and it will start to get slightly tougher – it’s still not difficult but you need to change your pumping stance slightly. Put one foot behind and use your legs to move up and down, so as not to strain your back. If it get’s too tough, change to the “half pump” technique.

With 50 more strokes we were at 12 PSI, while another 25 pumps brought us to 15PSI – so, a total of 275 pumps and nearly 5 minutes.

The higher the pressure, the stiffer the board. While the boards can be pumped up to 25 PSI (and you will earn it) the Red Air recommended pressure is 18 PSI;  if you are a smaller person, you can easily get away with the lower-end PSI.

Replacing the valve cover.

Remove the hose adaptor and replace the valve cap.

Installing the Red Air tracking fin

Last step, flip the board over and install the tracking fin. The Sport 11 uses a US Fin Box – this is a commonly-used, slotted box that allows one to use various fin styles. The Sport 11 comes with a classic style deep fin for all around paddling. From previous test runs, we were aware that the factory sometimes hides the fin in the Sherpa pocket on the back of the roller back pack – this is exactly where we found it.

Installing the Red Air tracking fin

One side of the fin has a pin, the other a screw and fin plate. Remove the fin plate. Taking the fin, insert the pin side into the center opening. If you push down, you will find a long slot towards the board surface. Slide the pin into this, and push the fin towards the back, locking one side into position.

Installing the Red Air tracking fin.

The other side also has a deep slot. Take the fin plate and push that into the slot. While the instructions suggest using a screwdriver, this is not something we keep in our back pocket. An easier method is to slightly attach the screw into the fin plate, and guide this into the slot. Then remove the screw to guide the fin plate under the hole in the fin. Push down on the fin, then screw through the fin hole, into the fin plate. There is roughly two inches of leeway in positioning. Settle the fin where you want it and tighten the screw with your fingers. As a precaution, pull up on the fin to make sure it is truly attached.

The Red Air Sport is easy to carry

You’re done! Under 10 minutes with an excellent upper arm workout and you’re ready for the water.

Red Air ISUP Construction

According to the manufacturer, what makes the Red Air inflatable paddle boards superior to others on the market, has to do with the internal construction.


First, the Red Airs are constructed using “dropstitch” technology. The top of the board is held together with the bottom via thousands of “stitches” – in the Red Airs, 10 stitches per inch. These threads are “double stitched” so if one were to break, another holds. This allows the boards to be pumped up to very high pressures of 15 to 25 PSI – and in some cases higher – and ensures that air doesn’t move around inside the board, creating a stable ride. The 2015 Sport 11 utilizes 120mm dropstitch technology, making the board 20% more rigid than many boards yet still allowing the rider to keep a low center of gravity.

Second, the boards use a double layering technique which – in the simplest terms – means they construct a board, and put another board around it. It’s a board-within-a-board, which adds strength and durability.

Quadruple rail construction

The weakest link in an inflatable paddle board is the rail (side edge) area – where the top and bottom panels join together. Most ISUPS are constructed with one rail layer – Red Airs feature four layers of staggered taping to ensure minimal chance of air leakage due to punctures.

Red Air Sport 11 Features and Specifications

The board is actually incredibly simple and streamlined.

Military valve and ankle leash d-ring

There is one rear d-ring for an ankle leash, and one military valve.

Carrying handle and traction pad

A textured, traction pad is 72 x 24 inches, beginning 49 inches from the nose. In the center is a low profile handle, positioned 67 inches from the snout. The back of the traction pad features parallel “gutters” allowing water to run off.

Bungee deck lacing for carrying gear

Forward of the traction pad are four plastic d-rings with bungee deck lacing for attaching gear. These are located 15.5 to 24 inches apart, by 19 inches deep, with the first set located about 43 inches from the snout.

Fiberglass battens of the RSS Rocker Stiffening System

The Sport 11 utilizes the patented Rocker Stiffening System (RSS), featuring two fiberglass battens to increase rigidity. The RSS pocket sleeve is built separately, then laminated to the board rails to ensure the best fit and performance. By inserting the two stiffening battens along the rails of the board, the battens work against the downward force of the rider to produce a stiffer board by preventing flex – similar to how a stringer works on a hard board. The stiffening battens are removable for easy board rolling and can be stored in the carry bag for transportation to and from the water. Each batten is 35 by 1.25 inches.

Removable tracking fin

The Sport 11 utilizes a low profile US box fin system – this allows you to put in various flat water fins of your choosing, but it comes supplied with a removable 8-inch US Box classic deepwater fin designed for straight line control.

Front and back views of the roller backpack.

The newly-redesigned roller back pack features a quilted front and padded back with adjustable padded shoulder straps, a molded rubber top handle, two padded side carrying handles, and a molded rigid handle on the underside – basically, you can carry it just about any way you can think of. Two-way zippers allow the pack to be open on three sides, making it much simpler to get the board in and out. A clear pocket on the back is provided for identification labels. Inside, one integrated cinch belt keeps the board in position, while three inflatable fin guards make sure the fins don’t get bent.

Integrated roller wheels allows it to be easily hauled through airports or on sidewalks, if one doesn’t feel like carrying it on their back.

A “hidden pocket” – called the Sherpa Carry System – allows the shoulder straps to be uncinched and stashed inside; this is particularly good for travel/planes as the straps won’t catch on items. Inside this are the adjustable waist straps.

Outer measurements on the backpack are 40 x 16 x 11 inches, allowing the pump and an optional breakdown paddle to fit inside.

Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP from Red Paddle Co

We did measurement tests. The 300 liter Red Air Sport 11 inflated is 11 feet long, 31 inches wide, and nearly 5 inches deep. The squared-off tail is 14 inches wide. Payload is 225 lbs.

Red Air Sport 11 On the Water

The Red Air Sport is easy to carry

First thing to note, this is a beautiful board – sleek, great lines, bold colors. At 25 lbs with the side battens, the Sport 11 feels rock solid even at 15 PSI, yet is still light enough for many to haul around.

Red Air Sport11 inflatable SUP on the water.

I took it out on a calm day. First impressions – very smooth paddling, great glide, and it’s pretty fast. Despite the narrower beam, the board felt incredibly stable and was very easy to stand up and drop down without a ripple. Turning was also easy – still with a feeling of stability. The 5-inch thickness provides buoyancy without sacrificing performance.

Paddling kneeling with a kayak paddle, the Sport 11 is a whirlwind.

Good for multiple riders.

While the water wasn’t clear enough to bring along one of my furry sidekicks this day, many of the pack have ridden Red Air boards – claws are not an issue. Here is Eddie on a Race 12-6.

Packing Up the Red Air Sport 11

To deflate the board is pretty simple. Remove the tracking fin, making sure to re-attach the fin plate to the screw, so as not to lose it. Burp the valve plunger a couple of times to release pressure, then push the plunger to the open (down) position and immediately the air will swoosh out.

Rolling up the Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP

Leaving the plunger in the deflate mode, move to the snout of the ISUP. Start tightly rolling up the board from the snout, top side up and fins down, with the bottom on the outside. As you roll it up, air will continuously be pushed out of the open valve. One can also place the EZee pump on the snout so the pump is rolled up inside – remove the hose and gauge first, so they don’t get crushed.

Rolling up the Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP

When fully rolled up, replace the valve cover and then take the attached strap and cinch it around the bundle. If you’ve rolled up tight enough, the board will easily slip back into the backpack. Put the fin into the front back Sherpa pocket and use the interior cinch straps to position the load.

Red Air Sport Eleven: Bottom Line

The Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP is a fabulous all-around board, a true thoroughbred! It’s fast, nimble, very rigid, remarkably stable and – with the included deep water fin – paddles well and tracks/glides nicely.

Carrying handle and traction pad

The sleek silhouette and striking colors are a head-turner – when you’re on a Red, people know it.

Red Air Explorer 2-6, Sport 11 and Ride 10-6 inflatable SUPs

This is the perfect bridge in the Red Air line – the sleek shape and longer water line makes it zippier and more nimble than the Rides, yet easier to inflate and carry around than the Explorer or Race 12-6. Coupled with the beefier 120mm material, RSS batten system and the thicker 5-inch thickness, the Sport 11 can be handled by smaller paddlers, yet provides super-rigidity and speed for larger paddlers.

Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP from Red Paddle Co

As the Sport features a narrower beam, the squared off tail provides more stability when standing towards the back of the board.

Profile view of the Red Air Sport 11 ISUP

And the slightly more progressive rocker line with a sharper nose makes for a better glide by riding over the water.

Red Air Sport 11 on a river.

The Sport 11 design has a special affinity for flatwater; it’s good for shorelines, calm and choppy waters, rivers, ocean bays and inlets. It’s perfect for a day cruising along the shoreline and if the sun becomes too much – just slide off the board into the water to cool down. But it’s also capable of picking up small waves.

Bungee deck lacing for carrying gear

The front d-rings and deck lacing are ample enough for an afternoon of gear.

The Red Airs "take a licking and keep on ticking."

According to the manufacturer, Red Air inflatable SUPs are virtually indestructible. In one video, a Red Air is dragged through every knothole in the world – hurled repeatedly from the roof of a warehouse; repeatedly run over with tractors and trucks; dashed against high surf and rocks; and the ultimate decimation – used as a snowboard.

And with its near-indestructible construction, parents can relax when the kids start tossing it around.

The Red Air Sport is easy to carry with the included backpack

Best of all, it rolls up into the included backpack – which can house the pump and a breakdown paddle – making it a great inflatable to toss in the trunk of a car, pack down a beach or wheel through airports.

Sleek lines on the Red Air Sport 11 inflatable SUP

The Red Air Sport Eleven from Red Paddle Company is a real winner, providing speed, style and comfort – an all around cruiser for those that want performance without bulk.  At $1449 MSRP, it’s on the higher end of the retail market, but worth it.

For more details, watch our YouTube video on the Red Air Sport 11 Inflatable SUP, below.


To purchase, visit the Red Paddle Sport Eleven product page on


  1. I am trying to decide between the Red Sport 11 vs the Sea Eagle Needle Nose. Can you help me decide which is the better board? Is the Sea Eagle as durable as the Red?

    1. Hi Tricia:
      Our apologies, but we don’t sell the Sea Eagle line so have no idea about performance. That said, the Red Sport 11 is a great performing board, very rugged, and great looking too!

  2. I’m trying to decide between this board and the 10’6 ride. Most of my paddling to date has been touring but I live in the DC area where there is a lot of access to swift flowing rivers and even whitewater. My hard board would get destroyed by most of the rivers around here, and the Ride’s iFin system would be much more durable for rock-filled rivers than the 11’s center fin (at least I would think so). I’d also expect that the ride’s hull shape and fin system would make it more maneuverable on swifter winding rivers but maybe not? Does the 10’6 ride turn quicker and surf better than this board? and how much more speed to you really get with the 11? If the speed difference isn’t all that great and the Ride is nimbler on rivers and surfs better then I’d probably go that direction.

    1. Hi Mark:
      They are both great boards, with different focuses. If you want maneuverability on swifter rivers, better turning, some surfing, etc. then the Ride 10-6 would be the best choice. The Sport 11 is longer, less stable and certainly faster – best for flatwater cruising. Hope that helps!
      Holly Harris

  3. Hello. I am trying to decide between a red paddle co sport or explorer. I live in WA and would mostly use it for lakes but they can get choppy somedays. My big concern is with weight, speed and stability. I like inflatables because they are easy to pack in places. My big concern is I weigh 145lbs and if I want a passenger or a 50-60lbs dog with me would the sport be big enough or be able to hold the weight. I know the explorer is a lot bigger and quite a bit heavier but does that make it slower out on the water? I want to be able to paddle miles with ease. And I want to be able to pack it on my back and be comfortable. I most likely wouldn’t be packing it to far on my back.

    1. Hi Amy:
      Regarding stability, the Explorer would be much more stable – the Sport is narrow, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for two. Nor with a dog unless the dog is pretty calm. But, the Sport is faster, lighter. So you need to decide which attributes are the most important to you.

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