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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For your first set up, remove and unroll the SUP body. Lay it out face up so that you can access the military valve.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
Remove the hose adaptor and replace the valve cap.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is one rear d-ring for an ankle leash, and one military valve.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The sleek silhouette and striking colors are a head-turner – when you’re on a Red, people know it.
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.
As the Sport features a narrower beam, the squared off tail provides more stability when standing towards the back of the board.
And the slightly more progressive rocker line with a sharper nose makes for a better glide by riding over the water.
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.
The front d-rings and deck lacing are ample enough for an afternoon of gear.
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.
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.
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 AirKayaks.com.