In October, some of the new Red Air 2015 models from Red Paddle Co arrived in the States. Having previously reviewed the 2012 and 2013 models, we were eager to take a re-look to see how the boards had evolved; we weren’t disappointed.
The bulk of the 2015 inventory sailed in a few weeks later. Our first choice was the Ride 9-8, a new 2015 model which blended the best attributes of the previous Allwater 9-6 and Surfer 10-0.
Well-known for their ruggedness, each of the Red Air boards utilize high-pressure, dropstitch technology – allowing them to be inflated from 15-25 PSI – and feature quadruple rail construction with double layering.
Following is our write-up on the 2015 Red Air Ride Nine Eight from Red Paddle Company. (Please note, some of this is repeated from previous writeups.)
Getting Started with the Red Paddle Co Ride 9-8
The box as received weighs 36 lbs, measuring 37 x 15 x 15 inches.
Inside the box is the SUP body, back pack, HP EZee pump, pressure gauge, cinch belt, fin guards, RSS side battens, instructions and repair kit – and a very nifty bonus cell phone case! Once rolled up, the SUP board and pump fit into the backpack, as well as a breakdown paddle 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 just under 25 lbs.
The 9-8 Ride inflatable SUP arrives rolled up inside the backpack. While French instructions were sitting in the box, if you locate the cell phone case (attached to the back pack), the English version is folded inside.
Remove the fin guards and unroll the SUP body. There are three integrated tracking fins at the rear of the board. Lay it out face up (fins down) so that you can access the military valve.
The Red Air Ride 9-8 utilizes one spring-loaded military valve for inflation. These are very simple to use and feature an inflate mode (spring plunger is UP) and a deflate mode (spring plunger is DOWN). By using your finger to gently 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. Tip #1: Make sure you screw the gauge on carefully – if it gets cross-threaded, air will leak out and you will have a difficult time pumping the board up to necessary pressure.
Next, attach the hose to the gauge, again making sure there is no cross-threading. 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 (1.5 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 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! Before inserting the batten, we worked over the sleeve by pressing on it. While this particular board was easier than some in the past, it still took a few 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. Soon after starting to pump, the gauge started to register. After another 1.5 minutes and an additional 75 full pumps, we were at 10PSI and the pumping was getting tough. We switched to the “half stroke” method. With 63 more half pumps and at a total of 4.75 minutes of pumping, we were at 15 PSI – and we quit.
The higher the pressure, the stiffer the board. The Red Air recommended pressure is between 15 and 25 PSI, preferably 18 PSI; If you are a smaller person, you will find it tough to pump up much higher than 15 PSI, but you can also get away with less pressure; for my height of 5’4″ and weight, 15 PSI is more than adequate. Larger people will find it easier to pump up to the higher pressures. For more info, see our Guide to Choosing a Pump for Your High-Pressure Inflatable SUP.
So keep plugging. All in all, it takes less than 10 minutes to install the battens and pump up the board, once you get the hang of it.
Remove the adaptor, replace the valve cap and that’s it! Less than 10 minutes with an excellent upper arm workout, you’re ready for the water. And it’s surprisingly easy!
Features and Specifications on the Red Air 9-8 iSUP
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 Ride 9-8 utilizes 100mm dropstitch material – the lower profile of 3.93 inches makes the board more maneuverable. The addition of the patented Rocker Stiffening System (RSS), featuring two fiberglass battens, increases rigidity making it a viable board for larger paddlers. 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.
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.
There is one military valve, and one rear d-ring for an ankle leash.
Another d-ring – allowing one to tether the ISUP – is located on the underside of the nose.
A textured, traction pad is 70 x 25 inches, beginning 38 inches from the nose. In the center is a low profile handle, positioned 18.5 inches from the top of the pad. There is a 3/4 inch stomp pad at the back of the pad.
Forward of the traction pad are four plastic d-rings with bungee deck lacing for attaching gear. These are located 16 to 24 inches apart, by 19 inches deep, with the first set located about 29.5 inches from the snout.
Three integrated 6-inch wide by 4.25-inch deep fins – two are slightly v-angled and one is straight – provide control and tracking. At this point we should note that – while not common, it is not unusual that the fins arrive bent after being stored for so long. This is a very easy fix, please see our Guide to Straightening a Bent Fin.
Two RSS fiberglass side battens, measure 35 by 1.25 inches.
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 Red Air Nine Eight Ride inflated is 9 ft 8 inches long, 31.5 inches wide, and nearly 4 inches deep – pretty much on target with the published specs. Payload is up to 210 lbs.
The 2015 Red Air Ride 9-8 On the Water
First of all, this is a beautiful board. While some inflatables use standard graphics and colors, the 2015 Red Paddle Co line pops out – when you’re on a Red Air, people know it.
Having previously owned the AllWater 9-6, I was quite eager to try out the Ride 9-8 as the specs were just subtly different – 2 inches longer, 1 inch slimmer, same thickness but slightly different silhouette with a pintail shape.
The new Ride 9-8 board is just as wonderful as the prior Allwater. This is a very easy board for beginners to use – it is surprisingly simple to stand up and gain one’s balance. The 31+ inch width feels very stable, I rarely felt like I was going to fall over – and I never did.
Turning is pretty easy and the Ride 9-8 has a nice glide. And either standing or kneeling, paddling and tracking was straight. In fact, the board feels substantial and rugged – yet nimble.
Packing It Up
To deflate the board is pretty simple – push the plunger to the open (down) position and immediately the air will swoosh out. As there is so much pressure in the board, it is best to “burp” it (press down a couple times) to get some of the air out, before opening the plunger.
Remove the RSS fiberglass battens.
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, between the fins – this keeps the package tightly rolled and the fins keep the strap from slipping off. If you’ve rolled up tight enough, the board will easily slip back into the backpack. Put the fin guards onto the fins and use the interior cinch straps to position the load. As a tip, though (thank you Andrew!), make sure the fins are pointing away from your back, or the trip will be uncomfortable.
Bottom Line on the 2015 Red Paddle Co Ride 9-8
The 2015 Red Air 9’8 Ride inflatable SUP is an all-round winner! It’s not too wide to make it boring and not too narrow to make it tippy. It is good for users up to 210 lbs, best for small to medium-sized adults, and for both novice through advanced paddlers.
They are simple to set up, pretty easy to pump up, paddle well and track/glide nicely. With a 31+-inch beam, they are stable enough for beginners, incredibly rugged and are easy to inflate. At 15-25 PSI, they are also extremely rigid, yet they’ve been pumped up higher without skipping a beat.
The pintail shape and the thinner 100 mm material provides more versatility, maneuverability and glide than the larger 10-6, while the RSS side stiffening batten system provides more rigidity for paddlers on the higher end of the limits.
The addition of the low-profile cargo rings and bungee deck lacing enhances the board versatility without sacrificing performance.
According to the manufacturer, Red Air inflatable SUPs are virtually indestructible. In one video, a Red Air is dragged through every knot hole 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.
The 9-8 Red Air Ride is a great blend of two previous models, the AllWater 9-6 and the Surfer 10-0. It’s good for standup, kneeling, diving and “lolling” around on shorelines, mild surf, slow-moving rivers, bays and inlets. It’s perfect for a workout session, and offers a great vantage point into shallow coastline water, allowing a paddler to quietly approach and observe sea life. And if the sun becomes too much – just slide off the board into the water to cool down.
It’s a great choice for families as the Red Air Ride 9-8 can be enjoyed by all ages, children to adults. With it’s near-indestructible construction, parents can relax when the kids start tossing it around.
The board is just long enough for a parent to bring along a small child or a small furry companion – I could easily see my 30lb buddy, Cleo, sitting in the bungee lacing area and it’s also rugged enough that claws won’t be an issue. (This is Eddie on another Red Paddle Co board, the Race 12-6).
The integrated fins are pretty indestructible and if bent, easy to straighten. The low-profile allows the board to ride over shallow areas without hanging up on rocks.
Best of all, it rolls up into the included backpack – which can house the pump and a breakdown paddle, making it a great inflatable for traveling or for heading into the back country.
Where does it fit in with the Ride 10-6 and Ride 10-8? I would say the Ride 9-8 is a great all-round recreational board for small to average-sized adults who want the maneuverability to catch some waves, cruise the shoreline, head downriver and just have some paddling fun. It has great glide, is zippy and tracks well. The larger Ride 10-8 is better for large adults, those wanting a stable platform for fishing or yoga, or wanting to bring along gear or a child. The Ride 10-6 sits in-between as a classic all-round board – and it’s certainly the biggest seller.
The Red Air Nine Eight Ride from Red Paddle Company is a winner, rapidly becoming an industry classic. And at $1299, it is quite competitive with other quality inflatable SUPs on the market.
For more details you can also watch our YouTube video (below) on the Red Air 9-6″ Allwater Inflatable SUP– this features the previous model. To purchase, visit the Red Paddle Nine Eight Ride product page on AirKayaks.com. You can also read our blog on Guide to Choosing Your 2015 Red Air Inflatable Paddle Board.