Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: 2016 Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus 13’2″ Inflatable SUP Board

As mentioned in a prior post, we have been awaiting the arrival of the 2016 Red Paddle Co product line. The shipment recently arrived and we had our first opportunity to take a look at the new Red Air inflatable SUPS, consisting of 17 models. New for this year are three boards – the 8’10” Whip, the Explorer Plus 13’2″, and the Sport 12’6″.

Explorer Plus 13-2

Founded in 2007, Red Paddle Company is a UK-based business focused solely on the design and manufacture of inflatable paddle boards and accessories. Well-known for their ruggedness, each of the boards utilize high pressure drop-stitch technology – allowing them to be inflated from 16-22 PSI – and feature quadruple rail construction and double layering. The larger boards come with the Red Paddle Titan pump, a dual-barrel pump allowing one to inflate a paddle board in minutes.

For 2016, Red Paddle Co introduced a technological advance termed MSL (Monocoque Structural Laminate) fusion technology. The new process has resulted in boards that weight up to 10 lbs lighter than previous models, without sacrificing soundness or rigidity. Indeed, the 2016 slogan for Red Paddle is “stronger, stiffer, lighter.”

Our first write-up on the new boards focused on the Sport 12’6″ iSUP – a 30″ wide, sleek, inflatable cruising model reminiscent of the original Race 12’6″, constructed from thicker 150mm drop-stitch material and the revolutionary new rocker stiffening system (RSS).

Included in this shipment was all the new Explorer + 13’2″, a feature-rich, high-speed cruiser built as the ultimate exploration board. So, we opened the box and started getting ourselves acquainted with this intriguing new model. (Please note, some of the information here will be repeated from other writeups.)

Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus 13-2: Getting Started

The box as received weighs 41 lbs, measuring 37 x 15 x 15 inches.

What's in the box.

Inside the box is the SUP body, two RSS side battens, Titan dual barrel 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 37 lbs for backpack, board and pump, which all easily fit in the back of a small car. The board alone is approximately 24 lbs.

Red Paddle Co Thirteen Two Explorer Plus: Setup

The Red Paddle Co 13’2 Explorer Plus inflatable SUP arrives rolled up around the Titan pump, inside the backpack. Instructions are located inside the cell phone case, attached to the zipper pull on the bag.

Unrolling the Explorer Plus 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.

The Explorer Plus 13-2 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 Titan dual-barrel pump comes with a built-in pressure gauge, so you can monitor the board’s PSI. To start off, you will be using both barrels, allowing the board to be filled is less time, and with less strokes. To do this, make sure the red plug near the pump handle is inserted in the hole – not to worry, the instructions are printed on the pump body.

Attaching the hose.

Attach the hose to the pump, making sure to not cross-thread. Then 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 fill out the board enough that the two RSS fiberglass side battens can be installed. To do this, inflate the board until it has its shape – but is still relatively flat – as this will make inserting the battens easier.  We pumped about 90 strokes until the board unfurled. This gave us enough bulk to stand the board on its side without “flopping over.”


Locate the side pocket openings and remove the plastic strips – these can be tossed – 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; by pushing down on the batten slightly, you can 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.

Unlike the RSS pockets in previous models, the new 2016 battens are easier to install. The battens slid into place fairly well, though the last several inches were a bit tough; by straddling the side and pulling (rather than pushing), you can work them into position. This gets even easier with subsequent installations.


Flip the board and install the second batten. AirKayaks note: If you are a smaller person, you might not even need to install the side battens as the board is pretty stiff as-is.


Now you can complete the inflation process. After another 20 pumps we reached 5 PSI and it was starting to get tough. At this point we should mention that the gauges work on back pressure, thus the gauge will only register as you are pushing in air, and will drop to zero when you stop. As a rule of thumb, “go for the green” – just watch how high the needle goes. We continued pumping another 10 strokes, at which point we couldn’t go further. Please note that larger people will be able to get it up to higher pressures with both barrels.


We switched to the single barrel method. Pull the red plug out of the Titan pump, and rest it on the “plug post.”


With 60 more strokes were were at 10 PSI, another 50 took us to 12-13 PSI, and another 40 strokes brought it to the “green” – 15 PSI. At this point we stopped. Red Paddle Co. recommends 16 to 22 PSI for the boards. The higher the pressure, the stiffer the board. If you are a smaller person, you can easily get away with the lower-end PSI – no sense in spending more time pumping than one needs to. So, a total of about 270 strokes taking several minutes.

Remove the hose adaptor and replace the valve cap.

Red flexi-fin

Last step, flip the board over and install the tracking fin. The Explorer Plus 13-2 uses a 6.75 US Fin Box – while it is possible to use various fins, there are not a lot of aftermarket fins in this size. The Explorer Plus 13-2 comes with a red deep-style flexi-fin for all around paddling.

One side of the fin has a pin, the other a screw and fin plate. Remove the fin plate and screw. Point the fin towards the tail, and insert the side with brass pin into the rear slot – pushing back.


Attach the screw into the fin plate, and use this to guide the plate into the “forward” slot. Push down on the fin, then screw through the fin hole, into the fin plate – this gives a pretty snug fit. As a precaution, pull up on the fin to make sure it is truly attached.

The Explorer Plus is lightweight, easy to carry.

You’re done! Under 10 minutes with an excellent upper arm workout and you’re ready for the water. All in all, it’s not that tough!

Red Paddle Co Thirteen Two Explorer Plus: Features and Specifications

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.

Drop stitch material

First, the Red Paddle boards are constructed using “dropstitch” technology. The top of the board is held together with the bottom via thousands of “stitches” – 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 16 to 22 PSI and ensures that air doesn’t move around inside the board, creating a stable ride. The 2016 Explorer Plus 13-2 utilizes 150mm dropstitch technology, making the board even more rigid than many boards, yet still allowing the rider to keep a low center of gravity.

Red Paddle Co construction cross-section

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 layered side rails

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.

Rugged and rigid

But for 2016, Red Paddle Co kicked it up a notch with the introduction of Monocoque Structural Laminate, or MSL fusion technology. In the past, the “board within a board” was glued together, creating extra weight and the potential for hand-gluing errors. The new process consists of industrially fusing the second layer of polymer to the dropstitch core at the raw material stage. The end result is a material that is structurally more sound, even more rigid, as well as lighter – in fact, many of the 2016 boards are now 5-10 lbs lighter than previous models.

Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus 13-2 Features and Specifications

At first look, the board is actually incredibly simple and streamlined.

Military valve with impriinted instructions

There is one military valve, with instructions embossed around the perimeter.

Rear carrying handle with ankle leash d-ring

There are now five carrying handles – nose, tail, center and both sides – redesigned for a comfortable grip. The rear carrying handle makes it easier to pull a board into the water, and also has an integrated ankle leash d-ring. Another tether d-ring is located on the nose handle.

Diamond pattern deck pad

A low-profile, crocodile print, diamond-patterned traction pad is 65.5 x 25 inches, beginning 67 inches from the nose. In the center is a low profile handle, positioned 85.5 inches from the snout, with accompanying handles on either side.

Front bungee deck lacing

Forward of the deck pad is an extended set of 6 stainless steel d-rings and bungee deck lacing, for attaching gear. These are located 11.5 to 21.75 inches apart, and 31 inches deep. The bungee lacing begins 38.5 inches from the nose, and extends 4 inches over the deck pad.

Screen printed design features

The logo and many of the deck pad design features are now screen-printed on the board, keeping everything low-profile while reducing potential problems with deck lift.

Rubber deck grips under the rear deck lacing.

A second set of bungee deck lacing and 4 d-rings is located behind the traction pad, measuring 20 inches long by 10.5 to 17 inches.  The lacing begins 3.5 inches over the deck pad, extending to the military valve.

Rubber deck grip under the rear deck lacing

There are three sets of textured, rubberized “grips” covering a 12.5 x 8 inch area, preventing cargo from sliding around. Each cargo attachment has been positioned to distribute the weight of both rider and gear without effecting the trim of the board, allowing for a large quantity of gear to be carried.

RSS Side Stiffening battens

The Explorer Plus 13-2 – unlike its sibling the 12-6 – 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.

Deep water flexi fin

The Explorer Plus 13-2 utilizes a 6.75 US box fin system – while this allows you to put in various flat water fins of your choosing, this is not a common size on the market. The Explorer comes with a removable 9-inch deep water flexi-fin designed for straight line control, but also engineered to deflect blows from rocks or submerged hazards.

Nose runner

A 15 x 0.5 inch nose runner fin (bow) increases tracking and straight line performance in side winds.

Deep water fin and two side runners.

Two rear fin side runners of the same size prevent “tail drift” when the board is loaded with  gear.

The "bump"

At this point, it’s probably best that we give a mention to “the bump” which can appear to be a defect to first time paddlers. As previously mentioned, the dropstitch material consists of threads connecting the top and bottom layers. To install the military valve, the threads must be removed in that area, creating “the bump” which can be seen on the underside, below the valve. This is normal and not something to worry about.

Front and back views of the roller backpack.

The 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.

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.

Red Paddle Co wheeled backpack

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 Paddle Co Explorer Plus 13-2

We did measurement tests. The board inflated is approximately 13 feet, 1.5 inches long, 30 inches wide, and just under 6 inches deep – pretty much on target with the published specs. Payload is up to 330 lbs/150 kgs.

Red Paddle Thirteen Two Explorer + On the Water

First thing to note – this is a beautiful board with great lines and good-looking graphics.

Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus 13-2 on the water.

I first took it out in very mild chop. With the narrower 30-inch beam, the Explorer Plus is not quite as stable as the standard 32″ inch Explorer 12-6, nor did it feel quite as stable as the Sport 12-6. Despite hitting a submerged rock within minutes (which tossed me in the water), I rapidly starting getting my “sea legs.” This is a great board – very smooth paddling, good glide, and it’s pretty fast. The thicker 6 inches make the Explorer Plus feel pretty buoyant while the 150mm drop-stitch material feels rugged. I could easily see a long day of paddling along the shoreline.

Attaching an aftermarket seat.

I immediately eyed the extra side handles and decided to check it out with an aftermarket seat – for this I chose the AquaGlide Core seat, though the AquaGlide ProFormance seat (with inflatable base) might even be better.

Paddling as a "sit on top" with kayak paddle.

By adding a small loop to the handles and clipping on the seat, it worked perfectly; the Explorer Plus 13-2 paddles beautifully as a sit-on-top “kayak” while the seat provided a bit of comfort, fishing rod holders and some storage options.

Paddling with a furry friend.

The board is certainly roomy enough for more than one. I brought my 40 lb paddling buddy, Woody, along for a ride. The board is rugged enough that dog claws are not an issue. I could easily see a paddler with a small child and dog, or two children – at least ones that will sit calmly.

The Explorer Plus with gear.

For the last test ride, I added two packs to both bungees – about 21 lbs in the front and 15 lbs in the back, though the board can easily handle more. With the added weight, the Explorer Plus felt more stable, though with not quite as much zip or glide. The grip strips in the back worked well keeping the pack in place.

The Explorer Plus weighs only 24 lbs.

And as a last note, at 24 lbs, this is really lightweight for a 13+ foot board.

The Explorer 13-2: Packing It Up

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 Explorer Plus

Leaving the plunger in the deflate mode, move to the snout of the ISUP, top side up. Put the Titan pump on the board, and roll the board up around the pump. As you roll it up, air will continuously be pushed out of the open valve.

Cinching the rolled up paddle board

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 bag’s Sherpa pocket and use the interior cinch straps to position the load.

Red Paddle Thirteen Two Explorer Plus: Bottom Line

Simply stated, like its smaller sibling, the Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus 13’2″ inflatable SUP is a great board! It’s fast, pretty nimble for a gentle giant, very rigid, paddles well and tracks/glides nicely. And it’s incredibly feature-rich.

Paddling the Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus 13-2

The narrower silhouette cuts through the water cleanly and the squared off tail provides some stability. Couple together the beefier 150mm material, RSS batten system, 6-inch thick high sides and large 350 liter air capacity, and you have a board that can be handled by smaller paddlers, yet provides super-rigidity and speed for larger paddlers. It’s a high-speed cruiser, designed for competent paddlers.

Crocodile pattern traction pad with diamond grip

The new upgrades for 2016 really fine-tune the line. The introduction of MSL fusion, screen-printed graphics and the low-profile, heat-pressed deck pads create a lighter board that is still quite rigid, yet also is easier to roll up; the Explorer Plus 13-2 is roughly 10 lbs lighter than last year’s Explorer 12-6. The crocodile-textured traction pad with diamond-pattern, provides good grip.

Stainless steel d-rings

The redesigned carrying handles look and feel great. The slight quilting and rubberized pads are comfortable to grip, while the molded, stainless steel d-rings and bungee lacing look like they’re built to last.

The Explorer Plus has mega storage options.

The dual set of cargo tie-downs – extra long in the front, and with grippy deck sections behind – greatly enhance the board’s versatility and carrying capacity without sacrificing performance. This is a true workhorse, perfect for multi-day excursions and an arsenal of gear.

Virtually indestructible

Red Paddle Co boards are well known for being virtually indestructible, and the 2016 line is no different. A recent “test” by SUPBoarder Magazine put the “pedal to the metal” and ran a truck over a 2016 Ride – twice – with nary a scratch. We’ve tossed them down, and run them up rocks without a blip.

Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus 13-2 on the water.

The Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus is good for calm and choppy waters, rivers, ocean bays and inlets. It’s perfect for an afternoon cruising along the shoreline, or multiple-day excursions.  and if the sun becomes too much – just slide off the board into the water to cool down.

Attaching an aftermarket seat.

The ability to add an aftermarket seat greatly enhances the Explorer’s excursion potential, making it possible to sit down and paddle when battling headwinds.

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 for traveling.

The Explorer Plus 13-2 and Explorer 12-6

Which size Explorer to choose? While both have a 300+ lb payload and are similar in weight, the Explorer 12-6 – with its wider silhouette – may offer a better choice for big-and-tall paddlers having a higher point of gravity, multiple paddlers, or for those desiring a more stable platform. The Explorer Plus 13-2 will still carry an arsenal, but provide better glide and speed for both small and large paddlers. While the longer length can accommodate multiple riders, the narrower beam will be slightly less stable unless seated.

Explorer Plus 13-2 on the water.

The Explorer Plus 13-2 is an excellent addition to the Red Paddle Co product line, filling in the gap between exploration, carrying capacity and speed. It’s a winner, designed for those dying to explore the next bend, but who want to get there quickly. At $1649 MSRP, it’s on the higher end of the retail market, but performs like a champion.

For more details, watch our YouTube video on the Red Air Explorer 13-2 Inflatable SUP, below.

To purchase or for more info, visit the Red Paddle Explorer Plus product page on

You can also see some of our other blogs on the Red Paddle Co line:


  1. How much better, in your opinion does the 13 2 explorer paddle, compared to the 2016, 12 6 explorer. Would certain conditions favor one or the other. I am 5’11 around 185.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Steve:
      They pretty much have two different focuses. The Explorer 12-6 is wider, thus more stable and able to take a good payload “more stably.” It would work for newer paddlers as well as experienced. The 13-2 – with the slightly longer length and narrower beam – will be a bit speedier, but less stable. It would be better for a paddler a bit more experienced. If not needing to carry huge loads, an “in-between” model would be the new Sport 12-6, which has the shorter length with the narrower beam. It is speedier, but the squared-off tail makes it more stable. Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you for your reply, it is helpful. I would like to get a better idea of what a, “bit speedier”, means. In other words if you were to paddle these boards, without a load, one after the other, would there be a substantial difference? Or just a subtle difference, one being a touch faster with more glide and one being a touch more stable. It may be a bit subjective, but i appreciate your input. Thanks

      2. Hi Steve:
        I did not take them out at the same time, so I can’t say more than what was stated below. Certainly the 12-6 is more stable than the 13-2.

  2. i have tested them both. 13 2 is faster but definetely less stable. I am over 200lbs and over 6’4″. That;s why i prefer the 12 6 explorer.

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