Author Topic: Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy  (Read 2502 times)


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Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy
« on: October 15, 2021, 04:06:02 PM »
I'm looking for a decent beginner touring iSUP in the 12'6"x30" size class. I'm in Madison, WI area and have kayaked the local lakes and rivers. Some boat wakes, but no large waves. I'm 175# and 5'11". So far I only had 1 hour rental SUP experience and have a few months Inflatable Kayak (IK) experience.

Before I decide to spend the big-$ on the perfect iSUP, i need to get soem experience to judge what width, length etc. really is needed after i get some more skill. I also want to start out with a seat to use the iSUP in kayak mode (I know, a beginner idea). I only want a reputable iSUP (no amazon brands etc.) that will last at least a few years. but one that doesn't cost too much since it may for only 1-2 years. I do day-tours and go to places. I don't take any significant luggage with me. Tracking and speed is somewhat important, hence the touring type that hopefully keeps this beginner alive. Cross-wind has been a problem with my inflatable kayak, and I hope an iSUP being lower will help.

I already own a good triple-action 2-cylinder pumps. I know at some point I need to buy a good paddle. Water here sometimes becomes shallow. So I may want to play with fin sizes.

Tell me if my choices are bad and I will regret them or if you have better ideas:
1. A return model (full 3 year warranty) Sea Eagle Longboard 126 for $500 that comes with a seat (worth $50) and Al paddles (worth nothing) and cheap pump
2. A return model (full 3 year warranty)  Sea Eagle Needlenose 126 for $650  with somewhat heavy fiberglass shaft paddle (worth not a lot) and cheap pump
3. A new Starbaord (2 year warranty) Zen SC 12'6x30" for $830 with a cheap pump.

Disadvantage of the Sea Eagle is they are heavy (30#) and don't use US-finbox. The starboard weighs a bit over 20# and has US-fin. Are there other advantages or disadvantages between the two brands? I know Starboard seems to be a stronger brand, whatever that means. I did look in other brands, but they either don't have a US-fin box either, or are quite more expensive than the Sea Eagles.

So for boats that I may only have 1-2 years, which others would be good? I like to focus on good brands with 2+ years warranty, and US-finbox unless it is a smoking deal.

If I wanted to splurge, there is a Starbaord Zen with Dual-Chamber for $1,130 that is 14'x32". My fear with that is, it may be too large. That money would be for an iSUP to keep for long.

I'm in the "paralysis by analysis" trap and for each of the options I think "if I add just $150 I get so much more iSUP". So do I go with the cheapest knowing I change anyway, the middle knowing it will be faster and track better, or more expensive? We have winter coming, so trying out some options isn't an option.  But I want to buy soon so I don't end up with supply line line issues next year.


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Re: Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2021, 05:24:01 AM »
It seems like you are analyzing a lot, without a lot of background info. You could save yourself all kinds of time by demoing a few boards so that you have some "benchmarks" for performance. For example, 32" is crazy wide for a touring board. A narrower board will be much better for getting a good stroke in and covering distance.
The quality difference between a Starboard and a Sea Eagle is significant, as is the resale value; you would probably recover much more of your initial investment with the Starboard than with a Sea Eagle. Something to consider if you only plan to keep the board for 1-2 years.

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Re: Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2021, 06:11:02 AM »
Rent a few more times and try as many boards as you can, if you can. This is the best way to know what to get if you are heavy into analysis of every particular detail.

Starboard Zen are great boards: we have a package for $899, includes glass 3 piece paddle:

The 11'2" x 31" may also be an interesting prospect to fill the beginner-touring need:  A bit wider but still good length and parallel rails for nice glide and tracking.

Fanatic Ray Air in the Pure (non Premium) may also be a good tight budget starter option for touring style board: and

These are not designed for seats so you will have to add d-rings or just go without a seat, or stand up from day 1.

Finally, another option is the Tahe 10'6" x 34" SUP Yak. Not much of a touring board but comes complete with everything you need to SUP and kayak:

We expect supply chain disruptions until at least 2023 models.
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Re: Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2021, 07:08:42 AM »
thanks for the replies. All good points.

Renting/Demoing: it is turning winter now and even in summer, the local places only have what I call Dicks's Sporting goods type vessels. And there literally was nothing available in person this year. and with so many options (like Starbaord has) I doubt a dealer would literally the one I want there to demo. and since I fear next spring will have no inventory, I have to buy now based on theorizing. Basically pick one that seems good enough and demo for a a year or two. Even if i coudl demo 2 good boards, as a beginner all of them would feel wabbly  ;D

Resale: If I pick well, I probably will use it for 1-2 years as my primary board, then if I upgrade, keep it as a secondary unless i can sell it well. And at the sub-$1k price it is still money well spent to get education even if I can't sell it at all. Our local market doesn't seem to have any premium brands anyway. Maybe after COVID there will be a ton of new and used iSUP flooding the market. Who knows. Or maybe I run into a stick and destroy it. So I really don't want to over-estimate resale at this point. I agree, a Starboard likely would sell better, though.

Sea Eagle: could someone point out what exactly is bad about their construction? They seem to use an older dropstitch construction with more layers compared to the Starboard single layer and that shows in the weight. But more layers could mean stiffer and more robust? IDK. They don't say their rails are welded, so I assume they are glued. I researched for SE reviews and didn't really found bad ones. But I didn't find any reviews comparing them to Starbaord etc. the only negative reviews I saw where from totally unreasonable people (one person who wanted the 3-eyar warranty honored after 5 years, one person who wanted today's price guaranteed for a purchase they want to do next year etc.). they offer 3 year warranty. What I like about them is they only offer one quality type for each model. I don't like the Starboard model of offering lower and high quality versions of the same type. I own their bottom of the barrel SE 370 kayak and while it shows the price point, it is decent for what it is (only had it this year though). One notable disadvantage of the SE are the glued fins (my SE 370 only has glued fins). Since they are an annoyance when packing away and take away the option to use different fins. I saw one remove fins and boxes and install a US fin box. but sure would not do that on a new boat under warranty. Those glued fins bugged me all summer, even if I didn't bend or damage them. BTW, the $500 Longboard I mentioned above seems to be sold out (was an ebay seller who had 3 return models)

Starbaord: price-wise I look at ZEN construction. but fear it is a bit flexy. I saw this German review and it seems to flex a LOT and they also point out it is due to the single-layer construction.  Looking at the video the bow and stern lift out of the water quite a bit. Is the flexing shown in the video typical for boards in this price-class? So to get a somewhat stiff board from Starbaord it seems on needs to get the Deluxe and/or Double chamber. So price-wise this gets out of the beginner range. I'd spend the money for a good board, but with zero knowledge, I need a burner board first.

Size: sounds like a 30" width may be better long term. On a previous thread I researched the Nixy Monterey (34"wide, which is a great board), but decided to go for a touring type. Honestly, I was so impressed with Nixy, if they made a touring boat, I really would consider that.
Would for my size (175#/5'11") a 12'6"x30" be a good target size? or would looking at 14'x30" be appropriate? It seems many touring boards are in this class.

Tahe: I saw those and don't totally exclude them since they could serve as a family board later. But price-wise they get really close to the Nixy Monterey, and the packages have the glued fins. I think only the one 11'6"without the seat package uses US fin box.

Fanatik: thanks for the links, they were not on my radar. Should I be worried about only 1 year warranty? On their website it looks not all use the US-fin box. They seem to have quite some rocker and being on flat water, I fear the actual water line will be short (lower speed). I'd consider some lower brands if the price is right and they don't make stupid design choices (i.e. glued fins).

Seat option: I outgrew my SE 370 kayak. So I either would have to buy a separate kayak, or make do with the iSUP. I don't even know what IK i would like at thsi point, but it sure woudl cost $800+. i rahter put that $ in a better iSUP now or later. So I really want to give the seat on iSUP a try. And inflatable kayak isn't a great kayak to begin with. So a good iSUP should be as good as an IK. On long tours I sure will like the change between both modes. I totally realize on an SUP forum this is being frowned on and maybe I will agree after I actually try it  :)


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Re: Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2021, 10:46:57 AM »
I researched a bit more and narrowed it down a bit. Let me know if I'm out of touch.
- board stiffness will have major impact on stability, or at least how stable it feels to me. With the bow and stern being lifted, it also shortens the waterline and reduces speed. So a good stiff design will make a given iSUP better
- My main failure scenario while on the water is to go by downed trees and poke a hole from a branch
- I need at least a carbon hybrid paddle (like the Nixy paddle they sell for $95). Any lesser paddle I likely upgrade soon and I add the cost below.
- Whatever I buy I likely keep long term as a second/family/guest iSUP. So resale value or it being the perfect board for in 2 years isn't that important, but longevity is. I totally realize in 1-2 years I need to spend $ on a very good iSUP that will meet my future needs better.
- Most accessories that come with iSUPs are just for the landfill and I wish manufacturers would just sell the plain board without pump and paddle. Even if a manufacturer provides good pump and paddle, what will one do with all the equipment if you buy multiple iSUPs?

- for the Starboard ZEN SC I'm really concerned about flex and puncture due to the single-layer. Zen is cheaper and lighter than Deluxe. That typically means less strong and the above video shows. And a DC Deluxe iSUP from Starbaord would be $1,500 with paddle. Without knowing what my long term iSUP will be that is too high.
- Fanatic would cost $770 with paddle and seems to have similar single-layer construction and weight as the Starboard Zen boards. So the same concern about stiffness and the 1-year warranty also doesn't help

Still considering:
- Sea Eagle Needlenose 126 for $750 inc paddle. Negative is they use a glued heavier construction, but that could mean better puncture protection. IDK. Another negative they don't use US-fin box. Positive is they have longer 3-year warranty and I'm somewhat intrigued by their Needlenose design since it slices through the water and provides a longer waterline. I'm curious to hear if someone has specifics about downsides of the SE (besides what I listed)

My current favorite:
- Nixy Monterey for $835 inc paddle and the only one with a reasonable pump. That is most likely to be the stiffest board (dual chamber, woven dropstitch, carbon rail etc.) while still being lighter. The added safety due to dual-chamber also is good. The long term use after I advanced and buy a faster second iSUP would be for 2-people (my daughter) touring with it and for general family/guest iSUP. It won't be as fast and tracking as what I originally asked for, but I can't over-look the quality it seems to have and the good utility for many years of future family use. It would be a good compliment to whatever fast iSUP I will buy later.

Obviously it is my $, my decision, and I really want to order next week so I'm done with this decision making  :D. Tell me if my assumptions are wrong and if conclusions are totally unreasonable. I don't want to ding a specific manufacturer and realize all my opinion is based on zero experience boarding and without seeing any of the boards in person.


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Re: Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2021, 06:11:51 AM »
I think you're doing a fine job of comparison given some likely limitations in demoing different brands. the folks at Greenwater sports seem to be deeply knowledgeable of the inflatable side of the sport, if I were in your position I'd be in touch with them. BTW, I don't think your notion of sitting down to paddle sometimes is a newbie idea at all--it's pragmatic and important for longer trips where you might encounter headwinds. It can literally be the only way to make good headway.

One way to be a bit more certain about what board you want is to demo something that seems too narrow to you. If you discover you can handle it well, then it will be a worthwhile decision point. Wide boards are harder to paddle well, and have a heck of a lot more drag. The instability you'd feel with a narrower board will disappear quickly, certainly in a few weeks of regular use you'll be comfortable on even a very narrow inflatable.

But yeah, talk to the Green Water folks.
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Re: Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2021, 12:13:11 PM »
I decided to end this research and yesterday ordered the Nixy Monterey for $835 plus their premium kayak seat. they already were $100 down, and had an open box. I fear if I wait too long, much inventory will be gone. I figured buying a package with premium accessories makes more sense for a first iSUP. For an upgrade it may make less sense, since one then already has a good paddle and pump. So for my next iSUP I can focus on ones without great accessories (or preferably none).

I think there are reasonable scenarios where any of the above iSUP make sense. The Monterey will be a great 2-person kayak, 2-person iSUP with daughter and maybe my wife wants to start at some point. So for me it made sense. And for this type of iSUP I think I got top of the line is. 

FWIW, Another possibly good cheap iSUP I found the 12'6"x30" Tower iRace. Best part is they also sell it as the iSUP only (no package). It made less sense to me since I also need a paddle. But I really wish more manufacturers would offer the iSUP without all the accessories (Especially the manufacturer that plasters their website with all the sustainability things they do :-)

Last week I also contacted some manufacturers with some questions. The manufacturer with the fastest responses was Sea Eagle. Red, Starbaord, Gili and Tower were seconds. iRocker never responded. Nixy kind of responded, but only saying someone else will answer the questions and so far haven't. So I'm kind of blindly trusting they have good support and all the good reviews weren't paid advertisement.


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Re: Beginner Touring iSUP - inexpensive but good enough to enjoy
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2021, 07:25:00 PM »
I think you are rushing your decision without doing proper research  :D
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