After the joy that was Red Paddle Co’s Sport 12.6ft we couldn’t wait to take the described more performance orientated Elite for a spin. Designed as the brand’s race sled it certainly looks up to the job. There’s no pussy footing around here. Red’s Elite is an extremely flat rockered board. A very subtle curve runs through the entire length of the Elite – its progressive bend is designed to excel in straight lines, there’s no question.
As with Red’s Sport the Elite’s rigidity success is down to MSL Fusion Technology (see Red’s website for an explanation) and the rod inserts (RSS) that slot into pockets along each rail. Its narrow 26” width also aids the solid feel when standing on the deck – after all, less board means less surface area to bend and a more compact shape is the result. MSL technology also makes the board 30% lighter than normal.
The beady eyed will have noticed a plastic runner attached to the underside of the nose. Keeping the Elite tracking straight and true this nifty bit of detailing allows paddlers to focus on the act of paddling, winning races and not having to worry about throwing in corrective strokes. The Elite is also 150mm thick which raises the board out the water and gives and elevated paddling ride, reducing drag in the process.
On the water it’s certainly one of the best tracking inflatables we’ve tried. The US fin box allows high end race skegs to be swapped out which delivers a tuning element to the board – another tick in the box. Although we didn’t actually scientifically test the board’s speed it felt quick. Up against other boards, hard and iSUPs, it was always towards the front of the pack. Paddle with a high stroke cadence and the Elite reacts by surging forwards, that low rocker knifing an efficient line towards the finish line.
What surprised us the most was how well-mannered Red’s Elite 12.6ft is. For such a race orientated board with only 26” width (perceived unstable for many) it delivers a composed and user friendly ride. So much so that pivot turns are swift and mostly moisture free. Another characteristic is its versatility – the possibility of surfing some small waves is there making it a more rounded purchase. Obviously paddle fundamentals need to nailed down to get the most out of such a board but it’s certainly more of an all comers iSUP than you’d initially think.
For a brand who focus on all water paddlers, and getting every skill of SUPer up and riding, the Elite 12.6ft may initially put the masses off. Yet this wouldn’t be correct. For sure Red’s Elite 12.6ft is poised to take paddlers to podium finishes but there’s more performance built in than dimensions alone suggest. It’s possible to surf the Elite, in small swell, and practicing those all-important buoy turns are more applicable than you’d believe – even with 26” of width. As a step up from something more touring orientate Red’s Elite will fit the bill perfectly.