If James Bond did SUP…Looking particularly distinctive in all black livery Billboard’s Heron 4m adventure/touring/exploration SUP is new to the UK. With heavy input from celeb paddler Bill Bailey, along with Active 360’s Paul Hyman it’s a board that’s had a HUGE amount of attention paid to the detail. There are plenty of bells and whistle here: a patented carry strap system, the option of attaching LED lights and all sorts of tie downs and lashing points for essentials, necessary during any kind of paddle trek, short or long. Over to Stephane for more.
If James Bond ever needs a SUP to spy on some double dealing agent or baddy with global domination in mind then he need look no further. The all black Billboard H4 inflatable board would certainly be hard to spot in the dark and provide a means to carry of 007’s tools of the trade. Spectre watch out!
Apart from its colour, the first thing that struck me is the Heron 4m’s build quality. There are well manufactured iSUPs and there are a few that sit higher still in terms of quality. This is one of the latter. Fixtures, fittings, carry handles, its bag (or should I say the best iSUP bag I’ve ever seen!) is far superior to many of what’s currently on the market. And that fin! Yes, a full carbon super lightweight carbon skeg as standard. Just be careful not to break it as it will pick up nicks easily.
Some may initially question the Heron 4m’s black aesthetic. After all dark tones absorb the sun’s UV rays easily. We did wonder whether this would have any effect on the Heron’s PSI rating. Left in the sun would air inside expand too much? This didn’t seem the case, and we had the right weather to check – 30C’s of blazing sun during testing!
At this point we’ll draw your attention to the high end Leafield valve. Billboard have opted for a screw attach system which goes against the grain of industry standard push and turn nozzles. There’s still a spring loaded valve pin located in the centre but it’s the screw mechanism that differs. The Leafield valve sits adjacent to a secondary pressure release which we believe to have been included should hot conditions cause that air expansion mentioned above.
On the water the Heron 4m is affected a tad by chop. It’s a thick board (6”) and rides high so this is understandable. Yet with a very stable 33” worth of width paddlers will find it hard to get bucked off, there just may be a small amount of bounce. Turns are efficient and light to moderate downwind bumps will propel riders along briskly, the Heron 4m gliding nicely and tracking well.
Although we tested the Billboard on the sea we can see it really coming into its own across all stretches of water. As such the Heron 4m is a touring SUP in the purist sense of the term. It’ll handle all kinds of extreme conditions taking paddlers everywhere and anywhere, fully laden, without too much compromise on paddling performance. Yet should riders choose to simply splash about at the beach, or indulge in family SUP activities, it’ll do the job just fine also.
Billboard have done an exceptional job with the Heron 4m. There are so many plus points in terms of attachments and ways to accessorise. As inflatable SUPs evolve we’re pretty sure this kind of thing will become more the norm. At this juncture, however, we can’t really think of another iSUP that has so many options. Performance is pretty good. The Heron 4m is a strong, well manufactured and sturdy platform that can be loaded to the hilt before sweeping off on adventures near and far. Yet as much as the brand has come up with a concise expedition board they’ve not forgotten everyday paddlers. It’s still a fun sled for bunting about your local stretch on a sunny day with the kids – just make sure you remove that beautiful carbon fin beforehand! All in we’re impressed with the Heron 4m and if this is a sign of further things to come from Billboard then we can’t wait to see what’s next.