Pics: James Jagger
In a world of not so great iSUPs there are some real gems still to discover. What makes an inflatable SUP good? Construction, rigidity and on water performance to name a few points. Aqua Inc’s Air Rider 12’6 is certainly on the premium end of the spectrum with good looks, attention to detail and a high level of manufacturing quality.
Inflating is easy – something that isn’t always the case with cheaper air boards due to ineffective valves being used. AI’s supplied pump is efficient and gets the job done quickly. At the recommended PSI paddlers are delivered a rigid yet light board.
Something we salute wholeheartedly is the inclusion of a US box fin. The dolphin style skeg is hard, doesn’t flex and slots into a solid box without fuss. Combined with the board’s hard release, rubber tail you’ve got a fun sled for touring, possibly racing and maybe even catching a few bumps.
Carrying the 12’6 to the put in is a joy. The board’s well balanced and no effort to carry. Once afloat the AR’s rigidity become startlingly obvious. Whilst it’s no doubt an air board there’s been a lot of effort to keep deflection to a minimum. As such this is an iSUP that’s as close to a hard board, in terms of rigidity, we’ve come across in this category.
With hammer down it builds momentum impressively, the nose cutting through brine effectively. You can feel the water shed from the rubber edge tail which aids speed and glide. Tracking is pretty standard but that’s no criticism; more simple fact. And the included hard fin really does make a world of difference; aiding stability if nothing else.
Being particularly impressed with the low deflection of Aqua Inc.’s Air Rider 12’6 we further put this to the test gliding on a few rolling bumps and small swells. For an iSUP it really holds shape and doesn’t crease across the mid-point like many would do. Surf environments really highlight this fact.
Manoeuvres such as pivot turns are also efficient. 28” width may seem narrow to some but the last few years have seen boards in general narrow. The AR’s shape is now able to accommodate dodgy footwork allowing riders to get away with narrower sleds.
For a 12’ inflatable Aqua Inc’s version is an example of what a truly quality iSUP should be like. Tip top rigidity, with minimum deflection, great glide and momentum, with decent manoeuvrability makes it a good choice for paddler’s looking to shapes like this but still wanting to keep within air board realms. The hard fin and tail release rubber tail edge are just cherries on a very sweet cake.