Words & photo: Tez Plavenieks
Performance inflatable SUP designs have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, and it’s now possible to get amongst it on the race course and be properly competitive with an iSUP. Mistral’s Vortex hard shell paddle board has plenty of pedigree in the SUP racing arena. Therefore, with great intrigue, I hopped aboard the 2023 iSUP version.
You can see from the accompanying test photos just how tapered the Air Vortex 12’6’s shape is. It says 24” wide, but the max width is just in front of the rider. Further back, it gets narrower. Riders will therefore need a degree of experience to get the most out of the Mistral. You’ll also need to keep the hammer down to ensure stability remains. Speed equals a stable platform, after all.
The Mistral Air Vortex is an incredibly light inflatable race machine. It’s lovely to cart about to and from the water. This is achieved with the brand’s ultra-high-density, but low-weight drop-stitch material. This material also helps with on water control by reducing deflection, another essential trait for racing. After all, who wants to focus on their board when the goal is the finish line and podium?
Hopping aboard, I found it best to throw the board in front to create momentum. Then hop into paddling position ala beach starting. Not hanging about, it’s then pedal to the metal for a rapid glide across the water. And glide this board does – exceptionally well! The more rider input, the greater this characteristic shines. One thing I will say is paddling cadence doesn’t seem to be a factor. Just as long as your rhythm is constant and flowing, the Air Vortex behaves well.
It prefers a flat trim rather than being railed on an edge and a slightly forward stance. Get that sweet spot dialled in; it all adds to making the Air Vortex as efficient as possible. That’ll then transfer to speed which could see you standing on the podium come race finish. Available as 20.5, 24” and 26’ widths; also, in 14’ x 23.5” and 26”.
Inflatable SUPs don’t have to be about recreational paddling alone. Mistral’s AIr Vortex 12’6 will deliver the goods if you’re a rider who demands race-style performance. And all in the form of an air board. Performance-orientated, designed to enhance this, the 12’6 is a real drag racer that any committed competitor will appreciate. Super light, with a bang-on hull shape, a rear hard rubber edge aiding water release and well-thought-out geometry Mistral’s Air Vortex 12’6 sees iSUP race sled design creep ever closer to comparable hard shell race SUP performance. The Vortex comes with a performance carbon fin which only adds to the board’s prowess. For racers this is significant addition that’ll only lend appeal.
Price: 999 Euros.