Updated July 1st, 2023
Are you looking for a fast stand up paddle board that is a step up from a basic all around board? Do you want the very best inflatable paddle board available? The Red Paddle Co Sport 12’6″ is a fast touring board, with innovative MSL construction. It has great speed, glide, and tracking as well. Keep reading to learn about the board and its performance in our Red Paddle Co Sport Review.
- Features of the Red Paddle Co Sport 12'6" paddle board
- Setup and Inflation
- On Water Performance
- Heavy weight paddlers
- Deflation and packing
- The Verdict
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What we liked:
- Great speed in flat water
- Has enough nose rocker to handle small chop okay
- Lightweight for its size
- Titan pump helps inflate the board faster
- Good roller bag with heavy duty materials and good strap design
What we didn’t like:
- High cost
- Not as stable as wider boards
- No paddle included
Features of the Red Paddle Co Sport 12’6″ paddle board
I picked up a Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Sport to get a faster inflatable SUP than the all around boards I have been using so far. I also wanted to see if Red Paddle Co boards were really worth the cost. You can buy 3 $500 level boards for the cost of one of these. We bought this board ourselves and have no connection or support from Red Paddle Co. I am a customer the same as the rest of you. We chose Green Water Sports as the place to buy the board. They are well known as one of the better online retailers for high end paddleboarding gear. They only sell gear that is proven to be good.
The Sport range boards are designed to be a step up in performance from the Red Paddle Co Ride MSL series. The Red Paddle Ride series are All Around designs that are good for a variety of purposes. The 106 Ride makes a great beginner board. The Sport series is for those who want to go faster and cover longer distances but don’t want to go for a full race board. They have a pointed bow for piercing waves and cutting through chop. Their width and design makes them more stable than full race boards. They are faster with much better glide than an all around board.
The 12’6″ Sport is 12’6″ long, 30″ wide and 5.6″ thick with a sleek shape. It has 330 liter of volume. The board has a touring or race shape with a pointed bow and squared off tail. It has a stated max weight capacity of 265 lbs or 120 kg. Red is known for being very conservative with their weight capacities.
The Red Paddle Co 12’6″ Sport MSL retails for $1699. It costs the same at most vendors unless you are fortunate enough to find a leftover from prior years on discount. There are no discount or coupon codes available to make it any cheaper. For that price, you get the board, a really great backpack, and their Titan2 pump. They do not include a paddle.
Red covers their boards with a 5 year warranty. Most inflatable paddleboards are only covered with a 1 year warranty. A few manufacturers give 2. Red goes above and beyond with 5. This shows how they believe in the durability of their product with more than just talk.
Red uses a proprietary process to make their boards called Monocoque Structural Laminate or MSL. Red makes all of their own boards in their own factory. This gives them the ability to keep improving and innovating. Conventional boards glue the drop stitch to a layer of PVC in what is called fusion. This gives you a single layer board. If you want a double layer board you glue another layer of PVC on top of that. MSL uses a special adhesive and sealant to glue the dop stitch to the outer PVC layer. This gives you the strength and durability of double layers at single layer weight.
2 layers of rail tape are applied for extra durability. The first layer is heat bonded to the inner PVC layers. This gives you a total of 4 layers of material in the rail areas. This makes the board extra stiff and durable.
The deck pad is pressed on using high presssure bonding at 170 psi. This ensures that the deck pad won’t start pealing off as the board ages.
One of the ways to measure how well an inflatable board is made and how well it will perform is how stiff it is. To measure this we set the board up on 2 stands 8 feet apart. We loaded the board up with 120 lbs of weight and measured how much the board deflected under load.
The Red Sport deflected 1.2 inches when inflated to 20 psi. The performance was slightly less when the RSS battens were removed or the pressure was reduced to 15 psi. The board construction is very good.
|SUP Board||Board Size||Construction||Deflection (inches)|
|Nice C (15 psi)||10'6" x 32" x 6"||1 Ply PVC||2.6|
|DAMA (15 psi)||11' x 33" x 6"||1 Ply PVC||3.0|
|Coolwave (15 psi)||10'6" x 32" x 6"||1 Ply PVC||3.3|
|iRocker Nautical (15 psi)||10'6" x 32" x 6"||2 Ply PVC||2.8|
|Chasing Blue Orion (14.5 psi)||12'6" x 32" x 6"||2 Ply PVC||1.6|
|Chasing Blue Infinite (14.5 psi)||10'6" x 34" x 6"||2 Ply PVC||1.4|
|Freein Overall 11 (15 psi)||11'' x 33" x 6"||2 Ply PVC||1.4|
|iRocker All Around 11 (15 psi)||11' x 32" x 6"||3 Ply PVC||1.3|
|iRocker All Around 11 Ultra (15 psi)||11' x 32" x 6"||2 Ply Woven PVC||1.1|
|iRocker Cruiser Ultra (15 psi)||10'6" x 33" x 6"||2 Ply Woven PVC||1.1|
|Blackfin Ultra CX (15 psi)||10'6" x 32.5" x 6"||2 Ply Woven PVC||1.0|
|Blackfin Model V (15 psi)||12'6" x 32" x 6"||3 Ply PVC||1.1|
|Nixy Newport G4 (15 psi)||10'6" x 33" x 6"||2 Ply Woven PVC||1.1|
|Nixy Monterey G4 (15 psi)||11'6" x 34" x 6"||2 Ply Woven PVC||1.0|
|Red 12'6" Sport w/RSS (20 psi)||12'6" x 30" x 5.9"||MSL with Battens||1.2|
RSS Batten system
2 battens are inserted into the board during construction. The RSS or Rocker Stiffening System can improve board stiffness by as much as 40%. This brings an inflatable board much closer to feeling and performing like a hard board. The 2 battens are orange colored so you won’t lose them. They are flexible enough you won’t damage them by stepping on them. You can’t roll the board up tight with them installed. You won’t break them if you try.
The deckpad uses a Red embossed pattern at the front and middle of the board with a diamond overlay at the rear of the board. This gives you a smoother surface to stand on. It gives higher traction at the rear for kick turns. The pad extends from the rear of the board to behind the bungess at the front.
Carry Handles, D-Rings and bungee cord
The board has a carry handle at the back, front and middle. This gives you enough to carry the board by yourself or with help and no extras.
The board has 8 D-Rings. One combined with a ram mount at the front. 6 to hold bungees on the front of the board. 1 at the rear handle for attaching a leash.
The bungees are a flat design that you can easily step or stand on. There is a water bottle holder built into the rear most bungee. There is enough bungees to hold a deck bag or some other gear.
This board is designed more for speed and performance than carrying a lot of gear. There is no rear bungees. There are no D-Rings behind the center handle where you could attach a seat. If you want to use a kayak seat you’ll need to add a couple more D-Rings.
If you are interested in a faster board that can carry a lot of gear then you should check out the Red Paddle Co Voyager 12’6″.
US Fin Box Fin
The board uses a single fin using a US Fin Box mount. The fins are produced by FCS so you know it will be a durable fin. A single fin is better for going fast. It has less drag than the more standard 3 fin arrangement. The fin has to be deeper so it’s not as good for shallow water. Single fins track very well. The US Fin box uses a thumb screw to hold the fin in place. This takes a little more effort than the sliding plastic tabs found on cheap boards. It gives you a stiffer fin box for higher performance. Windsurfers have trusted US Fin Boxes for years and years.
Red Paddle Co boards come with fewer accessories compared to cheaper paddle boards. They are more focused on the board. They do not come packaged with a paddle. Most good vendors such as Green Water Sports or Backcountry will be more than happy to help you choose a paddle. The accessories that do come with this board are all first rate.
Titan 2 Pump
The Titan 2 pump is purpose designed for inflating paddleboards. It’s designed to be the fastest and easiest manual pump to get a board to 20 psi.
This pump has 2 air chambers and is double action. You start by pumping on the down stroke with both chambers. When pumping gets too difficult you flip the switch. This vents the large air chamber and lets you only pump with the small high pressure chamber.
The Titan pump has a removable handle and folding feet so that it is easier to store inside your carrying bag.
The Titan 2 is available separately for $199 which puts it at higher cost than most electric SUP pumps. It’s obvious when you look at it is no ordinary paddleboard pump. It is a serious piece of equipment that looks ready to handle anything you will put at the end of the hose.
The only miss of the Titan 2 is that it doesn’t have the ability to deflate. I like to hook the pump up and suck all the air out when putting my boards away. I find it easier than trying to roll the board up to squeeze the rest of the air out.
ATB TRANSFORMER BOARD BAG
The board comes with the Red Paddle Co ATB (All Terrain Backpack). The bag has padded sides and very good craftsmanship throughout. The shoulder straps have a lot of padding along with a hefty waist strap. The backpack straps can be hidden so they don’t get in the way of the wheels when you are rolling it.
2022 boards come with a new version called the ATB Transformer Board Bag. The sides can be removed from the bag leaving you with just the shoulder straps. It allows you to carry the board the shoulder straps. This gives you much less to store on the board while paddling. It doesn’t solve the problem of having a large pump to deal with
Setup and Inflation
The Red Paddle Co Sport takes a little more effort to inflate than a typical $300-$500 paddleboard. This is because of the RSS battens and US Fin box. The benefits are worth the extra steps.
You have to unroll the board and put the handle on the pump. Inflate the board to 1 psi. At 1 psi stop pumping and slide the RSS battens into their pockets on the side of the board. Push the battens in about 6 inches from the pocket working a few inches at a time.
Inflate the board up to your target pressure. The board can tolerate 15 to 20 psi. You should always inflate to at least 15psi. Heavier paddlers will want to go a few psi higher.
The Titan 2 hand pump can inflate the board faster than other cheaper hand pumps. To get the most advantage from the pump you need to leave it in 2 chamber high volume mode as long as possible. I can get it close to 10psi before flipping the lever. After flipping the lever on the Titan it acts the same as a cheap single action pump. All the time advantage for the Titan 2 is from 1 PSI to however high you can go in the high volume mode.
The fin is easy to install. Slide the nut back in the slot. Insert the fin. Tighten the thumb screw into the nut. The fin is held in very secure. There are no worries it will fall out when you are out on the water.
On Water Performance
The dynamic performance of the board is great. This board glides very easily through the water compared to a 10’6″ all around board. The sharp nose really cuts through the water well. The glide feels very smooth and easy to keep your momentum going. I have a much easier time keeping up with my paddling friends who have rigid touring boards. With my shorter all around board I always struggled.
The 30 inch width of the board gives it enough stability so that you don’t have to be a really experienced paddler to use it. A lightweight person, with good balance, could easily use this as their first board. An over 200 lb person like myself will want to get practice first on a wider all around board. The Red 11’3″ Sport inflatable SUP is 32″ wide for those who want speed but a little more stability.
The speed tail helps the board glide across the water without dragging. The single fin gives the board good tracking with low drag. Once the board is moving it holds direction very well. I was surpised at how many more paddle strokes I could take on one side before I needed to switch sides. With a short all around board you need to switch sides every couple strokes. With this longer touring board you can go several on side and the board keeps going straight.
The shape seems to go through waves and small chop well. It had no trouble on small inland lakes here in Michigan. I haven’t tried it out yet anywhere with more open water and larger swells to see how it will feel.
No paddle is included with the board. I used an Aquabound Challenger for this review. It is carbon shaft with a deep-vee paddle shape. I have found it a nice upgrade over the generic paddle that comes with cheaper boards.
Heavy weight paddlers
The board has a max weight limit of 265 lbs. I am over 200 lbs and had no trouble with the board. The RSS battens really do a good job of making the board feel stiff. I can feel a regular paddleboard bend and flex a bit underneath me. This board feels stiff and rigid. It feels close to what my rigid board felt like. Small softer boards feel like they are flexing a bit with every wave. This board feels more like it punches through it with minimal flex.
We haven’t tried the board yet with a heavier 300 lb paddler but will when we get the chance and update here. I suspect the board will be fine stiffness wise. They might have trouble with the stability of the board because it’s only 30 inches wide.
Deflation and packing
Putting the board away is easy and quick. You should let the board dry out completely before deflating and storing it. If you have to roll it up wet then you should unroll it and let it dry at home.
Putting away is easy. Unscrew the thumbscrew and remove the single fin. Put the board somewhere smooth and soft with no sticks or rocks that could puncture or scratch it. Push in the H3 valve to open it and let the air out. Remove the RSS battens.
You can lay down on the board to squeeze more air out. Roll the board up to squeeze the rest of the air out. Unroll it and roll it up tighter if needed.
I personally like using a pump to suck all the air out making it easier to roll. The Titan 2 pump doesn’t have a deflate feature. The electric pump (OutdoorMaster Shark 2) I use does.
Put everything back into the carry bag and you are ready to go.
The Red Paddle Co Sport 12’6″ is an excellent touring board with good speed and glide. The RSS batten system gives it excellent stiffness and get you close to the performance of a rigid board. The included pump and backpack are first rate. The price is very high but you are getting performance and quality for that price. It won’t be worth it for everyone but for those who want the best performance possible it’s worth it.
Are you still undecided? See our guide to the best inflatable touring paddleboards for other good options.
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Co-Founder & Chief Editor
I grew up back east in Pennsylvania and learned to ski on a family trip to Killington, Vermont when I was 6. I immediately fell in love with the mountains and outdoors and have been skiing across the US and Canada ever since. I went to school for Mechanical Engineering, and have a Master’s Degree in Material Science and Reliability.
I am a total gear nerd and love learning how things work and thinking about how they could be improved. Nothing excites me more than trying out new gear. I’d rather spend 3 hours taking my bike apart and learning how to change something than go to a bike shop. These days I reside in Michigan by the Great Lakes and go skiing, biking, and boating as much as possible.