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  • Writer's pictureTeam OTC

RED Paddle Elite 12'6"

The 12’6” race class of SUPing is becoming more and more competitive as the sport grows and kid matures. The Elite is RED Paddle’s latest offering ... and has been used to great effect on some of the most active club racing scenes, such as BaySUP’s Frostbite series where Sam Ross claimed the crown on this exact inflatable ... beating even the chasing crowds in the 14’ class. We got onto an Elite to see if its 26” wide hull deemed it the sole domain of the racers fit to possess its namesake ... or whether mere mortals might be capable of championing it too!

Brand Claim: “If you’re getting serious about the 12’6” racing class, you’ll need a super­fast board that’s been developed to compete against the best – and win. That board is the Red Paddle Co 12’6” Elite, the fastest board in its class.”

Initial Impressions

Unpack the Elite and the first thing you realise is that RED really are becoming the complete brand. Every detail is considered. The Elite packs down to a tight roll, fitting easily into the quality rucksack bag provided. And what is more, thanks to the brand’s “new for 2016” construction process (called Monocoque Structural Laminate (MSL) Fusion more on this to come on the RED Paddle landing page), you can rest assured that you’ll be able to get the board back to this size and into the bag after every use. And the good news doesn’t stop there. The dual cylinder so called ‘Titan’ pump supplied with the Elite (as well as with all other 2016 Reds) benefits from its large combined volume during initial inflation, isolating the narrower chamber for the final pushes to get that last vital PSI of pressure into the board. The Elite also incorporates the brand’s Rocker Stiffening System (RSS) a couple of battens that slide into pockets situated centrally along the rail of the board, parallel to where the rider predominantly stands. Be careful that you fit these battens with care they are made of glass fibre and can splinter if you’re too aggressive. And follow the guidelines provided, by inflating to just one PSI initially before you insert the battens; otherwise you’ll make your life unnecessarily hard (including generating some impressive string indent impressions in your hands!). The fittings on the rest of the board are also of a high quality the EVA decked provides great traction; the double nose runner on the hull AND the deck help to keep the board tracking in a straight line even in rough chop (hence the inclusion of a runner on the deck). Extra webbing handles are fitted as standard to offer practicality during racing, whilst merging neatly into business­like graphic design of the board. Along with the padded bag and Titan pump, the Elite comes supplied with a repair kit, a water resistant phone case and a swept back US box fin a classy looking foil that even comes in its own sheath.

On the Water

Stepping onto the Elite initially, we followed the correct method of getting to our feet very deliberately, to try and give ourselves every chance of staying on the board! We needn’t have worried... Despite being just 26” wide, the Elite is surprisingly stable and forgiving perfectly achievable for those that have a basic grasp and understanding of SUP cruising or entry level racing. At 150mm (5.9”) thick, it is also incredibly buoyant, sitting high on the water’s surface, whilst the thickness also makes the Elite impressively stiff for an inflatable. Even with just 10PSI in her chamber, the board feels stable and balanced underfoot, demonstrating just how well all the stiffness methods combine in the RED. At its recommended 15PSI+, the Elite is as stiff as you’d ever need, and if there is any slight flex in the hull, it could be classed as a good ‘shock absorbing’ quality, especially when using the board in confused chop. Put some solid strokes in and the Elite glides supremely well, feeling incredibly stable directionally. The faster you go, the more stable the board becomes...Cornering on the Elite is more of a challenge and does take time to master. Concentrate on a low stance whilst keeping weight over the centreline and with a little practice it does become more of an art form. Yet, this is true of all 12’6 x 26” boards we have tried, and the Elite doesn’t pose any more of an issue than a hardboard contender would. Keeping momentum as best you can will give you every chance of success.

For Whom?

If you’re getting to grips with cruising and even considering entering a few local races, there are plenty of options in the 12’6” class out there, even in RED Paddle’s own line up. The Explorer is a fantastic platform for pottering around on at your leisure, covering great distances with absolute ease. The next step up is the Sport at 30” wide it’s a little more racy and performance oriented for the more experienced paddler. It’s then a small step to the 12’6” Race, which is 28” wide and requires a little more concentration, its stability amplified onsiderably as soon as momentum is achieved. And at the top of the pile we have the Elite tried here. The steps of 2” between the boards provide the perfect increment to step up and challenge yourself ... and you’d be surprised at how narrow a width you can go down to with a little bit of technique and enthusiasm. For the experienced or lighter rider (including children and youths), the Elite rewards those that are proactive and looking for a challenge with effortless glide and a ‘go­anywhere’ ability, coupled with the durability and storage benefits of an inflatable board. The sport continues to progress and Elite is right up there at the cutting edge.

PositivesPerfectly applicable for progressing (average weight and below) riders that like challenge.

  • Build, fittings and quality finish.

  • Effortless glide and directional stability.

  • Durability / practicality of an inflatable combined with race winning performance.

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