Chandlery- December 2013
Walker Bay SUP
We’ve had good experiences with Walker Bay products, so we expected a lot from the company’s inflatable stand-up paddleboard (iSUP), the 12-foot Airis Hardtop Tour. Rated for 275 pounds, the board features a standard bungee tie-down strap for gear and a carrying bag.
The Hardtop Tour has a stiff, non-removable plastic skeg, so it won’t get lost, but it can get bent during packing. If it gets bent, you can heat it with a hair-dryer to straighten it out.
The Tour’s defining features are its rigid footpads, each about 40 by 11 inches, covered with padded-foam nonskid. These are designed to make the board easier to balance on than other inflatable boards, but we didn’t notice a significant difference compared to the Tower Paddleboards 9-foot, 6-inch Adventurer iSUP we reviewed (PS, June 2013). The footpads also should help protect the top from wear. The hard top limits folded width to 42 by 7 inches—big, but still small enough to fit in a cockpit locker.
Using the included and well-designed manual pump, testers inflated the Tour to the recommended 10 pounds per square inch in less than three minutes. We tested the Tour cruising iSUP in flat bay waters, light chop, and in beach surf.
Touted as a hybrid high-pressure board, the Airis moved surprisingly well through a light chop in about 10 knots of wind. The long waterline and 6-inch thickness make it quite stable for an inflatable board. Wave-seekers will prefer the shorter Walker Bay Stubby (9 feet long, rated for up to 225 pounds). Walker Bay also offer an 11-foot board, the Hardtop SUV, which is rated to 250 pounds.
We found the Airis Hardtop Tour listed online for $999, excluding shipping. Registering the board extends the standard 90-day warranty to one year.
Bottom line: The Airis’s firm footpads offer an advantage for beginners, larger people, and those bringing the dog along, but Tower’s two-year warranty on the easier-to-stow Adventurer gives it an edge in our view.