ISLE Explorer 11′ iSUP – a Genuine Review
Established in 2004 and based in San Diego California, ISLE are a well reputed paddle board manufacturer that produces high quality epoxy and iSUPs and accessories. With an international distribution network and strong online presence, the ISLE range of all-round recreational and multi-disciple boards cater for paddlers of all skill levels.
Founders Marc Miller & Doug Pate started with an ethos of developing purpose designed high-quality, value-driven products with a view to introducing paddle boarding to as many people as possible.
Today lets take a look at one of their more versatile inflatable boards, the 11′ Explorer:
Length: 11′ (335 cm)
Width: 32″ (81 cm)
Thickness/Depth: 6″ (15 cm)
Construction: Military Grade PVC – drop-stitch
Weight: 22 lbs (10 kg)
User Weight: 300 lbs (136 kg)
Inflation PSI: maximum of 17 psi
Volume: 238 litres
D-rings: 13 well spaced stainless steel D-rings
Paddle: 3-piece carbon shaft / nylon blade
Fin: 2+1 – detachable U.S fin box centre fin
Pump: single cylinder dual action high pressure
Leash: 8′ dual swivel coiled
Warranty: 24 months
Why Paddle Board
As a recreational activity, paddle boarding offers some tremendous health and fitness benefits ranging from a full body workout engaging many of the core muscles albeit in a low impact way through to improved balance, improvements in endurance and stamina, injury rehabilitation, weight loss and improving our cardiovascular health. It’s an exciting way to unwind and decompress whilst at the same time engaging with nature. As one of the fastest growing water sports globally, if you have access to water then its definitely worth giving it a go.
The Explorer is an all-round paddle board owing in the main to its 11′ / 32″ / 6″ dimensions. This being said, with a sharper more pointed nose and slight front rocker, at 11′ long, the Explorer also exhibits some tour boarding traits given its ability to glide and cut through the water. The board caters nicely for paddlers of all levels although is particularly beginner friendly given its rigidity and stability.
Construction – as is the case with many quality iSUPs these days, construction materials and methodologies have come along way over recent years with current inflatables now rivaling their epoxy counterparts in terms of board rigidity and stiffness.
At the core of the Explorer, is a dense drop-stitch which uses thousands of polyester threads that are connected to outer layers of fabric. ISLE use their own high-tech proprietary construction process known as AirTech Fusion Lite which machine coats this inner drop-stitch core with a special seal and bonding layer, which is then fused with a machine-laminated, higher-density PVC layer. Adopting the machine-laminated process heavily reduces the margin for human error which in turn produces a more consistent light-weight and durable board.
It is this construction methodology that enables the board to maintain its shape once inflated. This method of construction makes the Explorer particularly rigid and durable so it can withstand impacts with rocks and other floating debris or if accidentally dropped. At 22 lbs, the Explorer is at the lighter end of the iSUP spectrum making for easy carrying and transportation as well as more responsive manoeuvring.
External Board Features
Outside of the eye popping colour schemes, the Explorer comes with all of the core board inclusions that you would expect to see on a quality iSUP.
Traction Pad – the EVA foam traction pad provides a secure and comfortable ride in both standing and seated positions. Covering the majority of the boards surface, the grooved design allows the water to drain well to assist with retaining grip in both wet and dry conditions.
Grab Handles – the 3 carry handles are located at the front, centre and rear of the board. The centre handle is covered in durable neoprene for added grip and comfort. Light-weight at 22 lbs, the Explorer can easily be carried by a single paddler or with a partner on either end. The front and rear handles can also act as towing points or to include an optional SUP anchor if you’re fishing for instance.
Bungee System – with dual front and rear bungee cargo nets, the Explorer provides more than enough storage space. The 6-point front system is great for storing larger coolers, fishing gear or dry bags while the rear 4-point netting can be used for smaller more easily accessible items. The bungee cords can also be easily removed to free up surface area or if you’d prefer to include alternate accessories.
Attachments Points – with 13 well spaced stainless steel D-rings, the board has ample capacity to customise or include accessories for those longer touring days.
Inflation Valve – located in front of the rear grab handle, the high pressure valve can be locked in both an open or closed position enabling rapid inflation and deflation. Maximum inflation to 17 psi.
Fins – somewhat standard on the majority of all-round iSUPs, the Explorer has a 2+1 tri-fin configuration which helps optimise paddling. The large centre fin is detachable and uses a standard U.S fin box which is handy as it can also accommodate other third party (non-ISLE) fins if desired.
With its main function, the centre fin allows your board to track well or maintain a straight course whilst paddling. Detachable, it can also be removed or swapped out for a smaller one if you’re paddling in shallow waters. While it would be a plus if the two side fins were detachable, there isn’t any real obvious performance loss when compared to detachable fins. It does however limit your ability to further customise your board to suit your paddling style or if you were looking at tackling more extreme or choppier waters for instance.
Suitability / Performance
All-round boards as the name implies, offer a great balance between flat water recreational paddling through to SUP yoga, fishing, touring and even moderate river and wave paddling although one can only get so adventurous.
At 11′ long with its sleek design and large centre fin, the Explorer glides and tracks really well through the water allowing it to get up some genuine speed. When you also factor in the high quality hybrid carbon fibre paddle that the package comes with, paddling over longer distances on the Explorer is quite achievable.
Most 32″ wide boards offer good stability and the Explorer is no exception. With a user weight of up to 300 lbs, even taller and heavier rides will not struggle to find their feet and maintain balance. With its rigid construction, the 6″ depth of the board offers a high level of buoyancy which enables it to comfortably ride above the water line making it easier to paddle and balance on.
The other key performance metric is the boards manoeuvrability. Key contributors that allow the Explorer to remain responsive in the water are the two small side fins and the light-weight construction. While having detachable side fins would enable further paddling versatility, the current tri-fin configuration still makes the board quite agile in the water so unless you are looking at doing more extreme paddling then the Explorer ticks this box nicely.
Paddle – ISLE have been quite kind to us here and included a nice light-weight 3-piece adjustable hybrid carbon shaft paddle. With a durable nylon blade, the carbon shaft allows for stiffer and sharper stokes which really aids your ability to motor along in the water. If you have ever tried cheaper or heavier aluminium paddles, then you will definitely appreciate the benefits that a light-weight carbon paddle offers particularly if you are paddling over longer distances. Its adjustability makes for quick and easy storage while also allowing it to be adjusted to suit paddlers of all sizes.
Pump – the Explorer’s pump fits into the ‘does the job’ category. Yes it is dual action so allows for air to be pumped into the board on both the upward and downward strokes, but it is a single cylinder only pump meaning greater time and effort to inflate. It is of course light and compact so handy when carrying in its backpack, but when it comes to iSUPs we would always recommend investing in a quality electric pump particularly if you plan on taking to the water on a regular basis. If you would like to know more, our Electric Pump Top 5 Picks has some great examples of what’s available as well as what to look out for when buying an electric SUP pump.
Backpack – iSUP carry bags can be hit-and-miss in terms of functionality and durability and whilst not necessarily best in class, the Explorer backpack certainly does the job. It is well sized and can comfortably fit both your deflated board and all accessories. With a full surface u-shaped front zipper, the bag offers quick and easy access. It also includes fully adjustable padded shoulder, chest and waist straps, side and front accessories pockets as well as side and front bag adjustment straps. A nice update for their next run would be the inclusion of a pair of durable recessed wheels which are becoming quite popular amongst other board manufacturers.
Leash – the 8′ coiled leash has a multi-layered neoprene cuff offering greater comfort and security when attached to either your calf muscle or ankle. The dual swivels ensure that the leash does not become tangled around your ankle whilst the coil assists in keeping it out of the water thus reducing drag. The leash also contains a small hidden Velcro key pocket as is becoming quite popular these days.
Repair Kit – similar to most iSUP packages, comes complete with colour coded patches and glue plus a wrench tool to tighten the rear inflation value in the event it becomes loose.
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> well constructed using military grade materials and proprietary construction technology
> beginner friendly stable all-round board
> comfortable 8′ coiled neoprene leash with key pocket
> sharper nose design offering quality glide and tracking
> aesthetically attractive design coming in 3 colour schemes
> dual bungee systems for additional storage
> light-weight at 22 lbs offering good manoeuvrability
> centre detachable tri-fin configuration
> inclusion of quality carbon shaft paddle
> ample D-ring attachment points for accessories
> complete with full accessories package
> 24 month warranty
> non-detachable fins – less ability to configure
> the pump is quite simple – would be nice to see a dual-action upgrade included
ISLE are a known quantity so whether you’re looking at an Epoxy board or in this case an iSUP, they definitely stand behind their boards. The 11′ Explorer is a well constructed board that offers quality all-round recreational paddling and is well suited for beginners or intermediate riders. While its not necessarily our favourite middle market inflatable, its definitely one for the short list so well worth considering.
If you want to benchmark the Explorer against some other middle market boards, then we suggest you take a look at the THURSO SURF 11′ Waterwalker iSUP or the Atoll 11′ iSUP as this will give you a nice feel for some alternate similarly priced options that you may want to consider.
As always, we would love to hear from you so please feel free to leave your comments below and we will get back to you.
Until then, stay safe and get wet.