After almost a decade with my beloved L.L. Bean paddleboard, I set out to find an inflatable alternative that would inspire spontaneous day trips to new lakes and rivers near where I live in Maine. Sure, I could install roof racks, but with two kids and a dog, we had enough gear to load into the car—I preferred a lightweight stand-up paddleboard (SUP) that was easy to throw in the trunk for those of-the-moment summer days when the water beckoned me to paddle.
After doing research and reading plenty of reviews, I narrowed down my options to two reputable inflatables that seemed like a good fit for our active family. Over the last few weeks, I tested the Retrospec Weekender 10’ Inflatable Paddle Board and the 10’6” Isle Pioneer 2.0 side-by-side—here’s how they stacked up.
From the start, I noticed that the Isle is the heavier board, but also the more comfortable one to carry. Both boards and their accessories—paddle, pump, leash, and fins—came in backpacks, and the Isle’s backpack was superior in quality, making it the easier SUP to lug to and from the car. The Retrospec is lighter at 17 pounds (it’s about half a foot shorter), while the Isle weighs 24 pounds.
Out on the water, my top priority is the SUP’s sturdiness. With a wider base—34” versus 30”—I felt more confident and stable paddling on the Isle.
To be frank, there was nothing easy about blowing up either of the two boards when doing so with a hand pump. If you have multiple people helping with the inflation—my partner helped me—you can inflate each one in about five minutes, but it’s tiring and depletes energy that would be better used for paddling. Splurging on an electric pump to inflate the SUPs is well worth it.
Neither of the paddles felt like they were as high quality as a standard SUP paddle; both got the job done, but I didn’t have as strong a stroke.
Comfortability-wise, the two boards were neck-and-neck. On a regular paddleboard, I often find that my feet get uncomfortable quickly. I like that the inflatables have a softer, more giving surface. The surface of each differed slightly: The Retrospec has a textured foam on top, while the Isle has a soft brushed traction pad. If you spend time paddling on your knees, the Isle may win out.
Both brands offer multiple quality inflatables that may be better suited to your needs: For families who like to paddle together, Retrospec makes a 16’ Weekender Crew, which can hold multiple people (up to 1,200 pounds). Isle is about to launch The Switch, a two-in-one kayak and SUP.
While solid boards will always win out in overall quality, these inflatable SUP options are a great solution for those who like a spontaneous paddle (I keep one in my car’s trunk at all times now) or are looking to bring their boards on the road without the fuss of a roof rack.