I have a long relationship with the paddleboard. In the 1980s, my father built one from plywood and Styrofoam. I spent a great portion of my youthful summers plying the shallows of Baynes Sound aboard this contraption. Standing up was challenging—no fins, no grip. We called it “Dogfish.” We mostly kneeled and paddled it like a kayak.
It weighed a ton, slowly becoming heavier as it waterlogged, and was eventually replaced with my dad’s old windsurf board. That one didn’t have the character of our beloved hand-built unit, but the composite triple-finned surfboard performed much better. So Dogfish retired and Starfish was born.
Twenty years before stand-up paddleboarding became de rigueur for beaches around Canada and the U.S., I’d already logged a decade on makeshift versions. But they all lacked true, modern SUP tech. When the current SUP iterations became ubiquitous in Canada at the end of the Aughts, I knew I had to have one.
There was just one hitch.
At the time, I lived in a small condo. The SUPs I lusted after pushed to 12 feet or more—there was simply nowhere for me to store one. The first-gen of inflatable stand-up paddleboards sought to solve this, but quality units were running nearly $2,000 at the time. And I’d be in the market for a pair. Yikes. I shelved the plans and stuck to rental boards—never getting as much paddle-time as I’d hoped each summer.
Tech caught up with the new Body Glove Performer 11 iSUP. Unveiled to the Canadian market this year, it’s a SUP that matches high-performance, portability and easy storage with a palatable price.
At 11 feet (335 centimetres) long, 34 inches (86 centimetres) wide and six inches (15 centimetres) thick fully inflated, the Performer 11 iSUP is a general-use flatwater board. Easy enough for a kid to paddle; built for adults of all sizes.
On the bottom, we find a trio of fixed rubber fins for tracking and stability. Up top, there is built-in deck lashing, a GoPro leash-attachment, a Velcro handle that unravels to hold your paddle or a waterbottle and an uber-grippy platform that’ll even support some light SUP-yoga. The board’s shape has a narrow nose profile that’s designed to cut through water for quick and efficient touring; the triple-layer stringer offers superb rigidity when the board is pumped to the recommended 15 PSI.
Body Glove’s Performer 11 iSUP comes as a full package—it includes the board, three-piece adjustable aluminum paddle (68 to 88 inches/173 to 224 centimetres), leash, repair kit, dry pouch with lanyard, a double/single-action hand pump and a backpack to store it all in.
All pieces together weigh 14 kilograms/31 pounds; the board, paddle and leash weigh 10 kilograms/22 pounds. It retails in Canada for $500. Add the PFD of your choice and a slathering of sunscreen and you’ll be on the water that afternoon.
Fifteen PSI doesn’t seem like much, but when you roll out this flaccid inflatable, your first thoughts are… “how long is this going to take?” Thankfully, it comes with a large double- or single-action hand pump that moves a ton of air. Set to double-action for the initial pumping and single for the final thrusts (they get tougher), I had the board to 15 PSI in about five minutes.
Pumped up, it’s knock-on-wood solid. And there is no requirement to deflate post-use, if you have the storage or transport space. We see some folks leave them inflated all season.
At just 10 kilos, this board is light and easy to carry down a steep beach or over slippery rocks. One of the best and most often-overlooked aspects of an inflatable SUP is the durability. Rather than being easily dinged and scratched, an iSUP is the optimal option for dragging over rocks, bashing into riverbanks, beaching against pebbly shores—they’re, in fact, far tougher than laminated boards. Plus, this unit has reinforced bumpers for hard landings.
The fixed rubber fins match this hardiness; they held up without a scratch when I dragged them over the coarse West Coast sand. (Oops.) The rubber fins may bend in storage or in the heat of direct sunlight. Don’t freak out—just bend them back or wait for them to straighten in the water.
The Performer 11’s narrow nose slices water like a touring board. Not only is it solid and efficient, it’s the quickest iSUP I’ve ever paddled (and I’ve paddled a few). Rather than ploughing the water like some rubby-tubby inflatables tend to do, the Performer leaves a wake like a kayak. The tradeoff comes in tippyness—if you’re used to a yoga board, you may get wet the first day. I did while showing off some quick spins.
However, within about 30 minutes I felt confident enough to bring my 10-month-old Labrador aboard. And we spent the next quarter-hour gently pushing around the shallows until he panicked and leapt into the salt-chuck. And I didn’t even flip during the melee.
iSUPs catch wind easier than laminated boards due to their light weight and taller profile. This board is no exception, which makes paddling with the wind quite fun—you really move—but paddling against it challenging.
The package comes with a dry pouch, presumably for a phone or wallet. But it’s too small for the former—I packed an iPhone 7 in a case and it barely wedged in. Plus-models or larger phablets won’t fit at all.
The built-in deck lashing offers interesting potential, however. Ten to 20 litres worth of drybags slip on without worry; add the board’s long-distance travel capability (owing to the sharper nose) and an overnight tour is in the cards here.
A quick pack-up is just as important as a speedy setup—just cover your ears. Releasing the valve sounds a bit like, I imagine, the explosive decompression aboard a space station. The iSUP is limp in seconds; roll from the nose down and it’s ready to slip back into the pack… which brought about the only disappointment of the day. The backpack’s zipper separated under the lightest amount of stress as I stuffed the contents within. Hopefully future models feature a burlier zip.
But the pack is padded for comfort and fits snugly. I could see lugging the Performer iSUP 11 over two to three kilometres of trail before exhaustion overrode paddling desire, making it ideal for folks looking to explore rivers and mountain lakes as well as the ocean coast.
In fact, with the right carrier, transporting it by bicycle is even an option. Like I said—interesting potential…
PROS: Quick, stable, portable, priced right.
CONS: Weak zipper on storage bag, dry pouch is too small.
VERDICT: If you have a small space, a small vehicle or you just want enhanced portability and durability—this is your iSUP. It performs like a touring board, it’s as stable as surf-SUP and it’s ultra-competitive with a $500 price tag. STOKED!