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Aqua Marina Atlas Review | 2023
Aqua Marina Atlas Review: Overview
The Aqua Marina Atlas is a large, lightweight all-around iSUP great for paddling with a passenger and larger solo paddlers, especially those over 6’ tall. As a member of the Aqua Marina Advanced series, the Atlas has a few benefits over the similarly-sized Aqua Marina Monster. The Atlas does fall into the upper end of our budget pricing tier, but is also the largest board available in this price range. It’s highly maneuverable, and a stable platform for larger beginner paddlers.
— Aqua Marina Atlas Summary Ratings and Review – —
Aqua Marina Atlas 12’ x 34” x 6”
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
Warranty & Customer Support
The Aqua Marina Atlas offers a budget option for casual paddling with a partner.
- Large size
- Diamond Groove and Textured deck pad
- Light weight
- Kick pad
- Unique leash
- Printed graphics
- Very maneuverable
- Kayak seat compatible
- Compact size for travel and storage
- Low nose rocker reduces speed
- Few attachment points for accessories or equipment
Construction and Durability
Aqua Marina has two types of constructions for their all-around boards. Both start with the same DS Light Tech base – a single layer of PVC around a 6” drop stitch core and two PVC rail bands going around the sides of the board. The Atlas is one of Aqua Marina’s Advanced All-Around iSUPs. This means it gets an additional seam reinforcement band on the deck-side of the board and an extra layer of PVC on the tail of the board (the mustard yellow portion).
SUP constructions vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. The DS Light Tech single layer construction is not the most robust option available. While the Atlas does have great stability, you can feel the board flex under your feet and the lack of stiffness does take a toll on the stabilizing muscles in your feet compared to stiffer inflatable SUPs.
The large size and very boxy shape of the Atlas does give it a high overall weight capacity on paper, however to keep the Atlas at it’s best performance, it is better to keep the overall weight a good margin below the maximum listed 394lbs. For most paddlers this isn’t an issue, but if you are paddling with a passenger it is something to consider.
The lightweight construction of the Atlas does keep the overall weight of the board down to just 24lbs – which is very light for a board of this size. It also deflates and rolls into quite a small package, making it easy to transport and store even in limited spaces.
PVC is an inherently strong material. Even with just a single layer of PVC material, we don’t have any concerns about durability for regular use. Care should always be taken with iSUPs to avoid sharp objects and dragging the board. However, should you come in contact with something that isn’t ideal for inflatable boards, a single layer board is more likely to have an immediate issue compared to double or triple layer boards. The double PVC rail bands on the Atlas add both stiffness and protection from bumping into objects.
It’s very difficult to tell if the additional seam reinforcement and/or layer of PVC on the tail actually add any durability or stiffness over the standard All-Around series boards from Aqua Marina. Our bend test showed a slight benefit for the Atlas over the Monster (12’x33”) but no change when comparing the Vapor (standard construction) and Beast (Advanced construction).On the water there is a different feel to the Atlas and other Advanced iSUPs compared to their standard construction counterparts. They do feel slightly stiffer and when paddling hard during a sprint they don’t flex quite as much. Another aspect we look at for board stiffness is what we call reverberation or feedback. This is the “aftershock” you feel after stepping or bouncing on the board. The Advanced construction boards (like the Atlas) have a little less flex, but a faster and stronger feeling reverberation compared to the standard construction boards. This can sometimes come as a surprise and when first testing the
|Max Capacity||396 pounds|
|Board Weight||24 pounds|
(SUP & accessories)
|Returns period||30 days|
Features, Accessories and Versatility
One of the top features of the Aqua Marina Atlas is definitely its size. There are few boards on the market that are as large as the Atlas without jumping into tandem paddleboards. The extra size of the Atlas adds stability and carrying capacity over “regular” size all-around iSUPs.
As part of the Advanced series of all-around iSUPs by Aqua Marina, the Atlas gets an upgraded deck pad. This Diamond-groove deckpad also features a highly-textured surface for maximum grip and drainage. The pad itself is quite large and has plenty of room for paddling, yoga, bringing a passenger, or just laying down for a bit! The rear of the deck pad features a raised kick pad. These kick pads help paddlers in two ways. First, they let you know when you have reached the rear of the board without looking. Second, when you put weight on the back of the board to lift the nose for a pivot turn or for surfing, the kick pad flattens out and becomes horizontal, giving you a solid surface to stand on.
Behind the kick pad there’s just enough room for the inflation valve and the leash D-ring. There is no rear storage area on the Atlas, nor rear D-rings to create a storage area or lash additional items.
The middle of the board features four d-rings for kayak seat compatibility. At 34” wide I would expect the maneuverability to decrease while sitting with a kayak paddle (it’s harder to get the same leverage you can while standing).At the front of the board there are 4 D-rings strung with a bungee cord for cargo storage. The bungee cord also has a sliding lock on it to adjust the tension, however the overall adjustment is limited. There’s plenty of room for a small to medium-sized dry bag, but if you want to put a cooler there, you’ll need to supply your own straps.
The Atlas comes bundled with the Sports III aluminum and nylon paddle, Liquid Air V2 double action pump, 9” slide-in fin, ultralight safety leash, and repair kit.
All of this packs easily into the backpack style carry bag. The carry bag is pretty straight forward, and we’d like to see upgrades to the bag (and other accessories) in the future. Wheels, zippered pockets, and a more comfortable backpack harness would all be appreciated for those times where you need to move your board farther than from the house to the car.
The Sports III paddle included with the Atlas leaves a lot to be desired in a SUP paddle, but performs well enough. The aluminum construction is heavy and aluminum is prone to accidental denting, but Aqua Marina installed plugs in each of the sections to prevent it from sinking if you do drop the paddle.
The paddle handle is scaled – there are measurement markings along the handle section to let you know what length it is set at. However it is not indexed – so the handle can be twisted in any orientation by the user. While this does let you fine tune the position of the handle, it also means you have to know which way the handle should face in relation to the blade. Otherwise you can end up with a paddle that is uncomfortable in your hand, or a backward paddle blade fluttering through the water.
Once you get the paddle oriented correctly, it does work well to move you and your board. The medium-large blade lets you put out a lot of power with each paddle stroke. The weight does get tiring after a long paddle session, but for casual use it likely won’t be noticed unless comparing it to other brands’ paddles.
The blade itself can be a little tricky for beginning paddleboarders. The nylon blade has two distinct curves. The power face curve (the side of the paddle that faces you when paddling) curves from the throat to the tip of the blade – this is pretty normal for entry level paddles. This curve gives a visual indication to help orient the paddle and can help give the paddle more purchase with casual paddle strokes. However the back side of the paddle also has a curve (from side to side). Both curves are pronounced about the same and can create confusion for those new paddlers who may not be sure which way the blade should be pointed.That double bend also creates an issue for intermediate and advanced paddlers who are learning (and using) bracing strokes. These stroke provide extra stability for a fraction of a second (to stop you from falling off) but also require you to quickly and cleanly remove the paddle from the water to either brace again or take a stroke. The double bend catches water no matter how you orient the paddle blade, so removing it quickly is significantly more difficult.
Stability is the name of the game with the Atlas. This is a big board (and it does take a little longer than normal to inflate, but I digress). At 34” wide and 12’ long it’s designed to carry extra people and/or cargo. When standing still on the Atlas there’s no trouble staying upright. You can feel the board gently rock with small ripples, but not in a way that makes you feel unstable. This feeling would be reduced if the Atlas had a 2+1 fin setup – more surface area on the fins reduces how easy it is for the board to rock side-to-side.
I always try to test the stability of a board in different situations as well. While bouncing on the board I did notice its flexibility, but more than that I noticed the reverberating aftershock when I stopped bouncing. The best way I can describe this feeling is that the reverberation was quick and strong – almost to the point of throwing me off balance. When comparing it to its nearest cousin – the Aqua Marina Monster, the Monster had more flex, but had a slower and smoother reverberation that was easier to account for.
I also like to rock my sups from side to side and see how they handle putting the rails (sides) of the board all the way down onto the surface of the water. As expected, the Atlas did well in this test but did exhibit a small, quick “popping” sensation as the rail would come back up from the water’s surface.When holding the board on its edge (pictured above) it did take a little bit more effort to hold the board in that position than what I expected, but once I found the sweet spot it held OK. This secondary stability is what gives you a brief moment to correct your position and weight to stop yourself from tipping all the way over – the easier it is to find that sweet spot and easier it is to hold, the more time you’ll have to stop yourself from going over if you do happen to find yourself in this position.
The general rule of thumb is that the longer and skinnier a SUP is, the faster it will be (theoretically). So what happens with a long, wide board?
Well, if you compare the Atlas to 12’-12.5’ dedicated touring iSUPs (28-32” wide) it’s “slow.” If you compare the Atlas to slightly shorter 33-35” wide all-around boards, it’s roughly the same speed. So is the Atlas fast? It depends.
So how fast does the Atlas feel? Now that’s a better question. The Atlas does take some effort to paddle quickly because of its width and its low nose rocker. One issue I ran into during speed testing was the nose actually diving below the surface of the water. I normally stand with my toes about an inch or two behind the front of the center handle on most SUPs. When in this position I suddenly found myself fighting to stay on the board because when I looked up the nose of the Atlas was 3” underwater! I paused for half a paddle stroke to let the nose resurface and shuffled my feet back another 6”. This did alleviate the problem, but I could see a similar situation occurring in choppy conditions or with a loaded board.I would argue that the Atlas is not made for sprinting, though, and I think most paddlers out there would agree. It straddles that line between all-around and touring board so efficiency is more important than top-line speed. When I test to see how well a board glides I get to a cruising speed and then count how many paddle strokes it takes to maintain that speed over a set distance. The Atlas did have better glide (needing fewer strokes) than the Monster by a small margin. As an all-around board the Atlas glides well, but does fall short in comparison to true touring boards.
Maneuverability and Tracking
Maneuverability and turning are super important characteristics of an all-around iSUP. At 12’ long and 34” wide I fully expected the Atlas to take me around the globe (pun-intended) during our maneuverability test. But I was absolutely stunned by how quickly it did turn!
While keeping the board flat on the water, the Atlas is able to turn 360° from a standstill in just 6 paddle strokes (forward sweep strokes). That squarely puts it in competition with shorter all-around boards closer to the 11’ mark. Turning using reverse sweep strokes was also just as easy.
Stepping back to pivot turn is easy enough on the Atlas. The board’s extra width through much of the standing area kept it stable while changing positions. Once you weight your back foot onto the kick pad, the situation does change noticeably. The tail of the board comes to a fairly quick taper and pin tail in just the last few feet. This creates a distinct point on the board where you go from a nice wide, stable, platform, to a much smaller one that is far less forgiving. Combine that with the front half of the board unsupported out of the water and any small change in weight distribution makes a huge impact. The unsupported front half is noticeably flexible and reverberates while the tail is extremely easy to rock side to side under the water. Once your sea legs are under you, the Atlas turns smoothly and quickly. Stay vigilant as you lower the front of the board back down and take your first step back to the comfort of the 34” wide standing area. After the first five or six pivot turns it became easy enough to compensate for the feel of the board, but always required full attention.
The Atlas tracks well, and at 12’ long I would expect it to. While cruising or casually paddling with good forward stroke technique it’s quite easy to keep the Atlas on course. However the Atlas is also quick to respond to steering input whether on purpose or accident.
The single 9” fin does well, but tracking could be greatly improved with the addition of additional fin boxes. A 2+1 fin setup not only improves tracking, but also stability and versatility. We hope to see more fins on the larger Aqua Marina boards, like the Atlas, in future generations.
When sprinting the Atlas’s tracking performance dropped as the board flexed more and bounced around on the surface of the water. As mentioned in the speed section, this is not really a board that’s meant for top-speed paddling, so I don’t really consider this to be a major drawback, but rather something to be aware of.
Warranty and Customer Support
Aqua Marina iSUPs come with a 1-year warranty against manufacturing defects. They also include a 30-day return period, however this only applies for unused equipment, so there is no opportunity for a trial period. Questions, customer support, and orders for Aqua Marina products are handled by their network of distributors. Zoppinh, the US distributor for Aqua Marina, is available for questions or support via email, online chat, social media or by phone. We would like to see Aqua Marina support their boards for a longer period of time, as we do think they will outlast their 1-year warranty, especially for their Advanced series boards.
We take a look at all aspects of an iSUP/iSUP kit when evaluating how good of a deal it is. We also consider what price category it falls into and how it compares to other boards/kits in the same categories. The Atlas price rides the line between budget and mid-priced iSUP kits, but the construction and accessories fall into the budget category. At this price point we’d like to see some upgrades to the board accessories and a few more features (like more storage space) on the board itself. If you are limited in budget, but need the largest board you can get, the Aqua Marina Atlas does provide a decent value. As a general purpose all-around iSUP it may be a bit too big for most paddlers, though.
Overall Impressions/Review Summary
The Aqua Marina Atlas is an interesting board. Its large size lets it carry more cargo or passengers, but it isn’t necessarily equipped for longer trips. The Advanced construction does add some value over the Aqua Marina Monster, but I’m not sure if it’s really equivalent to the price difference. The Aqua Marina would be a good option for the casual lake or bay paddler who likes to take a passenger (2- or 4-legged) on short trips, or for the taller beginner paddlers who want the stability of the 12’ length and 34” width, but still need a maneuverable board. If future versions of the Atlas added a few fins, a handful of D-rings, and a couple of accessory upgrades, I could see it being a great budget option for SUP camping or fishing as well.
Aqua Marina Atlas SUP FAQ
Aqua Marina Atlas vs Monster
The Aqua Marina Atlas uses the DS Lite Advanced construction which adds a seam reinforcement strip, upgraded deck pad, and adds a raised kick pad on the tail. The Atlas is also 1” wider than the Monster. The Aqua Marina Atlas also includes the upgraded Liquid Air V2 hand pump. Because of the extra width, the Atlas will be more stable than the Monster and have a slightly higher weight capacity.
How long does it take to inflate the Aqua Marina Atlas?
With the included Liquid Air V2 hand pump, the Atlas takes 8-12 minutes to inflate depending on how fast you go.
How long will the Aqua Marina Atlas last?
iSUP longevity is as much about how you care for your iSUP as it is about the board’s construction. As a single-layer PVC iSUP, with care to avoid physical damage, over inflation, and/or excess UV exposure, the Aqua Marina Atlas will last for several years.
How do I clean and store the Aqua Marina Atlas?
The Aqua Marina Atlas should be cleaned and stored like most other iSUPs. Make sure to rinse with fresh water after use. Clean the board and deck pad using a biodegradable soap and soft-bristled brush as necessary. Make sure your board is fully dried before storing it. You can store the Atlas rolled in its bag or partially inflated. Keep it in a dry location out of direct sunlight. If the board is stored near or below freezing temperatures, allow it to fully come to room temperature before unrolling or rolling it up to avoid potential cracking of the PVC.
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