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Aqua Marina Drift Inflatable SUP Review | 2023
Aqua Marina Drift iSUP: Overview
The Aqua Marina Drift is Aqua Marina’s only fishing-specific iSUP. It has a less-common three chambered design that essentially gives the paddleboard the boat-equivalent of water wings to help increase stability without adding significantly more weight. The Drift comes as a complete ready-to-fish kit and there is a custom-made hard sided cooler/seat available as an additional accessory.
— Aqua Marina Drift iSUP Summary Ratings and Review —
Aqua Marina Drift
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
Warranty & Customer Support
The Aqua Marina Drift offers stability and included fishing accessories in an affordable package.
- Three chamber design increases stability while keeping weight at a minimum
- Integrated fishing rod holder attachments and included rod holders
- Clean design gives you plenty of room to move and adjust on the board
- Pebble-textured deck pad provides excellent grip
- Maneuverable design is easy to quickly change angles for casting
- The side tubes are not rigidly attached to the main board, so the Drift feels stable, but twitchy
- There are very few options for cargo storage, tie downs, and accessory mounting
Construction and Durability
The Aqua Marina drift is made of two core components: the inner paddleboard and the outer tubes. The Drift’s paddleboard section uses the same single-layer construction as their all-around iSUPs.
The Aqua Marina Drift looks quite a bit different from most inflatable paddleboards. The central section of the board is essentially a 26” wide traditional iSUP, and there is a 6” diameter inflatable tube that goes around each side of the board from nose to tail.
The main paddleboard section is made of a single-layer PVC material with a standard knitted fabric and linear drop stitch core. This core gives the board its flat shape and rigidity. The PVC shell is adhered to the inner core on the top and bottom, and then sealed together by another strip of PVC adhered all the way around the edge of the board to create the airtight structure. An additional layer of PVC is wrapped around the board again for improved rigidity and abrasion resistance. This is the same style construction that we see with Aqua Marina’s all-around iSUPs like the Atlas, Beast, Monster and Vapor. What sets the Drift apart from these others are the exterior tubes.
These 6” diameter inflatable tubes are made of a single layer of PVC material without a drop stitch interior. This allows them to remain light, very pliable when deflated, and take on their circular shape. These exterior tubes are designed to increase the stability of the Drift without drastically increasing its weight or cost.
Because the tubes are only attached with a thin layer of PVC material glued to the main board, they don’t add significant rigidity to the board overall. The Drift (like Aqua Marina’s all-around iSUPs) is only rated to 15 PSI maximum inflation pressure by the manufacturer, and the tubes are only rated to 3 PSI. The outer tubes are still made of a heavy-duty PVC material, however they do feel thinner to the touch, and I don’t believe they’ll have the same abrasion and puncture resistance as the main section of the board. The good news is, though, if the tubes do develop a leak, it will be limited to only that tube, not the entire system.
With the main board inflated to 15 PSI and the outer tubes inflated to 3 PSI, the Aqua Marina Drift had a rather large amount of deflection in our bend test. 2.5 inches of bend with 170 lbs, the Drift has as much flex as most of Aqua Marina’s all-around iSUPs. Normally, wider paddle boards tend to do better than narrower ones of the same construction. In this case, however, the primary section of the Drift is only 26” wide. If the drift were a single, wider, iSUP I’d expect its bend test results to be in line, or better than the Aqua Marina Dhyana yoga iSUP, which had 2.125 inches of deflection.
On the water, the Drift displayed the same level of rigidity as Aqua Marina’s other iSUPs that use the same single-layer construction. During our bounce test, the Drift did have noticeable flex, but it is slightly better controlled with a slower rebound than the Aqua Marina all-around boards. I do think the tubes are helping absorb and slow that flex a little bit.
With more normal use – regular paddling and some moving around on the board – I still noticed the flex and rebound, but it was more reasonably controlled. I’ll get more into the overall feel of this board on the water in the Stability section below. When paddling quickly, however, the flex once again became more noticeable.
|Max Capacity||286 pounds|
|Board Weight||24.5 pounds|
(SUP & accessories)
|Returns period||30 days|
Features, Accessories and Versatility
The Aqua Marina Drift is a fishing-focused iSUP. There are a few features specific to this paddleboard that work well for anglers and are designed to work well with optional accessories offered by Aqua Marina.
The Aqua Marina Drift is set up with fishing in mind. The outer tubes of the paddleboard increase stability not just while paddling, but while casting and landing as well. One of the drawbacks with this design is that the effective weight capacity is much lower than similar-width paddleboards made entirely of drop stitch material. The Drift is only rated for a 286 lbs weight capacity by Aqua Marina.
The front of the board has a medium-size cargo area with four D-rings. There’s plenty of room to hold a small-to-medium size dry bag as well as your other regular paddling essentials. The cargo bungee is adjustable using the locking clip. Simply pull the bungee through the clip to tighten, and then toggle the latch on the clip to loosen.
At the center of the board there’s a carrying handle and two D-rings that are placed along the center axis of the Drift. These D-rings are placed specifically to be used with the optional 23 quart Aqua Marina fishing cooler. This does place the cooler “sideways,” but sets it up to be used with the folding chair back that is built into the cooler’s lid. While this is a nice touch, I found that because the cooler is positioned directly over the prime standing area of the board, it greatly limits your ability to be able to comfortably stand and paddle or cast.
Just behind the standing area are two mounting points for the included fishing rod holders. These mounting points allow you to position the rod holders to face any direction, and the holders themselves allow you to tilt them up or down to suit your needs. If you are using the optional cooler as a seat, I found that the rod holders need to be pointed slightly forward to easily reach them. Otherwise the seat’s back and the distance to the rod holders makes you rotate and reach fairly far just to grab your fishing pole.
The Drift does not have any other D-rings or tie down points. It doesn’t have a nose or tail carrying handle, either. There are no other options for rigging the Drift without either adding glue-on D-rings yourself, or lashing your cargo all the way around the board. I find this to be quite limiting and not the best option for longer or more gear-intensive fishing trips. There’s also no D-ring on the nose (deck or hull) to be used with an anchor or as a tow-point. There is one extra large D-ring on the back of the board, just in front of the inflation valve, for your leash.
The Aqua Marina Drift does come as a complete package with all of the basic necessities for an inflatable paddleboard. In addition to the 9” dolphin-style fin, lightweight leash, aluminum paddle, single-chamber hand pump, repair kit and lightweight backpack carrying bag, the Drift also comes with two fishing rod holders designed to mount directly to the board. The included Liquid Air V1 pump does well for inflating the primary section of the Drift, however there is an issue when it comes to the side chambers. The side chambers are only rated for 3 PSI, but the hand pump will not accurately read 3 PSI. Use an electric pump to allow you to set the automatic cutoff at 3 PSI, or use the hand pump until the side tubes are inflated and offer slight resistance when pressed with a finger.
The Drift comes with the Aqua Marina Sports III aluminum and nylon SUP paddle. This paddle is serviceable, but does have some drawbacks.
The Aqua Marina Sports III paddle is made with an aluminum shaft and plastic handle and blade. Aluminum is not an ideal material for paddle shafts, especially for longer paddles like those used while stand up paddleboarding. As a metal, aluminum is fairly light, but compared to carbon fiber or even fiberglass, it’s quite heavy. Those ounces add up in a SUP paddle, and aluminum paddles can get very tiring to use rather quickly. The other downside with aluminum is that while it is rather stiff generally, it’s very easy to bend, the bend stays, it’s nearly impossible to straighten out, and each time it’s bent/straightened the aluminum weakens and is more likely to bend again in the future (and eventually break). While stepping or setting something heavy on an aluminum paddle can certainly bend it, they can also be bent just through normal use on the water (it’s happened to me several times).
Composite materials like fiberglass, in addition to being lighter, have more flex for better comfort and don’t deform when bent.
The blade itself is medium-to-large, and has a double-bend shape that can cause some confusion for new paddlers. There’s no rake (angle between the blade and the shaft), but the amount of bend on the power face and the back of the paddle are nearly identical (though different directions) which may confuse new paddles while trying to figure out both how to orient the handle and which way the blade should be used in the water.
The adjustable handle uses a simple clasp to hold the aluminum handle section in place. There are length markings on the paddle, but no indication for indexing, or orienting, the handle to correctly line up with the blade. The handle grip itself is plastic with a standard pear-shape and some light texturing. If I were only allowed to change one thing regarding the Aqua Marina Drift kit, it would be to change the paddle to have a fiberglass shaft. At the MSRP for the Drift, and Aqua Marina’s other all-around iSUPs, that should be a given.
As a fishing SUP, the Drift needs to have excellent stability to let you confidently cast, fight, and land fish without losing your balance or your gear. The Drift does have good stability, but with a little bit of a twist.
To really get a grasp on what paddling the Aqua Marina Drift feels like, it’s important to remember that it’s made of three parts – a main chamber built like a traditional iSUP, and two outside chambers built like tiny inflatable kayak tubes.
The main section of the Drift is only 26” wide, and the outer tubes are each 6” in diameter, for a total of 38” (well, 38.5” as measured). Rather than having the stability of a 38” wide board, or having the lack of stability of a 26” wide board, the Drift falls into this weird in-between space. Standing on the Drift, I can best describe, is like standing on a 28” wide board that just doesn’t really fall over.
You get some of the twitchy sensation of balancing on a narrower board, but that rotation is stopped short as more pressure is put onto the outer tubes. So there is stability – you don’t feel like you are going to easily fall off like on a narrow iSUP – but it’s not the most comfortable experience. I did get more used to it after about 10 minutes of paddling the Drift, but never felt as comfortable as I do on narrower iSUPs around 32-34” wide.
Because of the round tubes on the sides, it’s actually quite difficult to put the Drift fully on its edge to balance and test the board’s secondary stability. Rounded tubes, like those on the Drift and on inflatable kayaks, tend to have good primary stability (stability while flat on the water) and have a consistent feel as you tilt them over farther and farther. However, because they are round rather than square like the rail of an iSUP, once you hit a certain point they tend to immediately flip over. You have to lean really hard onto the outer tube of the Drift in order for that to happen, but if you do get to that point, it happens quickly.
Overall, the Drift does provide enough stability to keep you and your equipment on the board while reeling in your catch.
The Drift is aptly named when it comes to speed. It’s not meant to be a particularly fast iSUP, but it does struggle to move at even more modest speeds.
Fishing paddleboards tend to focus primarily on stability, maneuverability, and capacity rather than speed. That is the case with the Aqua Marina Drift. While sprint testing the drift I ran into three issues. First, the very wide size of the board makes it more difficult to paddle with good form and reduces forward reach with the paddle. Second, the Drift suffers from noticeable flex while paddling with more force. Third, the wide shape and cavities created between the outer tubes and main chamber push through the water rather than glide on top of it. The Drift feels very sluggish on the water. However – it’s a fishing iSUP! It’s not meant to be fast, nor is it really any knock against the Drift for being slower.
Paddling the Drift at lower speeds is more comfortable. The board doesn’t flex nearly as much and while the Drift does still push water at the front, it doesn’t require the immense amount of effort that sprinting does. That same pushing effect, though, does drastically impact the Drift’s ability to glide between strokes. The Drift begins to noticeably slow down as soon as you are done with your paddle stroke rather than gliding for a more reasonable distance before slowing.
Maneuverability and Tracking
The Drift is an easily maneuverable iSUP that makes it easy to turn and reset for new casting targets, however it does trade off its tracking ability to make turning easier.
Turning the Aqua Marina Drift is actually quite easy for a paddleboard of its size. Using forward-sweep strokes it takes an average of just over 6 paddle strokes to turn in a full circle from a standstill. This is a little high for other 11’ iSUPs, but none that we have tested are as wide as the Drift. When switching to a reverse-sweep stroke, the drift makes a snappy 360° turn in just 3.5 strokes.
While stepping back to the tail of the board for a pivot turn, I could feel the Drift flex and reverberate with each step and as I lifted the nose. However once I had the board in position, it was still quite stable and easy to spin through the water.
While testing the tracking for the Drift I found it fairly difficult to stay on course. The Drift made the tradeoff to focus on maneuverability more than tracking. For many SUP anglers, this is a good choice. It makes it easier to reposition over smaller distances to cast to a new location or from a different angle. I also felt more of an impact from the wind compared to other iSUPs. While the outer tubes are only 6” in diameter – the same as the thickness of the main board – because they are only loosely connected at a single point along the edge, they float higher on the water rather than drafting at the same depth as the main board. This creates a larger profile that can more easily catch light breezes.
The Drift has only one slide-lock fin box on the tail of the board. It comes with a standard 9” dolphin-shape fin. For many paddleboards, a single fin is completely sufficient to balance tracking, maneuverability, and stability. With the Drift’s poor tracking performance and awkward stability I feel that it could greatly benefit from having either a Twin or 2+1 fin setup.
Aqua Marina uses slide-lock fin boxes on all of their iSUPs. I am not a fan of this fin system. I find the fit tolerances between the fins and fin boxes to be poor and often the fin is extremely difficult to install or remove. The fin box itself is made of a soft plastic that is easily deformed. If you look closely in the photo above, you can see a deformation in the front of the fin where I needed to literally hammer it into place (the same fin now has a deformation on the trailing edge from when I needed to remove it). This is because the fin box had warped.
In addition to durability/usability concerns with slide-lock fin boxes (which are used by other brands as well), there is the issue of availability. Slide-lock fins are far less common than standard US fins or Click fins, which not only makes finding replacements more challenging, but also greatly limits your choice in fin sizes and shapes to begin with.
Warranty and Customer Support
Aqua Marina warranties their inflatable paddleboards against manufacturing defects for 1 year. Their warranty system is handled by their dealer network, so any issues or requests have to go back through the local retailer. Because Aqua Marina’s products are only available through retailers, return periods and policies will change from place to place. In North America, the regional supplier of Aqua Marina products is Zoppinh.com. They offer a 30-day return period for unused items in their original packaging. Customer service is also handled entirely by local retailers. Our attempts to reach Aqua Marina directly have been unsuccessful. Zoppinh.com can be reached by website chat, email, phone and social media.
The Aqua Marina Drift fishing iSUP is a specialty iSUP that is priced more in line with mid-range all-around paddleboards. The lower quality construction, very limited warranty and customer service, and the good, but odd, stability of the Drift make it a less-appealing option than several other fishing-specific iSUPs available. The Drift is sold at a lower price point. Ultimately the value question comes down to usability/versatility and performance/construction, versus price. If shopping on a strict budget, the Aqua Marina Drift does make a very usable fishing iSUP, however if your budget can be stretched, there are more durable and better performing options available.
Overall Impressions/Review Summary
The Drift has been an interesting board to use. It’s very lightweight and compact for easy storage and transportation. It has some quirky performance pro’s and con’s, and a basic set of accessories. The Drift is ready-to-fish out of the box (no other accessories needed except a PFD), and it is certainly stable enough for fishing in calm waters. If you are fishing off-shore, in a mix of conditions, or are looking for a board for more long-term fishing trips, the Drift may not be the best choice. However if you are looking for a paddleboard to get you to the best fishing holes on your local lake without breaking the bank, the Drift might be right up your alley.
Aqua Marina Drift fishing iSUP FAQ
How heavy is the Aqua Marina Drift fishing iSUP?
The Drift iSUP itself weighs about 24.5 lbs. The entire kit together, including all accessories and the bag, weighs about 33 lbs, making the Drift one of the lightest fishing-specific iSUPs.
How long does it take to inflate the Aqua Marina Drift fishing iSUP?
Using the included Liquid Air V1 hand pump, it takes about 8 minutes to inflate the main chamber to 15 PSI and about 1 minute to inflate each side chamber to 3 PSI. The hand pump gauge does not read the 3 PSI pressure. Inflate the side chambers until they are full and have moderate resistance to pressing them with your thumb.
Can I paddle with another person or dog on the Aqua Marina Drift fishing iSUP?
Small children and small dogs may be able to ride along on the Drift iSUP, however the narrow main section of the board creates a rather limited weight capacity of only 286 lbs. Two adults will not be able to comfortably use the Drift together.
What other accessories do I need in order to start fishing with the Aqua Marina Drift fishing iSUP?
Other than a PFD (lifejacket) and your own fishing equipment, the Aqua Marina Drift is ready to go fishing right out of the box. Aqua Marina does make an optional 23 qt fishing cooler with an integrated seat back that is designed to specifically fit the Drift.
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