Aqua Marina Vapor Review: Overview
The Aqua Marina Vapor is a smaller all-around inflatable stand up paddleboard that I think would be best for kids, tweens, and petite adults under 130lb. At 10’4” x 31” and just 18.7lbs the Vapor is incredibly lightweight, but this does come with a tradeoff. The small size and simple construction of the Vapor make it less stable and more difficult to paddle for an average adult beginner, or those paddlers who wish to carry passengers, pets or large amounts of cargo. The size of the Vapor will also be more comfortable for paddlers under 5’2” compared to other all-around iSUPs that are 32” or wider. Adults and larger paddlers may want to consider the Aqua Marina Fusion (10’10” x 32”) instead to better match their size.
— Aqua Marina Vapor Summary Ratings and Review – —
Aqua Marina Vapor
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
Construction and Durability
Paddleboard performance and durability all start with how the board is built. There is a huge variety in choices for manufacturers at every step of the way, and each choice has some number of trade offs.
One of the first things I noticed when paddling the Vapor (besides its small size) was how bouncy it felt under foot. This flexibility really impacted the overall performance of the board. I am a larger paddler (though even at 230lb, well under the 308lb weight limit), so I made sure to have another tester give it a go. She (160lb) felt the same bounciness and overall had the same experience as myself.
Aqua Marina uses the same basic construction across their line of all-around iSUPs called DS Lite Tech, modifying it slightly for their Advanced series. The DS Lite Tech is a single layer of PVC glued to the standard 6” drop stitch core. It also gets two layers of PVC wrapped around the rails of the board for reinforcement. This basic construction technique is inexpensive and creates a lightweight paddleboard. The downside is that it also creates a very flexible board when on the water which impacts stability, speed, and tracking. The Vapor’s flexibility is most noticeable by adult paddlers, but is less noticeable for paddlers under 120lb. Adding a second layer of PVC, increasing drop stitch density, fusing the PVC directly to the drop stitch, or any of a number of other construction techniques and elements could greatly increase the stiffness of the Vapor with only a minor tradeoff in weight.
PVC is an extraordinarily strong material, and even though the deck and hull of the vapor are single-layer, the double layer rail reinforcements added around the sides are plenty strong to prevent damage from regular on-water hazards (bumping into docks, boats, paddles, rocks, etc.) though care should be taken to avoid rubbing or dragging the bottom of the board – as is the case with all paddleboards.
The Vapor, and all of Aqua Marina’s all-around iSUPs, use only a single fin on the hull of the board. For beginner paddlers, and for all-around boards in general, we prefer a 2+1 fin setup. A large center fin (like what is present on the Vapor) is flanked by two, smaller, removable fins on either side. These extra fins not only help the board track straighter, but they also increase stability by adding more resistance to the board rocking from side to side. Adding these extra fin boxes makes the board more beginner friendly, but also gives the user more versatility in how they set up their board for different conditions.
(SUP & accessories)
Features, Accessories and Versatility
When looking for an all-around iSUP, most people are seeking a board that will let them (if you can pardon the pun) test the waters in a variety of different SUP styles. The Aqua Marina Vapor can certainly be used in different conditions, but is not as well equipped as other all-around options at this budget level. Check out our Best Budget iSUPs page for more information.
The front cargo area features a bungee cord with an adjustable clasp. You can tighten the bungee a little bit to hold a pair of flip-flops or other small items a little bit better, but there’s not any room to lengthen the cord for larger dry bags or a small deck cooler. Though there is plenty of room and adjustability for the usual 5-10L dry bag, water bottle and shoes that most paddlers take with them on the water to paddle for a few hours at a time.
The deck of the board features a soft, lightly diamond-textured deck pad that extends all the way to the tail of the board. There’s plenty of room in the front and back to move around on the board, lie down, or bring along a (very) small dog. Behind the deck you’ll find the inflation valve and extremely-burly D-ring for your leash attachment.
Under the board you’ll see the slide-in fin box, and you may notice an odd bubble-looking spot. This is the gap in drop stitching that sits directly below the inflation valve and is a fairly normal phenomenon (though many boards position their valve so the fin box covers this spot).
The storage and carry bag for the Vapor is about as bare-bones as it gets while still getting the job done. On the outside is a thinly-padded backpack harness and a ¾ zipper that opens the bag hinging on one long side like a suitcase. Inside are two straps to hold the rolled iSUP in place and a small, non-closing pocket for everything else.
The Vapor comes with the Aqua Marina Liquid Air V1 hand pump. This single-chamber, double-action hand pump is as no-frills as it gets. Aqua Marina does include a few extra o-rings for the valve side of the pump’s hose in case you need to fine tune the fit or fit the pump to a different brand board. The pump itself is lightweight and features a screw-on cap for easier maintenance.
I’m going to give Aqua Marina props here for making their pump easier to maintain and providing instructions on how to do it. I live in the US Southwest where the air is dry and we get a lot of sand. This combination can wreak havoc on the internals of a hand pump, and keeping it clean and lubricated is a necessary maintenance step for all users. The screw-on cap simply unscrews, allowing you to wipe the piston clean, lubricate the piston and O-rings with some lithium grease, and keep the pump working for the life of the board.Lastly, Aqua Marina includes an ultra-lightweight leash with the Vapor and all of their all-around iSUPs. This leash is made of a woven, hollow, tube of nylon strands that has a little stretch, but weighs next to nothing and will flatten out if you step on it. The cuff is a little small though, only fitting around my ankle and not my calf (my personally preferred spot for a flat water leash).
In a world of fiberglass and carbon fiber paddle availability, aluminum is an odd choice for a SUP kit paddle. It certainly has its place – primarily in rental fleets where cost is a huge concern with regularly damaged and lost paddles. But for an individual user aluminum is heavy, more easily bends out of shape, can sink quickly, and poses a Christmas Story-esque danger in cold conditions if used with bare hands – and I do speak from experience on that one (though not with the Sport III paddle specifically).
The paddle itself, after you get used to the weight, feels OK, but runs into issues with the shape of the blade. The Sport III paddle has two primary bends in it – one on the power face that bends the blade “hamburger” style, and one on the back that bends the paddle “hotdog” style.
This double-bend shape can be confusing for new users as it’s not immediately clear which side of the blade they should be using. For experienced paddlers this shape has another side effect. While releasing the paddle blade from the water at the end of your stroke, no matter how you orierient the blade, it will always catch and hold water making a clean release impossible. For regular paddling this may not be a huge issue, but where I noticed it most was when taking a bracing stroke to prevent myself from falling during a pivot turn. The catching of excess water was enough to throw me significantly off balance requiring more bracing strokes to stop from falling in.
Paddleboard stability is a result of several factors: construction, width, length, shape, thickness, fins and all of that is before you get into environmental conditions and paddler skill. Beginner paddleboarders are most likely to pick an all-around style iSUP because they are so versatile in a number of conditions, and still typically have good stability based on their design.
Knowing that this is a smaller paddleboard at just shy of 10.5 feet long and 31 inches wide, I expected it to be a little less stable than a “standard” all-around board, but even while keeping that in mind I found the Vapor to be a very unstable board.
When you stand on a paddleboard with the board flat on the water you are using the SUP’s primary stability – or how it handles in its most stable position. While standing on the Vapor in calm conditions I did actively have to focus my attention to stay balanced on the board. Every small wave, paddle stroke, and weight shift could be felt reverberating through what I can only describe as a bouncy board. While rocking side to side, the narrow board easily slipped under the surface of the water and had a quick popping sensation as it resurfaced. This effect is mostly attributed to the reduced width of the Vapor, but I’ve also noticed it in some wider boards that have very rounded shapes (looking more like a football when viewed from above).
When testing the secondary stability of the Vapor – or how stable it is when tilted on to its edge – it took every bit of concentration for me to stay on board. Wider boards with more volume are typically more forgiving in this test. During all of these stability tests I could feel the bouncing and flopping under my feet.Smaller paddlers will not notice these issues to quite the degree that a larger paddler will, however they will still be there. Our other tester for the day (160lb) also felt these same problems and did not feel stable while paddling the Vapor. Petite paddlers and kids under 130lb are, I believe, best suited for the Vapor and will feel far more stable than an average size, or larger, adult. For those paddlers, the Aqua Marina Fusion (at 10’10” in length and 32” wide) will be noticeably more stable.
When sprint testing the Vapor I was unable to achieve higher speeds (even for all-around iSUPs) without extreme effort. The board itself would bounce significantly with every hard paddle stroke, and between strokes the nose rocker was so low that it not only produced a large amount of drag, but would regularly be over-topped by water. The board’s flexibility also caused bouncing that prevented me from paddling efficiently in a straight line. This is definitely not a paddleboard built for speed; even moderately fast paddling took a larger than normal amount of effort. However, as an all-around iSUP, speed is nice, but not usually a primary concern for newer paddlers. A higher nose rocker – or how far the nose of the board bends up and away from the level of the water – would reduce some of the drag and help keep the Vapor planing on top of the water’s surface, though. If you are looking for a fast iSUP, take a look at our Best Touring iSUP page.
Maneuverability and Tracking
The Aqua Marina Vapor is a very maneuverable stand up paddleboard. The light weight, narrow width and short length make turning the vapor very easy while it is flat. Using either forward sweep strokes or reverse sweep strokes turned the Vapor efficiently and on par with other all around iSUPs in the 10.5’ length range.
When stepping back for a pivot turn, the board did spin easily, however this is offset by the extreme loss of stability. With the reduced width and board volume, noticeable bouncy sensations, and lack of a raised rear kick pad, the Vapor does not instill confidence during pivot turns whether you are just learning or have been doing them for years. Tweens and petite paddlers that I think this board is better suited for are not likely to feel the same amplitude of change in stability, but any time you lift the nose out of the water things can get a little squirrely!
While paddling casually at low speeds, the Vapor does track reasonably well. The single 9” dolphin-shape slide-in fin does a good job of keeping the board pointed forward and resisting turning while gliding. However, at a higher cruising speed, the Vapor begins to wander off course with each full paddle stroke. The light weight board is very responsive to paddle input for turning, so excellent forward stroke technique is really important to paddling the Vapor straight over long distances.
When paddling quickly or with a great amount of energy, the Vapor does begin to bounce around because of the flexibility in the board construction, making it difficult to keep on track. It is also very susceptible to being blown around by the wind, and even a light breeze is enough to completely turn you around in just a handful of seconds.
Warranty and Customer Support
Aqua Marina backs their paddleboards with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. The local US distributor, Zoppinh, does allow returns within 30 days, however only for unused products. You can contact Zoppinh with questions via email, online chat, social media, or by phone.
We look at each paddleboard holistically when evaluating the overall value of the board. We take into account the board itself, the accessories, customer service and warranty, and then compare those items to other options within the same general category of board and price range. In comparison with other 10.5’ all-around iSUPs, we’ve found that even with a relatively low list price, the Aqua Marina Vapor does not offer a very high value for the price. If Aqua Marina updates the Vapor to have more usability features (additional tie down points, additional fins, etc.), better construction and stiffness, and/or higher quality accessories (fiberglass paddle, better pump, etc.) then it would be a much better value and more in-line with other iSUP packages in this price range like Nautical and Bluefin.
Overall Impressions/Review Summary
I feel that the Aqua Marina Vapor is a good, relatively inexpensive, option for younger paddlers who need to bridge the gap between a true kids board (typically 9’ or less in length) and a full-size adult board. It may also work for more petite adult paddlers. However, with the overall performance of this board and value of the included accessories it’s hard to recommend this board for an average adult paddler or anyone who is looking for a “lifetime” board. The Aqua Marina Fusion offers some improvements in stability and tracking for adult paddlers looking at purchasing an Aqua Marina all-around iSUP.
Aqua Marina Vapor SUP FAQ
Aqua Marina Vapor vs Beast
The Aqua Marina Beast 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 Beast is slightly larger than the Vapor at 10’6”x32”. The Aqua Marina Beast also includes the upgraded Liquid Air V2 hand pump. Because of the extra width, the Beast will be more stable than the Vapor and have a slightly higher weight capacity.
How long does it take to inflate the Aqua Marina Vapor?
With the included Liquid Air hand pump, the Vapor takes 6-10 minutes to inflate depending on how fast you go.
How long will the Aqua Marina Vapor 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 Vapor will last for several years.
How do I clean and store the Aqua Marina Vapor?
The Aqua Marina Vapor 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 Vapor 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.