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Blackfin Model X: Overview
After an 8 month hiatus, the new 2023 Blackfin Model X iSUP is finally making its way to customers’ doorsteps. The majority of changes between the 2022 and 2023 model have been to the internal construction and a few cosmetic differences. What hasn’t changed is the Model X’s overall shape, design, and versatility. The Blackfin Model X is a highly stable paddle board built to do just about everything. With a plethora of cargo mounting options and great paddling ability, the Model X is a true performance all-around iSUP.
— 2023 Blackfin Model X iSUP Summary Ratings and Review —
BLACKFIN Model X
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
The 2023 Blackfin Model X is a super-stable and easily maneuverable iSUP that’s ready for any adventure.
- Increased durability and rigidity thanks to a slower construction process and upgraded internal rail construction for stronger seams
- Excellent stability and high weight capacity due to the 35” width and rigid construction.
- Load the Model X however you want for your next adventure with seven different accessory mounts, 2 large removable cargo areas, extra D-rings and removable handles.
- Secure your fins with the new fin tethers and never worry about losing your fins in the water
- Excellent maneuverability is great for cruising and paddling smaller bodies of water
- High weight capacity and larger deck pad make it easy to use with a partner, pet, or loaded with equipment.
- 3 year warranty for the board, and 1 year warranty for accessories
- While highly maneuverable, the Model X doesn’t track as well as it’s longer sibling the Model XL
- With the size and stability of the Model X, I’d love to see a river-specific version with a cleaner deck, more rocker, and a kick pad for even better maneuverability.
2023 Blackfin Model X Updates
The 2023 Blackfin Model X received a number of changes for this model year, however the paddling performance remains nearly identical. While testing the 2022 and 2023 Model X side-by-side I could not feel any difference while on the water.
The biggest upgrade for the 2023 Blackfin Model X is in its construction. To create a stronger, more durable board, iRocker increased the amount of overlapping material on the internal rail band and slowed down their production process overall. This rail band is what connects the deck and hull around the entire perimeter of the paddleboard to make it airtight. From my measurements, the overlap increased 4.5mm (about 3/16”) on both the top and bottom layers for a combined increase of 9mm (about ⅜”) of contact surface area all the way around the board. While it may not seem like a huge change, that adds up to a significant amount of surface area for better adhesion between the deck/hull and the rail. Additionally, one other change I have noticed is a straightening of the rail-reinforcement band from the slower production process. This narrow layer of PVC material is added on the top and bottom to help protect the edges of the outer rail band from damage. The new construction did not appear to add any noticeable weight to the Model X, though, as both boards weighed in at 26.2 lbs on our scale.
One other change to the construction of the 2023 Model X is a reduction in the maximum recommended pressure from 18 PSI to 16 PSI. While this might sound like a downgrade, check out our bend test results in the Construction and Durability section below for a very pleasant surprise!
While construction is the most significant change to the Model X, it’s not the only change for this year. First, the colorways have been updated. There are six different color options for the 2023 Blackfin Model X. The model shown in this review is the Blue/Gold option. The 2023 Model X does lose one set of D-rings compared to the previous version. The missing set was formerly in the middle of the board on either rail. Though this one set of D-rings has left, the deck pad has been extended all the way to the tail. This gives the board more usable room, especially for those who want to lean into the Model X’s great maneuverability for use on the river or ocean waves.
The cargo bungee cords now have removable clasps on them, and the shape of a few of the accessory mounts have changed from circles to rectangles. The exact positioning of most of the accessory mounts has changed, though. In the front half of the board, the center handle, front threaded mounts, and front cargo area have all shifted about 3” forward.
The rear cargo area is in close to the same position, however the rear threaded mounts have moved rearward about 1.5” and the Scotty mounts and sand spear mounts have shifted 2” forward. While this doesn’ seem like a huge deal – and on the water it’s not – I’ve found that it does create an issue when rolling the board up for transportation. In all of my years using inflatable paddle boards, nearly every iSUP I’ve used has been able to roll from the tail to the nose using the fin boxes as a sizing guide to fit the board into the bag. Some have been tight fits, but almost all iSUPs I’ve encountered have packed away easily using this method (the exception being the new range of compact SUPs that require specific rolling techniques to fit into smaller bags). The change in placement of the Blackfin Model X’s accessory points still lets you do this, however it results in a fold that is too wide to fit into the 2021/2022 Blackfin iSUP bag. The only way I’ve been able to get the new 2023 Model X to fit into the 2022 bag is to roll the board from the nose to the tail in a looser shape which takes up the entire volume of the bag. This makes it more difficult to pack the remaining accessories into the bag as well.
Construction and Durability
The 2023 Blackfin Model X uses iRocker’s “triple-layer composite” shell with carbon fiber reinforced rails for an incredibly stiff and highly durable construction.
At the core of the Blackfin Model X is a 6” linear drop stitch construction with a knitted fabric layer. This core gives the Model X its thickness and maintains its shape and rigidity on the water.
The shell of the Model X is made with what iRocker refers to as a “triple-layer composite” PVC material. This is not the same as three-layers of PVC material, though. Three full layers of PVC material would be incredibly heavy and more expensive. Instead the triple layer construction refers to two layers of PVC that are reinforced with a layer of fiber material. This provides more rigidity and durability than PVC alone while keeping the overall weight of the board at a very manageable 26 pounds.
For 2023 the inner rail band (made of a wide strip of PVC) has increased in size to allow for nearly a quarter-inch more overlap with the deck and hull materials. This gives the rail band more contact surface area for better glue adhesion. The Model X then gets an outer rail band layer that sandwiches a strip of stabilized carbon fiber fabric at the middle of the board. This carbon fiber fabric prevents the sides of the board bulging to create a more rigid ride on the water. It also adds an extra layer of protection to the board at the more high-wear/high-impact areas. Lastly, the rails are further protected on the top and bottom with a narrow band of PVC. This protects the edges of the outer rail band from damage through normal wear-and-tear.
We set up the Blackfin Model X for our dry land bend test to see how rigid the updated construction is. With a 170 lbs load, the Model X bent just one inch at its maximum 16 PSI. That’s an excellent result and is well above the average across all of our tested iSUPs.
On the water, the 2023 Model X also did not disappoint. While bouncing up and down on the board, I felt only a low amount of flex that had a very light and short-lived rebound (rather than continuing to flex and reverberate after I was done bouncing). While paddling and moving around on the board normally, the flex was only perceptible when I went looking for it, otherwise it felt quite solid.
Overall the Blackfin Model X is a very rigid iSUP, even at the new, slightly lower, 16 PSI maximum pressure.
|Max Capacity||450 pounds|
|Board Weight||26.2 pounds|
|Returns period||45 days|
Features, Accessories and Versatility
The Blackfin Model X is loaded up with cargo areas, accessory mounts, and a high-capacity and high-stability size that makes it incredibly versatile.
The Blackfin Model X is ready to be loaded up for adventure. There are two large cargo storage areas on the nose and tail of the board. Each has quick-release bungee cords to let you easily remove the cords to use your own tie-downs for large cargo as needed.
There are four threaded accessory mounts – two on the front cargo area, two near the rear cargo area – that can be used with a number of different ready-to-use accessories, or for your own DIY options using M6 bolts. iRocker has a range of accessories including phone mounts, action camera mounts, cup holders, and fishing rod holders. There are also two sets of D-rings along the sides of the Model X that are compatible with the iRocker kayak seat and shoulder carrying strap.
There are two Scotty-style mounting plates behind the standing area that are ready to accept the Blackfin fishing rack system. This gives anglers a great way to keep their equipment organized and within easy reach. For fishing flats and other shallow areas, there are two mounting points on the sides of the board to use the Blackfin sand spear to quickly anchor your board.
One of my favorite updates for the 2023 Blackfin Model X is the deck pad extension. The former Model X’s deck pad ended at the front of the rear cargo area, leaving multiple feet at the tail of the board uncovered and slippery. The 2023 Model X’s deck pad extends all the way through the cargo area to the tail of the board. Combined with the ability to quickly and easily remove the cargo bungee, paddlers can now freely use the tail of their board for quicker turns and better control while surfing or river running. That extra stability and usability could be further enhanced with the addition of a raised kick pad. I think the Blackfin X is primed to be offered in a river-specific version for use on up to Class II+ whitewater with just a few tweaks.
On the hull of the Model X there is a D-ring on the nose of the board to allow you to easily anchor or tow the board, and three fin boxes. The 2023 Model X uses the same flip-lock style of fin boxes as iRocker’s other inflatable SUPs, but with the addition of the locking tether cord that was first introduced in the iRocker and Blackfin Ultra series compact iSUPs. Older fins will still fit these fin boxes.
The Model X is available as a basic kit with just the board, fins and repair kit. You can also use the iRocker bundle builder to select a board bag, leash, paddle, pump, and other accessories to meet your specific needs.
Because the 2023 Blackfin Model X is not yet commercially available at large, we aren’t sure if there will be an updated paddle, or if the Model X will continue to use the same Blackfin Carbon Fiber/Nylon paddle as the 2022 model.
The Blackfin three-piece paddle is a lightweight kit paddle with a relatively stiff paddle shaft and medium-sized blade.
Weighing in at 28.3 ounces, the Blackfin three piece paddle is the lightest kit paddle that we’ve tested thanks to its carbon fiber shaft and lightweight nylon blade. The shaft itself provides a relatively stiff platform (79mm flex) for better power transfer. The high-aspect (rectangular shape) Nylon blade is relatively thin and has a low 4° blade angle, but a deep scoop shape. This combination of shapes creates a general-use design that works well for cruising, or for paddling long distances. The blade does have a significant amount of flex, so it’s not ideal for high-speed paddling, but the flex does provide a more comfortable paddling experience compared to a completely rigid design.
The handle section is also made of a composite material, rather than plastic, and uses a pin-and-clip adjustment mechanism to keep the handle aligned properly with the blade. While there are no length markings on the handle section, once you find a height that you like, it’s relatively easy to set the paddle each time by counting the number of visible holes.
Overall the Blackfin three-piece paddle is one of our favorite kit paddles. It’s well balanced in both weight and performance, and has stood up well over time.
The Blackfin Model X iSUP excels in stability. The rigid construction, wide shape, and grippy deck pad work together for a fun and stable ride for paddlers of all skill levels.
When first standing up on the Blackfin Model X, the 35” wide platform does an excellent job of reducing any rolling or tipping sensations. Even while walking around on the Model X, I found no reactionary wobbling or tipping sensations. The rigid construction reduces any vibrations in the board to nearly imperceptible and gives a solid feeling base for your feet to connect with. Less-rigidly constructed paddleboards flex at your feet and cause your body to grip heavily with your toes, which can lead to foot fatigue and pain.
While purposely tilting and tipping the Model X I found that it quickly and smoothly resurfaces and settles flat without any aggressive “popping” sensations that are sometimes present in super-light iSUPs. It’s also quite easy to tilt the Model X high on one rail and hold it in that position. This secondary stability is important when paddling in choppier and rougher conditions where the board is less likely to be flat all the time. Being able to easily hold a paddleboard in this position equates to more time for you to correct the board in these rough conditions before going for an accidental swim.
Stepping back to the tail of the board for a pivot turn is easy and stable. Again, the reverberations in the board while walking are extremely minimal. The newly-elongated logo-embossed deck pad extends all the way to the tail and makes sinking the tail easier and more secure-feeling, however a raised kick pad would make that even better.
The Blackfin Model X is not an overly fast paddleboard and is not going to win any races. Rather, the Model X is a respectable cruiser iSUP with good efficiency on the water.
For 2023, we’ve updated how we do our speed testing here at inflatableboarder.com. Last year we primarily relied on a timed 100m dash, and other mathematical calculations to compare speed and efficiency. Late last year we began using a high-fidelity GPS device and accelerometer to directly measure these performance specifications. We found that the results between the two were quite similar (yay!) and that using the GPS device is much faster and more efficient (so more time for paddling – yay!).
When paddling for the maximum top speed on the Blackfin Model X, the fastest speed I was able to reach is 5.3 MPH (8.5 KM/H). While this is a pretty respectable speed for such a wide and short paddleboard, I was only able to keep that top speed for a few strokes before I could no longer maintain that speed. For longer “sprints” I was able to maintain a more consistent speed just under 5 MPH.
Average cruising speeds, while paddling at a consistent 25 strokes per minute), clocked in at 3.0 MPH (4.8 KM/H). This is a respectable cruising speed that is fairly average for an iSUP of this size. 25 strokes per minute is the equivalent of taking a short pause between each paddle stroke, so it’s quite easy to maintain this cadence over long distances.
We also like to test the efficiency of each paddleboard we review. This is a measure of how far a paddle board will travel with each paddle stroke, before it begins to noticeably slow down. To make this number more comparable, we convert it to board-lengths per stroke. The Blackfin Model X traveled an average of 17.5’ per paddle stroke for an overall efficiency of 1.7 board-lengths per stroke. This is quite high for such a short and wide paddle board.The Model X’s efficiency and easy cruising make it a great board for casual paddling and shorter day trips. For better speed and long-distance paddling while maintaining great stability, the slightly longer and narrower Model XL is a better choice. For the best touring board from iRocker, the Model V’s longer, narrower outline trades in a small amount of stability for better long distance tracking, speed, and efficiency.
Maneuverability and Tracking
The Blackfin Model X is a highly maneuverable iSUP that makes it great for cruising, fishing, and river running, but it does fall short of this excellent performance when it comes to long-distance tracking.
The Model X’s is a quick-turning iSUP no matter how you do it. With a basic forward sweep stroke (starting at the nose and pushing out and away toward the tail), the Model X can make a complete 360° turn in just under 5 paddle strokes, which is quite good considering forward sweeps are not the most efficient way to turn a paddleboard! Reverse sweeps (starting at the tail and pushing out and away toward the nose), work against the fins to create an even tighter turning radius of just 3.5 strokes for the Model X.
While paddling normally, the Model X responds very quickly to steering input through different blade angles and different strokes. This does also mean that it responds to accidental steering input as well, so make sure to keep your paddle vertical and close to the board when you want to paddle straight.
As is often the case, high maneuverability frequently coincides with less-than-ideal tracking. In our 10-stroke tracking test we paddle toward a distant target taking 10 “perfect-technique” forward strokes on a single side before measuring our new course. The Model X had an average variance of about 16° after 10 strokes on one side. Numerically, this is actually pretty good for a shorter, wider board, but it doesn’t quite tell the whole story. I did feel that during regular paddling, and especially when paddling with any amount of speed above a casual cruising pace, the Model X liked to wander quite a bit. While traveling from one point to another I found myself switching which side I paddled on more frequently than normal (every 4-5 strokes vs every 6-8 strokes).
While this isn’t ideal tracking performance, for me it’s not really a big negative for the Model X. The Model X is a shorter, wider board that is built for stability and maneuverability first. To that end, a slightly lackluster tracking performance is actually OK to me. If I want a similar board with better tracking for more long-distance paddling, I’d recommend the Blackfin Model XL or even the Blackfin Model V – both of which offer better tracking performance (but lower maneuverability).
I think iRocker should lean into the maneuverability of the Model X and create a more river-centric version for paddling faster water. While nearly any iSUP can be used on rivers, even up to some Class II- whitewater, a board that is stable and highly maneuverable makes those river runs even more fun. By removing some of the fishing-focused features and adding a little more rocker (and a raised kick pad) the Model X could be quite the river runner for those who want a crossover all-around/river SUP.
Tracking and maneuverability are influenced greatly by the number, placement, and types of fins being used. The Model X has three flip-lock fin boxes and comes with a 9” center fin and two 4.5” side fins. All three have a “dolphin” shape which is meant to offer a blend of maneuverability and tracking performance. Changing or removing fins will impact maneuverability, tracking, stability, and speed.
Unfortunately iRocker offers relatively few fin choices for their flip-lock fin box. There are no other fin options for the side fins, and the only other choice for the center fin is a shorter 4.5” “River Fin” that has the same dolphin-fin shape. I’d love to see iRocker build out a more robust lineup of fin options for their fliplock fin box. A touring-style fin and other options would really allow you to dial in your maneuverability and tracking performance.
Warranty and Customer Support
The Blackfin Model X is covered by iRocker’s 3 year warranty against manufacturing defects. Any accessories included with the Blackfin Model X are also covered under a 1 year warranty. iRocker has a 45 day return policy for their iSUPs. If you are unhappy with your paddleboard, you may return it for a refund within this time. You can reach iRocker customer service with any questions via their online contact form or via their customer service phone number. You can also contact iRocker through their social media channels.
Overall Impressions/Review Summary
The Blackfin Model X iSUP is a great paddleboard for those wanting high stability, high capacity, and high maneuverability in a shorter paddleboard. The updates for 2023 have added excellent value to an already great paddleboard. Whether you are cruising in a bay, fishing the flats (or depths), or getting your feet wet on easier whitewater rivers, the Blackfin Model X has the ability to do it all.
Blackfin Model X iSUP FAQ
Is the Blackfin Model X good for paddling with kids or dogs?
Absolutely! The Model X’s stability and capacity make it great to paddle with a passenger whether they are kids, dogs, or even another adult.
How long does it take to inflate the Blackfin Model X?
While using the triple-action hand pump, it takes about 8-10 minutes to fully inflate the Blackfin Model X to its maximum 16 PSI.
Is the Blackfin Model X good for fishing?
You bet! The Model X is built with anglers in mind. The two Scotty-style mounts behind the standing area are included to work with the optional Blackfin fishing rack, the threaded accessory mounts are ready for fishing rod holders, and the excellent stability and high capacity make it easy to bring along everything else you need while fishing.
What is the difference between the Blackfin Model X and Blackfin Model XL?
The only difference between the Model X and Model XL is the size. The Model X is shorter and wider (10’6” x 35”) while the Model XL is a little longer and narrower (11’6” x 34”). The Model X is more maneuverable and more stable while the Model XL tracks straighter and is faster. Both have the same set of on-board features and same construction.
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