Blackfin Model XL: Overview
The new 2023 Blackfin Model XL is now landing on customers’ doorsteps! The Blackfin Model XL iSUP combines a wide midsection for stability, a relatively long waterline for speed and efficiency, durable and rigid construction, and enough on-board features to meet all of your needs (and then some). The Blackfin Model XL offers something for everyone from anglers, cruisers, paddling with kids or dogs, yogis, and even expedition paddlers.
— 2023 Blackfin Model XL iSUP Summary Ratings and Review —
BLACKFIN Model XL
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
The Blackfin XL is one of the most versatile and stable iSUPs we’ve tested.
- Great board for larger paddlers, those who are worried about stability, or those who want to load up their board with gear or paddle with a child on deck
- Excellent speed performance for a large iSUP thanks to the rigid construction and refined shape
- High durability. iRocker has slowed the construction process and upgraded internal rail construction for stronger seams/li>
- Customizable cargo storage with removable and adjustable bungee cords and multiple mounting points
- High weight capacity and rigidity to easily accommodate equipment or passengers
- Accessory mounts and storage for everything you could want – compatible with lots of different accessories with 8 threaded mounts and 2 Scotty mounts
- Secure footing all the way to the tail thanks to the extended deck pad
- 3 year warranty for the board and 1 year warranty for accessories
- The fliplock fins are easy to use, but we would like to see more size and shape options available for better. customization.
- While well outfitted for use with dozens of accessories, the deck can feel tight at times, particularly if you like to move around on the board. I’d love to see an option available with fewer or without all of the additional fishing mounts.
2023 Blackfin Model XL Updates
For 2023, the Blackfin Model XL remains largely unchanged. The overall shape, size and features are nearly identical to the 2021/2022 Model XL with only a few alterations. The most important update took place inside the paddleboard.
iRocker has increased the amount of overlap between the interior rail band and the deck and hull layers of the board. This overlap is what creates the airtight inner chamber of an iSUP. By increasing the amount of overlap almost ¼”, the Blackfin Model XL has significantly more contact surface area between these layers for more glue and better adhesion. The change is small enough, though, that it does not greatly change the weight of the paddleboard.
Also new for 2023 are a few changes on the deck of the board. The deck pad itself has been lengthened and extended to reach all the way to the tail edge of the board (the 2021/2022 Model XL’s deck pad stopped at the front of the rear cargo area). The 2023 Model XL does lose one set of D-rings from the middle of the board, however it is still compatible with the optional kayak seat and shoulder carrying strap. The cargo bungees also received quick-release clasps to easily remove, rearrange, or replace the bungee cords.
The threaded accessory mounts, Scotty-style mounts, and sand spear mounting points are all still present on the rear of the board, but have shifted position slightly forward. This brings your accessories closer to the main standing area while on the water, however it does make folding and rolling the iSUP back into its bag a little harder because of their locations.
Overall the updates for the 2023 Model XL are positive and we look forward to continue paddling the new Model XL into the future.
Construction and Durability
The 2023 Blackfin Model XL uses multiple layers of fiber-reinforced PVC, carbon fiber fabric, and additional reinforcement materials to create a rigid and durable inflatable paddleboard.
Inside the Blackfin Model XL is a knitted base layer fabric with thousands of linear drop stitch fibers to provide the board’s shape and stiffness while inflated.
To the drop stitch core, iRocker adds two layers of fiber-reinforced PVC material to the top and bottom to create the deck and hull layers of the board. Once the deck and hull are adhered to the core, a layer of PVC material, called the interior rail band, is wrapped around the side of the board. The interior rail band overlaps and is glued to the deck and hull layers of the board to create the air-tight seal needed for the paddleboard to inflate and hold pressure. For 2023, iRocker increased the amount of overlap between the interior rail band and the deck and hull layers by nearly ¼”. This provides more surface area for the glue to better and more strongly adhere to the board.
On top of the interior rail band, another, larger layer of PVC is glued around the side of the board again. This outer rail band layer also holds the carbon fiber fabric reinforcements to the mid-rail of the board. Carbon Fiber reinforcements here have two roles. The first is to increase stiffness in the board by reducing bulging and flexing in the mid-section of the board. The second is to provide an additional layer of protection to the board in one of the most high-wear areas.
After the outer rail band is installed, the Model XL gets another, narrower, band of PVC material adhered to the edges of the rail (on the deck and hull) referred to as the rail reinforcement strip. This reinforcement strip helps protect the edges of the outer rail band from damage and abrasion.The Blackfin Model XL has a maximum recommended pressure of 16 PSI. While this may sound a little bit low, it is the same maximum pressure rating that is found in the Blackfin CX Ultra iSUP which has proven to be incredibly rigid, even at this slightly lower pressure.
At its maximum pressure of 16 PSI, the new 2023 Blackfin Model XL showed only 1.00” of deflection in our 170 lbs bend test. That’s an excellent score that few iSUPs we’ve tested can boast! The multiple layers of reinforced PVC material and carbon fiber reinforced rails really shine through in the Model XL.
Now that we know how the Model XL did in our bend test, let’s see how it felt on the water.
While paddling the Blackfin Model XL, I did not notice any flex or bounce in the board at all. I did find some mild flex with well-controlled rebound while bouncing up and down on the board, and slightly less bounce/vibration while walking on the board. The bounce and vibration while walking on the board was really only noticed when I was looking for it, though. Overall the Model XL remained very rigid throughout our testing.
I did notice a little bit of flex while sprinting with the Blackfin Model XL, but not much. Overall, the Blackfin Model XL was not only rigid in our bend test, but pleasantly rigid on the water as well.
|Max Capacity||485 pounds|
|Board Weight||29 pounds|
(SUP & accessories)
|Returns period||45 days|
Features, Accessories and Versatility
The Blackfin Model XL is a feature-packed, do it all, iSUP. The size, shape, and accessories on the Model XL give it a huge amount of versatility for whatever your SUP adventures hold.
Let’s start with the paddleboard itself. At 11’6” long and 34” wide, the Blackfin Model XL has a large amount of volume that allows it to carry a large amount of equipment or a passenger while still remaining stable and easy to paddle. The wide midsection of the board provides great stability and the slightly narrowed nose and moderate nose rocker allow for smooth entry through the water. The mid-size square tail provides good stability when weighted without being so large that it creates excess drag behind the board. The shape of the board, combined with the three-fin setup, and on board features allow the Model XL to be used for anything from fishing to cruising to yoga, and even overnight touring trips.
On the deck of the board there are two large cargo areas with quick-release bungee cords. These new clasps allow you to easily remove and adjust the bungee cords as needed to match your cargo needs. There are two removable passenger handles on the front and back of the board for those times you are paddling with a passenger.
The Model XL’s deck pad received a small, but mighty, upgrade for 2023. The main section of the deck pad is still logo-embossed and grooved for maximum traction. The rear of the deck pad is still logo-embossed, but now extends all the way through the rear cargo area to the tail of the board. The previous version’s deck pad stopped at the front of the rear cargo area. This extra bit of deck pad makes it far more comfortable and secure to use the tail of the board for pivot turns, yoga, or even catching a wave.
However the inclusion of a raised kick pad would make the Model XL even more versatile and stable when stepping back to the tail.
There are four threaded accessory mounting points on the Model XL (two in the front, two in the back). These mounting points are compatible with fishing rod holders, speakers, camera mounts, and more. You can even make your own accessories using a standard M6 size bolt. There are also two Scotty-style mounting points behind the main standing area. These two mounts are set up to accept a fishing tackle rack to help keep all of your fishing equipment organized and within easy reach.
The Model XL is also compatible with optional kayak seat and carry strap attachments thanks to the four D-rings spaced around the middle of the board. There are three padded carrying handles (nose, center, and tail) to make it comfortable to carry the Model XL by yourself or with a partner.
The Blackfin Model XL has three flip-lock fin boxes under the tail of the board. The XL comes with a 9” center fin and two 4.5” side fins. They each have the new locking tether feature that iRocker first debuted with the iRocker and Blackfin Ultra series iSUPs. The fliplock fins are very easy to use and require no tools to install or remove. However there are only a limited number of options for different flip-lock fins. I’d love to see iRocker develop a more robust line of fin options for both the larger central fin box and the smaller side fin boxes. More touring-dedicated shapes and more shallow-water shapes would make the Blackfin iSUPs even more versatile than they already are. More on that in the Maneuverability and Tracking section below.
For 2023, the Blackfin Model XL does not automatically include a paddle. iRocker is allowing customers to build their own kit and choose which paddle best suits their needs.
The standard Blackfin paddle is a three-piece paddle that uses carbon fiber composite material for the paddle shaft and handle sections and a nylon paddle blade.
The pin-and-clip adjustable handle section automatically indexes the handle in the correct orientation to the paddle blade. While the handle doesn’t have any length markings on it, once you know what length you prefer, it’s easy to set the paddle each time by counting the number of visible adjustment holes.
The paddle shaft has medium-stiffness (79mm of flex with 50kg of weight), and is the lightest kit paddle we’ve tested to date (28.3 oz). The blade itself has a medium-to-large size surface area of 89 square inches. The rectangular shape and deep curve make it easy to use for beginners, but isn’t so curved that it holds significant amounts of water at the end of the stroke.
On the water the Blackfin carbon fiber paddle does lose a little bit of power at high speeds because of the more flexible nylon blade, but is otherwise comfortable to use at a normal cadence.
The Blackfin Model XL provides great stability for a large number of activities.
Once you are standing up on the Blackfin Model XL, the board’s 34” width makes it easy to stay that way. There’s no significant rolling or twitching under your feet while standing still, and the stability only improves once you begin paddling forward. If you paddle the Model XL back to back with the Model X (35”) you can feel a difference in this primary stability – with the Model X providing just a little bit more – but overall the Model XL’s stability while flat on the water is excellent.
When rocking the Model XL side to side and holding it tilted on its rail, the Model XL still offers great stability. The board resurfaces smoothly when rocking it side to side, and holding the edge is nearly as easy as keeping the board flat on the water. This secondary stability is important when paddling in choppier conditions where the board is constantly moving under your feet. When loaded with equipment, the Model XL becomes even more stable as it increases its resistance to rolling or tipping.
Stepping back onto the newly-extended deck pad gives you a secure and confident grip while standing over the tail. Pivot turning the Model XL is extremely easy. The square tail provides just enough volume to keep the board stable without excessive tipping to either side, and it slices smoothly through the water with each paddle stroke.
The Blackfin Model XL balances stability and speed well, and has an efficient glide and smooth feel on the water.
In our sprint test, the Blackfin Model XL reached an average maximum top speed of 5.5 MPH (8.9 Km/H) and a peak top speed of 5.7 MPH (9.2 kmh). This is much faster than average for a 34” wide paddleboard, and is even faster for me than several 32” wide boards. Holding any SUP at its maximum speed always takes a lot of effort, but I found the Model XL easily maintains a high speed (just over 5 mph) when paddling a little below my maximum effort. At just over 26 lbs, the Blackfin XL does allow you to get up and move across the water quickly with good acceleration while remaining stable paddling at higher speeds.
While paddling at a more casual cruising speed (around 25 strokes per minute) it was quite easy to keep the Blackfin Model XL moving along at around 3.25 MPH (5.25 Km/H). I also didn’t notice any pushing or plowing at the nose of the board. This pace gives you just a little bit more time “resting” between paddle strokes but is easy to maintain for long distances.
Lastly, using a combination of high-fidelity GPS and an accelerometer, we measured the effective glide of the Blackfin Model XL. Glide is how far a paddleboard will move with each paddle stroke before it noticeably slows down. The Blackfin XL had an average glide of 19.5 feet per stroke, or 1.7 board-lengths per stroke. This is on the higher side of efficiency for all-around iSUPs, especially wider iSUPs like the Model XL. We normally see glide ratios of 1.4-1.7 board-lengths for all-around iSUPs, and 1.8-2.2 board-lengths for touring iSUPs.
With excellent efficiency, comfortable cruising speeds, and higher-than-expected high-speed paddling, the Blackfin XL does a great job of moving across the water as quickly, or as casually, as you’d like.
Maneuverability and Tracking
The Blackfin Model XL does a good job of balancing maneuverability and tracking, but does lean slightly more toward better tracking performance over turning speed.
Turning the Blackfin Model XL is relatively easy, though not quite as quick as the shorter Model X. Using a forward-sweep turning stroke (paddling in a large arc from the nose to the tail of the board), the Blackfin Model XL takes an average of 6.75 strokes to make a complete 360° turn from a standstill. However, turning in a full circle is not something many people do frequently. When turning up to 90° in either direction, the Model XL is quite responsive. Steering while under way is also very easy. The Model XL responds well to gentle input for course correction and turning with many different types of paddle strokes.
There are faster ways to turn any iSUP (including the Model XL) like using a reverse-sweep stroke, bow-draw strokes for steering, or stepping onto the tail for a pivot turn. When using these methods, the Model XL quickly and easily turns wherever you need it to point. With a reverse sweep stroke I was able to make the same 360° turn as above in just 4 strokes. Stepping back to the tail for a pivot turn got me turning right-round in just 2 strokes.
On the flip-side of the maneuverability vs tracking coin, the Model XL does hold its course quite well. In our 10-stroke paddling test, the Model XL only strayed an average of 14° off course. With all-around iSUPs we typically see course deviation in the mid 20°s, and with touring iSUPs we see less than 10°. The Blackfin Model XL does a great job of paddling where you point it. I found the Blackfin XL to be quite easy to paddle in a straight line while cruising around and traveling from point to point. Combined with its great glide performance, this makes the Blackfin Model XL viable as a high-stability option for overnight and long-distance trips where you need to bring lots of equipment.
Maneuverability and Tracking are greatly impacted by both the size/shape of the paddleboard and the board’s fin setup. The Model XL has three flip-lock fin boxes and comes with a 9” center fin and two 4.5” side fins. Using all three fins gives you the best tracking and stability. Removing or replacing the fins with different options will allow you to increase maneuverability to varying degrees.
For 2023, the Model XL gained locking tethers to the finboxes and fins to help reduce the occurrence of losing a fin. The older, non-tethered, Blackfin and iRocker flip-lock fins will still work in these fin boxes, just without the tether.
While iRocker does offer replacement fins and a shorter center fin for sale, those are really the only options for the flip-lock fin box. For most people this is totally fine, however it does limit the number of options. I’d love to see iRocker develop a more robust line of fin options for paddlers to work with this easy-install fliplock fin box system.
Warranty and Customer Support
The Blackfin Model XL is covered by iRocker’s 3 year warranty against manufacturing defects. Any accessories included with the Blackfin Model XL 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
It might be easier to list the things that the Blackfin Model XL is not a great choice for rather than try to list everything it can do! Between the rigid construction, ample accessory and cargo options, and its well-balanced performance on the water, the Blackfin Model XL is one of those iSUPs that we’ll always keep on hand. Whether you are a beginner just getting started, an advanced paddler looking for a versatile board, an angler wanting to explore new fishing holes, or catching a party wave with your dog riding shotgun, the Blackfin Model XL can do it all.
Blackfin Model XL iSUP FAQ
Is the Blackfin Model XL good for paddling with kids or dogs?
Absolutely! The Model XL’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 XL?
While using the triple-action hand pump, it takes about 8-10 minutes to fully inflate the Blackfin Model XL to its maximum 16 PSI.
Is the Blackfin Model XL good for fishing?
You bet! The Model XL 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.