Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP: Overview
The Blackfin XL Ultra is the newest offering in the premium Blackfin line from iRocker. The XL Ultra takes the high-performance shape and features of the Model XL and blends it with the lightweight and compact construction of iRocker’s other Ultra series iSUPs. The result is a stable, efficient, and feature-packed iSUP you can take anywhere.
— Blackfin XL Ultra Summary Ratings and Review —
Blackfin XL Ultra
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
The Blackfin XL Ultra is a great compact fishing iSUP that can go anywhere
- Compact design takes up half the space of a standard iSUP during transportation and storage
- Full-size and shape as the Blackfin Model XL making it great for larger paddlers
- Rigid construction keeps the board stiff when loaded with cargo
- Great tracking and efficient paddling makes it easy to get to your favorite fishing hole
- Stable size and shape
- Includes electric pump
- 3 year warranty
- I’d like to see the XL Ultra include a set of shorter fins for better maneuverability/tracking balance and shallow water paddling
- The 5 piece paddle is convenient, but has high flex and may not fit paddlers under 5’4”
Construction and Durability
The Blackfin XL Ultra uses iRocker’s new lightweight and compact construction and adds in carbon fiber fabric rail reinforcements for increased durability and rigidity.
The new Ultra construction starts with a woven drop stitch core inside the board. The fabric base layers are woven with straight yarns rather than a twisted, knitted fabric traditionally used in inflatable boards. This change in how the fabric is made not only reduces weight by using less material, but because the yarns are laid out in a straight woven pattern the fabric has less stretch. The top and bottom fabric layers are linked together by thousands of yarns that are drop stitched through the materials at a set distance apart to give the board its thickness and flat shape. With the Blackfin XL Ultra those spacing yarns are stitched through in a crossing X pattern rather than a continuous V pattern. Through our testing we’ve seen this combination of materials produce stiffer and lighter paddle boards than previous generation constructions.
The outer PVC shell for the Blackfin XL Ultra is a little bit of a mystery as iRocker does not disclose much about their construction of this board. From our experience, testing, and comparison we can hazard a well-informed estimation that it is a fusion laminated PVC material. This aligns with the weight of the board, stiffness, and performance.
The rail construction is also the same as the Blackfin CX Ultra – an interior PVC layer that is adhered to the top and bottom layers to create the airtight chamber, then an outer PVC layer to protect the inner layer. The Blackfin XL Ultra, along with all of the other Blackfin brand boards, also have an additional carbon fiber fabric “sandwich” through the middle of the board’s rails. This section of composite fabric adds a ton of durability to the highest-impact section of the board protecting it from paddle rub, dock bumps, and more. The extra material also helps stiffen the board slightly. Lastly, two thin strips of PVC are glued to the top and bottom edge of the outer rail to help further protect it from damage.
Once the board itself is built, then all of the onboard features are added. In the case of the Blackfin XL Ultra all of the features are implemented to allow the board to fold lengthwise before rolling. This means there is a split in the deck pad, the inflation valve and leash D-ring are offset from the middle of the board, and the Blackfin XL Ultra has a twin fin setup rather than a 2+1 setup like the standard Blackfin boards.
Any time an iSUP gets lighter the question is whether or not it is going to retain its rigidity. The XL Ultra’s maximum recommended pressure is 16 PSI. In our dry land bend test, this lightweight compact board performed extremely well. With 170 lbs of weight, the XL Ultra bent just 1.46” (3.7 cm) – notably stiffer than our current running average of 1.56”.
While I was paddling the XL Ultra I was very pleased with its rigidity on the water. I was not able to feel any flex in the board while just standing or paddling normally. I could feel a moderate amount of flex as I jumped up and down on the board and a very mild amount of flex while sprint paddling. In both cases the XL Ultra had a very clean feeling rebound as it settled back flat when I stopped.
|Max Capacity||360 pounds|
|Board Weight||23 pounds|
|Returns period||45 days|
Features, Accessories and Versatility
The Blackfin XL Ultra is iRocker’s most feature-rich compact iSUP to date. Like the Model XL, the XL Ultra is designed with the SUP angler in mind, but that doesn’t limit it to only SUP fishing.
Let’s start with the board itself. The Blackfin XL Ultra features the same size and shape as the Model XL iSUP that has long been a staple on our Best iSUPs lists. The wide, mostly parallel sides of the board continue up most of the way through the nose of the board to give you heaps of stability and capacity. The nose itself comes to a bit of a point and has a moderate amount of rocker to help it glide smoothly across the water whether it is glass calm or choppy. The tail is also kept relatively wide until tapering to a medium-width square tail. Square tails also help provide more stability than round or pin tails by having more width to resist tipping.
On the board there are 16 D-rings, seven threaded accessory mounts, five cargo straps, two sandspear loops, and two Scotty-style mounts. That’s a ton of options for accessories! There are also four removable passenger handles (two in front and two in back).
The cargo straps are a little different from other iRocker/Blackfin iSUPs. Rather than a single bungee cord that is strung through all six/four D-rings in the cargo areas, there are now five individual bungee cords that connect one pair of D-rings together at a time. This lets you really quickly and easily adjust how and where you are holding cargo on your board.
The four D-rings around the middle of the board are compatible with the iRocker kayak seat attachment, and the four threaded mounts behind the standing area are designed for sand spear mounting points, but can be used with any M6 bolt-on accessory (as can the other three mounting points on the nose and tail of the board.
The deck pad uses the same logo-embossed EVA foam as the other Blackfin iSUPs, but with a cutout in the middle of the board to allow it to fold lengthwise and fit in the smaller bag.
Under the board there are two fliplock-style fin boxes that have the new locking tether built in. This tether provides an additional security measure for your fins in case the fliplock is somehow released while on the water.
The XL Ultra does come as a complete kit. In addition to the board itself you also get a 5 piece carbon fiber paddle, 12v electric pump, coiled leash, twin 9” fins, and an accessory storage bag. All of this fits easily into the compact backpack that is roughly half the size of a traditional iSUP bag.
The Blackfin 5 piece compact paddle has been improved since it was first introduced in 2022. While it works well for casual cruising, larger paddlers and paddlers who want more touring efficiency or better speed may find it to be a little too flexible.
Any time you break a paddle down into more pieces you introduce room for error and make more compromises. This could be issues with fit, issues with alignment, additional weight, or additional flexibility. When iRocker first introduced their 5 piece compact paddle it did have issues with fit, alignment, and flexibility. With this latest model and production runs iRocker seems to have figured out most of these issues.
The Blackfin 5 piece paddle fits together very firmly and no longer has a noticeable amount of play/wiggle as you paddle. For a five piece paddle it is surprisingly light weight. The additional ferrules and spring clips haven’t added a noticeable amount of weight. However it is still very flexible. The lack of stiffness made the paddle feel like it was made of plastic rather than carbon fiber when I tried to paddle quickly. While cruising around the 5 piece paddle does a decent job of propelling the board where you want to go. However it does struggle when trying to paddle faster by flexing significantly when under a heavier load. This puts more of your energy into bending the paddle than it does pulling the board past the paddle. But, it’s only really an “issue” if you are trying to paddle very fast, or if you plan to paddle very long distances at a time (over 5 miles).
The carbon fiber shaft is lightweight and is topped by iRocker’s pin-and-clip adjustment system. This makes setting the height and aligning the blade and handle together extremely easy. Due to the length of the sections for the 5 piece paddle, the overall adjustability is a little more limited than normal. The paddle measures 74” at its shortest setting and 84” at its tallest setting. Using the 8-10” recommendation for flatwater paddlers, this means the paddle will fit paddlers between 5’4” and 6’4”. While that does encompass a wide range of paddlers, folks under 5’4” may find the paddle to be too long. It is possible to remove one of the paddle sections to significantly shorten it, however this limits the paddle to a height suitable for those under 5’ tall.
While there are many tradeoffs with a 5 piece paddle, the Blackfin XL Ultra’s paddle seems to handle them quite well. If you are an advanced paddler who does have your paddle length really dialed in and it falls in that zone between 68-73”, then it may be worthwhile to invest in a single-length 3 piece paddle for traveling (though it still won’t be as compact as the Blackfin 5 piece paddle).
The Blackfin XL Ultra feels very stable on the water. The 34” width makes it one of (if not the) widest compact iSUPs available today.
With the same size and shape as the Blackfin Model XL I had high hopes for stability when stepping onto the XL Ultra, and I was not disappointed. While paddling normally I didn’t notice any extra rocking or twitching. I could feel just a little bit of what I refer to as the “light board twitch” while standing still with the board also still on the water. Lighter iSUPs are easier to manipulate with changes in your weight distribution* and as you consciously, or unconsciously, shift your weight the board reacts a little faster than a heavier board. It’s definitely something that I am likely cursed to notice more than paddlers who don’t test and review 50-100 boards in a year. But once you get moving (or just give yourself a few minutes to adjust) that feeling does go away. Newer paddlers are a little more prone to noticing this as they tend to hold far more tension in their lower body rather than relaxing to let the board move naturally**.
When things get choppy all SUPs will begin to rock and roll a little more. Even when the board isn’t totally flat on the water, the XL Ultra still has great stability. I found it easy to hold the board on its edge – though again it does react faster than a heavier board. As I rocked and dipped the rails under the water they resurfaced smoothly and without any forceful “popping” sensations.
Overall I was very pleased with the XL Ultra’s stability. I think it’s set up to be an excellent choice for the SUP angler who wants stability in a compact package.
*Every time I write about this feeling the Bill Nye theme song starts playing in my head… “Inertia is a property of matter… BILL BILL BILL BILL…”
**”Embrace the Wobble!” is a note I give to all of my intro to SUP class participants.
The Blackfin XL Ultra is a wide and stable board with a secret desire to move fast. It can get up to some good speeds and it paddles efficiently while cruising.
The Blackfin Model XL has always been a bit of a dark horse when it comes to speed testing. At 34” wide you don’t think it’s going to pick up speed easily. The XL Ultra is the same in all but one aspect. With a lightweight construction it actually accelerates a little faster than the standard Model XL.
In our speed testing, the XL Ultra clocked an average sprinting speed of 5.5 MPH and topped out at 5.6 MPH. That’s a fairly small difference between average and peak speeds. Typically when this happens I’ve found it’s due to some limitation of either the board or the paddle. In this case the included 5 piece paddle is simply not stiff enough to allow for better power transfer. Of course this is just in our sprinting test – something that’s not typically done on larger all-around/fishing iSUPs like the XL Ultra. This is also just a hair slower than the Model XL’s top speed of 5.7 MPH using the Blackfin 3 piece paddle.
In our cruising speed and efficiency test, the XL Ultra also did quite well with an average cruising speed of 3.6 MPH. This is actually faster than the cruising speed we clocked on the Model XL (3.3 MPH). When we measured the gliding efficiency of the XL Ultra we found it traveled an average of just over 22 feet per stroke before noticeably slowing down. That gives it an efficiency glide ratio of 1.9 board-lengths per stroke. Once again the XL Ultra outcompetes its older sibling the Model XL (1.7 board-lengths per stroke) and puts it into the same level of efficiency as some dedicated touring iSUPs.
Maneuverability and Tracking
With the twin fin system necessitated by the compact folding design, the Blackfin XL Ultra comes with double 9” fins that make a big difference in how the XL Ultra maneuvers and tracks compared to the Model XL.
Our maneuverability test is designed to be a stress test. Using only forward sweep strokes (paddling in an arc from nose to tail) we count how many strokes it takes to turn the board in a full circle. While this sounds easy to do, as you work through the test the forward motion of the stroke begins to move the board forward as it turns and engages the fins (which are designed to help keep you straight). The XL Ultra and the Model XL are a great example of how fin setups and sizes can greatly impact performance on the water. With the twin 9” fins that come with the XL Ultra, it took me an average of over 16 strokes to make that full circle. In contrast, the Model XL needs fewer than half of that to make the same circle with its 2+1 fin setup (2 4.5” fins + 1 9” fin).
Now that is our stress test. There are easier ways to turn your board. Reverse sweep strokes help prevent the fins from engaging and allow you to turn the board in the same circle with just 5.5 strokes. Stepping back toward the tail of the board lifts the nose of the board, shortening the waterline and changing the pivot point of the board. This lets you swing the board around even faster. The deck pad does not extend all the way to the tail of the board, so it is very difficult to fully sink the tail for a proper pivot turn. Even so, you can still move back on the board to the end of the deck pad to increase its agility.
Even with this less-than-ideal maneuverability test result, you can also still easily steer the XL Ultra as needed. Once I was done with the stress test, I did find it easy to adjust my course by using static bow draw strokes and even by taking half-sweep strokes (stopping at my feet instead of the tail).
While the twin 9” fins make it harder to turn the board quickly, they make it very easy to paddle in a straight line. Our tracking test is also designed to go beyond what most paddlers will do by measuring how well the board keeps on course over 10 paddle strokes on a single side of the board (without making any adjustments to keep the board straight). In this test the XL Ultra did extremely well with an average course deviation of just 9°. This level of tracking performance is far better than most all-around iSUPs (though it is similar to iRocker’s other Ultra-series iSUPs with the same fin setup) including the Blackfin Model XL (14° average), and almost to the same level as a dedicated touring board.
It’s easy to see how the number and size of the fins can impact the maneuverability and tracking performance. The XL Ultra comes with the twin 9” fins, but that is the only official option for the Ultra iSUPs. If you paddle in shallower water or want more maneuverability there isn’t a whole lot of choice available for you. I would really like to see iRocker release a set of 6” fins for the Ultra series iSUPs for a more balanced approach to maneuverability and tracking, and for shallow water users. There is a little silver lining to the Ultra fin situation though. The smaller fin boxes used on the Ultra boards is the same size as the smaller side fin boxes used on the other Blackfin and iRocker iSUPs. The 5” side fins available as replacements for those boards (not the 5” center fin) do indeed fit the Ultra fin boxes. The 5” fins are much smaller, though, so you will essentially get a flip in performance – high maneuverability with less tracking – but will be more shallow-water capable.
Warranty and Customer Support
The Blackfin XL Ultra is covered by iRocker’s 3-2-1 warranty against manufacturing defects. The seams of the board are warrantied for 3 years. The rest of the board is warrantied against manufacturing defects for 2 years. Any accessories included with the Blackfin XL Ultra 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 XL Ultra is, to my knowledge, the first 34” wide compact iSUP available. It shares the same great shape and features as the Blackfin Model XL, but in a smaller lighter package. This does produce a few trade-offs with the paddle quality and a small drop in stability, but overall is a fantastic option for SUP anglers on the go. With a high weight capacity, great rigidity, and versatile deck rigging, the Model XL also makes for a great adventure iSUP to bring along on road trips (or for van lifers) where storage is at a premium.
Blackfin XL Ultra iSUP FAQ
What is the difference between the Blackfin XL Ultra and Blackfin Model XL?
The Blackfin XL Ultra and Model XL share the same size, shape and deck-side features. The XL Ultra is made with a lightweight construction and folds in half for compact storage and transportation. The XL Ultra comes as a complete kit with an electric pump and 5 piece paddle while the Blackfin Model XL can be purchased as the board-only or bundled with a variety of different pumps, paddles, and other accessories.
Can I paddle the Blackfin XL Ultra with a passenger or pet?
Yes you can! The Blackfin XL Ultra has great stability and a relatively high weight capacity for paddling with passengers, pets, or large amounts of cargo. There are removable passenger handles on the front and rear of the board, but the deck pad is slightly smaller than the standard Blackfin Model XL, especially at the rear of the board.
Is the Blackfin XL Ultra good for fishing?
Yes it is! The Blackfin XL Ultra is purpose-built for the SUP angler with a full suite of accessory mounting points and excellent stability.
Is the Blackfin XL Ultra a good SUP for beginners?
Yes. The Blackfin XL Ultra has great stability for beginner paddlers, but also has great paddling performance to keep up with you as you grow in skill.
How long does it take to inflate the Blackfin XL Ultra?
With the included 12v electric pump it takes about 11 minutes to inflate the Blackfin XL Ultra to the maximum recommended 16 PSI.