Honu Fairlight: Overview
The Honu Fairlight is a performance-oriented all-around iSUP designed for those paddlers who focus on the experience of paddling rather than attaching every gadget and gizmo they can to their board. The minimalist design is well-implemented and matches the excellent performance of this board. This year, Honu is letting paddlers build their own package rather than automatically including pumps and paddles. This gives you more options to better suit your needs.
— Honu Fairlight Summary Ratings and Review
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
The Honu Fairlight is an excellent, beginner friendly all-around iSUP that offers great performance for intermediate paddlers as well.
- Woven drop stitch fabric
- Cross-woven drop stitching
- Fusion PVC skin
- 4.7” thickness
- Seriously light weight
- US fin box
- Excellent deck pad
- Minimalist design aesthetic
- Stable and tracks well
- High quality wheeled bag
- Actual width is only 32.25”
- Does not include a paddle
Construction and Durability
Like the Honu Byron, one of the Fairlight’s defining characteristics is its 4.7” thickness. The thinner board lowers your center of gravity to help improve stability and makes it easier to engage the rails of the board for turning and surfing.
In order to combat the extra flex that is normally associated with thinner iSUPs, Honu has built the Fairlight using Fusion PVC skin bonded directly to the woven drop stitch fabric. This creates a lighter and stiffer platform than traditional knitted drop stitch fabric with a layer of PVC glued to the fabric layer.
Honu also built the Fairlight with crossed drop stitch between the deck and hull layers of the board. Each of the thousands of yarns that stretch from the top to the bottom of the board to help keep its shape and increase rigidity are anchored in a criss-cross pattern rather than straight up and down. This uses fewer strands per square inch, saving weight, but is also stiffer than traditional drop stitching. A good example of this principle is seen in bridge trestles that have beams crossing each other rather than running in a straight line. Around the sides of the board, Honu uses three independent layers of PVC to reinforce the rails for extra rigidity and durability.
All of this adds up to a paddleboard that is incredibly stiff given its weight (17.6 lbs) and thickness. While the Fairlight was a bit below average in our bend test, it was also a little less stiff than the Byron. Normally we would expect a wider board to perform better than a narrower one. The difference between the two bend tests results was very minimal.
While paddling the fairlight, especially at the maximum 20 PSI, there is very little flex during normal use. However, when moving around or sprinting, the flex is quite noticeable.
At just one inch wider and three inches longer than the Byron I was surprised at how able I was to feel a noticeable difference in the flex between these two boards. This was during side-by-side testing and comparison though. If you or I were to paddle the Byron one day and the Fairlight the next the difference in feel is far less noticeable (and really only if you are looking for flex specifically).
Features, Accessories and Versatility
Honu’s focus is on building performance paddleboards for the best possible paddling experience. Between this focus and their minimalist design aesthetic, the Fairlight doesn’t have as many bells-and-whistles as many other all-around boards do. In fact, it’s quite plain on top, but still retains the functionality that most paddlers actually need in an all-around iSUP.
The Fairlight has two carrying handles – a center handle and a handle on the nose. At just 17.6 lbs most people will not need any assistance carrying carrying the Fairlight, so the absence of a rear handle (which was removed from the previous model) isn’t necessarily an issue. Up front the nose handle has an integrated D-ring for towing or anchoring.
The cargo area at the front of the board is relatively small, but still has enough room to hold a water bottle and small dry bag. The bungee cord is held in place with nylon webbing loops, which I would love to see replaced with metal d-rings on future versions of the Fairlight. Nylon webbing is very susceptible to UV degradation and friction between the loop and bungee cord, so their longevity is more limited.
The deckpad is a high-quality pebble and diamond texture that grips incredibly well. The ¾ length pad offers enough room for paddling, yoga, and even bringing along younger kids and smaller dogs. At the rear of the board there is a raised kick pad to give even more grip and control while surfing or pivot turning.
Just behind the kick pad is another bungee cord designed as a paddle holder. You can slide your paddle under the cord and wedge it against the kick pad to keep it securely in place when not in use.
The underside of the board is vibrantly colored with simple graphics. Just in front of the US fin box is an inspirational quote by Jacques Cousteau: “The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before. The old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”
Honu’s wheeled carry bag is simple, but effective. It has two small exterior side pockets and a large volume front zipper pocket. There is a set of four compression straps around the outside of the bag to help keep everything nice and tight during transportation. It has enough room to fit all of your paddling needs and is lightly padded for extra protection.
Rather than automatically including a hand pump with their boards Honu provides the option to purchase the board without a pump, or add a high-capacity double action hand pump or Honu’s new electric pump to your board at a discounted rate. As with previous models, Honu also does not automatically include a paddle with their boards, but has a range of very high-quality, and very high-value, paddles at excellent prices (and are also offered at a discount when bundled with your board). The Fairlight does still include a 9” fin, coiled leash, and a repair kit. The entire package comes packaged in recyclable materials (including the repair kit bag).
While the Honu Fairlight does not include a paddle, Honu does have a few different high quality paddles available for purchase to match your needs, aesthetic, and budget.
The Honu Evolution series of carbon fiber paddles are a great option for a high-quality paddle in a mid-range budget. The Evolution series paddles use 12k carbon fiber flat weave for the blade, shaft, and handle. New for this year, the Evolution series paddles are equipped with a hexagonal ferrule where the blade and shaft connect. This eliminates twist and perfectly aligns the paddle blade in conjunction with the indexing groove on the handle. The Evolution Carbon paddle uses carbon fiber for the entire construction and the Evolution Bamboo adds a lightweight veneer of bamboo and paint for a splash of color (available in three options). These paddles are extremely lightweight, have a medium-sized blade, and are very stiff for the best possible power transfer. On longer trips (over 3 miles at a time) the stiffness can begin to cause fatigue in the shoulders and elbows. For smaller paddlers or those wanting a more flexible option, the Honu Elements paddle may fit the bill.
The Honu Element paddle uses a 3K carbon fiber twill for the handle and shaft and is paired with a fiber-reinforced nylon blade. The 2023 Element paddle has a narrower and smaller surface area blade than the 2022 version. The 3K carbon fiber construction still makes the Element very lightweight, but offers more flex in both the shaft and the blade for a more casual paddling experience.
Both paddles are lightweight and offer excellent paddling performance for a variety of conditions.
Stability is key for any paddleboard, especially for all-around boards that are designed to handle a little bit of everything. The Fairlight offers an incredibly stable ride thanks to its 4.7” thickness. While standing and paddling normally it remains rigid and resists rolling or tipping from small changes in weight distribution or small boat wake. The thinner profile of the board is easier to lower under the surface when fully weighting one side or the other, but it smoothly resurfaces once you correct your position. Likewise, it’s very stable and easy to hold on its edge, which can be helpful when dealing with choppy conditions.
When hopping around on the board to quickly change stances, or when paddling with lots of effort for a sprint, the Fairlight does begin to flex noticeably and the stability does drop. While this isn’t a typical use-case, it is one that we use to test the abilities of the boards we review. In side-by-side comparison to the Honu Byron – the Fairlight’s little sibling – the Fairlight felt noticeably less stiff and a little less stable to me. The Honu Fairlight does come in with a measured 32.5” width at the widest point. This is a slight increase from last year, and is a full inch wider than the Honu Byron. This does give the Fairlight more initial stability than the Byron for standing and paddling.
The Fairlight was never meant to be a super-fast sprinting stand up paddleboard, so seeing its top speed results as very middle-of-the-pack for an all-around iSUP was no surprise. Where the Fairlight does do well, though, is its cruising speed and glide.
In our top-speed testing, the Fairlight only managed to clock in at 5.3 mph (8.5 kmh) for a peak speed, and just over 5.0 mph (8.0 kmh) average for a 100m dash. Where the Fairlight was truly hampered in its speed was its flex while under the pressure of hard paddling. As the paddling pace and intensity increased, so did the amount of flex and how much it “pushed” through the water versus gliding across the water. You’re not going to win a race paddling the fairlight, but there is more than enough speed and acceleration to catch the occasional wave.
The Fairlight has an easy-going glide that creates a smooth and quick paddling experience. With each paddle stroke the Fairlight moves about 18-19 feet before slowing down. This gives it a glide ratio of 1.7 board-lengths per stroke. This is on the upper end for all-around iSUPs (like the Fairlight) and close to the lower-end for longer, skinnier, touring iSUPs.
What all this really means is that the Fairlight is a great cruising board that can get you around the lake, bay, or wherever else with ease.
Maneuverability and Tracking
The Fairlight performed excellently in our maneuverability test. From a standstill we use forward sweep strokes (some of the least-efficient ways to turn an iSUP!) until we complete a full circle. The Fairlight took us on a 360° tour in just 4.25 strokes on average. That’s nearly 90° per stroke! The Fairlight’s lightly-tapered tail and single “surf-style” or “dolphin” fin made it very easy to turn no matter which method we used.
Stepping back onto the tail of the fairlight for a pivot turn was also very snappy and responsive. If you are used to a 6” thick iSUP, it’s important to remember there is less volume under you, so the tail sinks much quicker! The raised kick pad gives you a great perch for using the tail of the board with lots of control and stability.
With such great maneuverability I was really holding my breath when it came time to test the Fairlight’s tracking ability. Normally when an iSUP is extremely easy to turn, that means it’s extremely difficult to keep on track.
However, in our 10-stroke tracking test, the Fairlight did pretty well. After taking 10 forward strokes on one side of the board the Fairlight was only deviating an average of 16° from its original course. This is a solid result for an all-around iSUP, especially one that is under 11’ long and has only a single fin.
Speaking of fins, the Fairlight has a single US fin box that is split into two parts. The split fin box design is a little bit lighter than the single fin box, but where it really shines is in its durability. By splitting the fin box into two pieces it greatly reduces the chance for the fin box to be rolled or folded in such a way that can cause it to crack if there is any pressure applied to the fin box during transportation or storage.
The Fairlight comes with a 9” dolphin-shape fin. This style of fin is a little more surf and maneuverability oriented, but it still provides good tracking and stability without adding too much drag (reducing speed and glide). Our early-season Fairlight came with a plastic insert tab for tool-less use, but with reports of this tool-less style fin not necessarily playing as nicely with the split fin box design, Honu will be including a standard fin nut and bolt combo to secure the fin. Of course you can still add a tool-less fin insert if you’d like that convenience.
Warranty and Customer Support
Honu’s warranty includes a 2+2 year warranty and support in the case of manufacturing defects for the Fairlight and all of their iSUPs. For the first two years, Honu offers standard warranty replacement for any issues with your board and repair service for accidental damage. For the second two years, they continue to offer free repair service for any issues. They also offer a 30 day return period. If you find that the Fairlight isn’t suiting your paddling style, you can send it back for a refund or exchange. If you do have any questions or need to file a warranty claim, you can reach the team at Honu by phone, email, web form, or social media.
When looking at the overall value of any particular iSUP or iSUP kit, we like to take a 10,000’ view. We look at the price, any regular sales pricing, the quality of the board and kit components, their performance, and compare it with other similar options. The Fairlight is an excellently performing all-around iSUP with a fantastic warranty at a great price. If you already have a pump and paddle, the Fairlight kit offers an incredible value. If you do need a pump and paddle, you can bundle those items with the fairlight from Honu and save 10% on the accessories. This does increase the overall cost, but with the quality of the pump (both manual and electric) and the excellent performance of the Honu paddles, the Fairlight still presents a great value for those looking for a performance all-around iSUP.
Overall Impressions/Review Summary
The Fairlight is designed as a larger version of the Byron for a higher weight capacity for larger paddlers, or those bringing some extra cargo on their ride. I’m a larger paddler myself at 230 lbs which is well-within the range for the Fairlight and just under the maximum recommended rider weight for the Byron. I found the overall performance for both the Fairlight to be exemplary, but for some reason I did find myself enjoying the Byron more. As an experienced paddler that likes to push myself a little more, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised that I liked the sportier feel of the Byron over the more stable feel of the Fairlight! When paddling with less experienced (even beginner) friends and family, they all love the ease of paddling the Fairlight.
The Fairlight is a great option for someone who wants the performance and quality that Honu offers, but does want a little extra carrying capacity and a touch more stability. It’s an excellent cruiser iSUP, it’s great for beginners, and it can even be used for catching a few of those casual beach waves from time to time.
Honu Fairlight iSUP FAQ
What is the difference between the Honu Fairlight and Honu Byron?
The Honu Fairlight is a slightly wider, slightly longer all-around iSUP with a higher weight capacity than the Honu Byron. The Fairlight tracks a little straighter while paddling, and the Byron is a little more maneuverable. Both are high-performance all-around iSUPs.
Can I paddle with a kid or dog on the Fairlight?
You sure can! The Fairlight is plenty stable for an adult to paddle along with a child or small dog. The maximum recommended rider weight is 265lb.
Is the Honu Fairlight good for beginners?
Absolutely! The Fairlight may be high-performance, but that doesn’t mean it’s a higher barrier to entry. The Fairlight is well suited for beginners all the way through advanced paddlers. It is stable and forgiving, but also sporty when you begin to engage the rails and tail.
Can I use a kayak seat with the Honu Fairlight?
Unfortunately the Honu Fairlight does not have d-rings built into the side of the board to support most aftermarket kayak seats.
Does the Honu Fairlight come with a paddle?
The Fairlight does not include a paddle in the base kit, however Honu has several excellent paddle options that easily match the quality, performance, and budget of the Fairlight.