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Honu Fairlight Review | 2023
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.
— Honu Fairlight Summary Ratings and Review —
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
Warranty & Customer Support
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 X-woven, rather than linear, drop stitch. 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 linear drop stitch. 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 (17.1 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 was only ⅛”, though.
While paddling the fairlight, especially at the maximum 20 psi, there is very little flex during normal use. However, when bouncing or sprinting, the flex is more noticeable than on the Byron.
One thing we did note, however, is that the real-world width of the Fairlight came out to be just 32.25” instead of the listed 33”. At only 3” longer than the Byron, and realistically only a quarter-inch wider, it was very interesting to paddle them both side-by-side to see how different – or similar – they felt.
|Max Capacity||290 pounds|
|Board Weight||17.1 pounds|
(SUP & accessories)
|Returns period||30 days|
Features, Accessories and Versatility
Honu’s focus is on building performance boards 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 three carrying handles. At 17.1lb, carrying with a buddy probably isn’t needed because of the weight, but if it’s a windy day, it’s easier to carry it with someone else rather than fight the wind. Up front, the carry handle has an integrated D-ring for towing or anchoring. At the tail, the rear carrying handle also has two d-rings for your leash. You can place the leash on either one to match your preferred surf stance – goofy or regular.
The cargo area up front 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, so their longevity is 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 three small exterior pockets (the front pocket has a zipper), and a set of compression straps to help keep everything nice and tight during transportation. It has enough room to fit all of your paddling needs and has a lightly padded front panel for extra protection.
The included double action pump is effective, especially for a lower-volume board like the Fairlight. It has an inflate and deflate setting – which is particularly useful when it’s time to pack up and head home.
What is missing from the kit, though, is a paddle. While Honu does not include a paddle with the Fairlight kit, they do make a few different high-quality carbon fiber paddles that are well worth the additional cost.
While the Honu Fairlight does not include a paddle, Honu does have a few different 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 Bamboo (shown above while paddling the Honu Sorrento) uses a 12K carbon weave for the shaft and blade, and adds a bamboo and paint veneer for a nice pop of color. The Evolution Carbon paddle uses 3K carbon twill for the shaft and blade with a simplified logo and matte black finish.
Both paddles are super lightweight and offer excellent paddling performance for a variety of conditions thanks to the medium size blade with a medium rake-angle.
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 comparison to the Honu Byron – the Fairlight’s little sibling – the Fairlight felt noticeably less stiff and a little less stable to me. The actual size difference between the two is not that great, so it makes sense that they would be similar in performance. The Fairlight measured to only be 32.25” wide at its widest point (only 0.25” wider than the Byron), but it did measure 3” longer than the Byron, as specified. The loss of ¾ of an inch is pretty significant in this comparison. Had the Fairlight been the full 33” width, I do believe it would have been noticeably more stable than the Byron, even if it still doesn’t feel quite as stiff due to the extra length. Hopefully any new version of the fairlight will address this issue.
The Fairlight was never meant to be a sporty 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.
The Fairlight has an easy-going glide that creates a smooth and quick paddling experience. The Byron did have a slightly faster time on our ¼ mile circuit than the Byron and had a calculated glide of 1.98 board lengths per stroke – so each high quality forward stroke propels the Fairlight nearly 21 feet before it noticeably slows down.What 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 is only three inches longer than the Byron, and nearly the same width, so I did expect it to perform about the same in our maneuverability and tracking tests. What I did find out is that the Fairlight is less maneuverable overall than the Byron, by a fair margin. It took two more paddle strokes to turn a full circle with the Fairlight (6.75) than it did the Byron (4.8).
While it is typical that a longer board takes more effort to turn, I did not expect this much difference between the two. I can’t say for sure why that is, but I do suspect it’s a combination of the extra length, slightly lower rigidity, and potentially a slightly different position of the fin box relative to the board’s length. Even with this difference between the Fairlight and the Byron, the Fairlight still falls squarely within the maneuverability I normally expect to see from all-around boards of this size.
While casually paddling the fairlight around the lake, between tests, and just for fun, I did note that it tracks very well. Actually, I didn’t think much about it at all until I suddenly realized that it was tracking quite well! Whereas many all-around boards tend to prioritize maneuverability over straight-line tracking, the Fairlight does both of them well.
On average, I found the Fairlight to deviate from its course about 12° while paddling 10 strokes on one side. This is definitely one of the best tracking all-around iSUPs I’ve tested, and it even starts to compare to some of the more touring-oriented paddleboards!
The Fairlight is equipped with a single US fin box and comes with a 9” all-around fin made by FCS. The US fin box is an excellent standard for fins and allows you to pick from hundreds of currently available fin sizes and shapes made by dozens of manufacturers. While US fins normally attach with a nut and bolt, Honu opted for the FCS Connect II fin which includes a pressure-fit system. This system means you can snap the fin directly into the fin box without any screws, bolts, nuts, clips, or anything else. Removing it is just as simple.
Warranty and Customer Support
Honu’s warranty includes 4 years of support in the case of manufacturing defects for the Fairlight and all of their iSUPs. If something goes wrong they will replace or repair your board for free. If you do happen to damage your board with a puncture or other issue, Honu will help you find a reputable repair shop near you. 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. Our only concern on the overall value is that the kit does not include a paddle. However Honu’s carbon fiber paddles do offer an incredible value at a reasonable price, and you would not go wrong by adding one to your cart with the Fairlight.
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 230lb 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 and the Byron to be exemplary, but for some reason I did find myself enjoying the Byron more. Because I’m an experienced paddler that likes to push myself a little more, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised!
The Fairlight is a great option for someone who wants the performance that Honu offers, but does want a little extra carrying capacity and a touch more stability. For a future version of the Fairlight I’d love to see it at a full 33” in width and with an upgrade to the storage system with metal D-rings (and maybe a threaded mount or two as well).
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 290lb.
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.
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