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iRocker Cruiser Ultra Review | 2023
iRocker Cruiser Ultra: Overview
The all-new iRocker Cruiser Ultra is a compact, travel version of the classic cruiser design that has been one of our favorite beginner iSUPs for a long time. The new Cruiser Ultra is 15% lighter, but folds down into a bag that is 50% smaller than the original Cruiser. This new version uses new materials for an even stiffer ride and is once again a great option for beginner paddlers.
— iRocker Cruiser Ultra Summary Ratings and Review —
iRocker Cruiser Ultra
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
Warranty & Customer Support
The New Cruiser Ultra is a great option for beginner paddlers looking for a compact board.
- Compact travel size
- Advanced construction
- Triple layer PVC
- Balances maneuverability and tracking
- Lots of D-rings and action mounts
- Removable cargo bungees
- Two sets of passenger handles
- Electric pump included
- Excellent warranty
- Short deck pad
- Measured width is only 32”
Construction and Durability
The Cruiser Ultra starts with a brand new cross-threaded 6” drop stitch core. Where the Original Cruiser has threads running vertically from the deck to the hull to provide shape and strength, the Cruiser Ultra runs fewer threads at opposing angles filling the inside of the board with thousands of X’s (similar to the structure of a bridge trestle). This new drop stitching technique increases the strength and stiffness of the material with less weight.
Around the drop stitch core, iRocker adds a triple-layer composite PVC shell for optimized durability, strength, and weight. The rails (sides) of the board are wrapped in additional PVC material and then sealed again with a seam-reinforcement strip on both the top and bottom of the rail band. This construction creates a board that is lighter, stiffer, and still durable enough for everyday use and travel.
There are a few very noticeable differences on the outside of the Cruiser Ultra compared to the Original Cruiser. The deck pad is both shorter and split down the middle (though uses the same logo-embossed foam for excellent grip). The center handle is offset to the left side of the board, and the inflation valve and leash D-ring have been moved to the side as well.
This was all done to allow the Cruiser Ultra to fold in half lengthwise before being folded up for storage. Folding the board in half first reduces the height of the bag needed by about half. Combined with the new materials and five-piece paddle, the entire package is significantly smaller than the original, and while it’s not small enough to fly as a carry-on, it can fit on the floor between the front and back seats of a sedan. I was able to bring the Cruiser Ultra with me on a recent family road trip along with the luggage for five people, beach supplies, and the passengers themselves without any issues fitting everything under the tonneau cover of the (very small) bed of my truck.
With lightweight, compact boards one of the first questions many people, including myself, will ask is “how durable is it?” I have lots of experience backpacking as well and ultralight materials used to make sub-2lb backpacks are known for needing white-glove treatment. So far, all indications on the durability of the Ultra series iSUPs from iRocker are pointing to being just as durable as their original counterparts.
One area where they do show some differences though, is the cosmetics. Having the board fold in half at the same point over and over again does produce more wear on that one specific area. Here you can see some lines the color in the PVC, however there appears to be no physical damage to the PVC itself. Since these are new releases we’ve only had them for a few weeks. As time goes on we will update this review as needed. At this point, though, I have no concerns for the durability of the Cruiser Ultra over the normal concerns for all inflatable paddleboards (avoid dragging them and sharp objects). As always, clean and fully dry your board prior to storage and store them in a dry location out of the sun.
|Max Capacity||300 pounds|
|Board Weight||21 pounds|
(SUP & accessories)
|Returns period||90 days|
Features, Accessories and Versatility
iRocker has kept all of the general utility and versatility of the Original Cruiser with the new Ultra version. Six fewer D-rings may sound like a lot, but the Ultra still has 15! The six on the front of the board make a large cargo area with a removable bungee cord and neoprene-padded passenger handles. The middle of the board has four D-rings to accommodate a kayak seat conversion, and the rear of the board has four more for cargo storage and passenger handles, plus one for your leash. The Cruiser Ultra eliminates one threaded action mount (previously on the deck behind the standing area) and integrates the other into the leash D-ring for a total of three mounting points.
One item that did see a usability reduction is the deckpad. In order to make the Cruiser Ultra more compact the deckpad was shortened by a very large margin. For general paddling this doesn’t have any real impact. You can still stand around the handle, take a staggered stance, and even move back to better balance with a front passenger (to an extent). However the short deck pad does have drawbacks. With the shorter length and central split it’s more difficult to practice yoga on the Cruiser Ultra than the Original Cruiser. It’s also very difficult to use the back of the board for pivot turning or surfing as you lose nearly all traction when stepping onto the PVC surface at the tail. I’ve also occasionally had my toes slip out on me when standing up if they are on the very back of the pad while hopping up onto my feet.
The original iRocker Cruiser is 10’6” x 33”. The new Cruiser Ultra lists these same measurements but measures 32” wide at its widest point. I’ve found this to be (besides just odd) both a blessing and a curse. While it does impact the overall stability of the board (more on that below), because it is now effectively a 10’6” x 32” board I’ve found it to be an even more universal all-around size compared to the 10’ and 11’ All Around boards from iRocker. If you have a family with lots of different heights, the Cruiser Ultra is likely to fit most of them very well.
By folding the board in half before rolling it up, the Cruiser Ultra now fits into a backpack-style bag that is roughly half the height of the regular iRocker bag. Overall the width and thickness remain about the same. Storing and transporting the Cruiser Ultra is now much easier, and the accessory bag holds the included electric pump, repair kit, fins and leash (though I prefer to store the fins and leash in the side pocket of the main bag).
The bag has a roll-top closure and the front panel zips all the way open on both sides for easy packing and unpacking. The accessory bag fits easily on top of the board and the five piece paddle is held securely in the interior pocket and tucked into the sewn-in daisy chain webbing.
The new five-piece paddle uses the same materials and shapes as the original iRocker paddle.
For the Ultra series boards, iRocker developed a new five-piece paddle. This new paddle uses the same materials for the shaft and blade, and the same shape and size of the blade, as the original paddle, but cuts the disassembled length to fit in the new, smaller, bag.
The iRocker paddle blade is pretty different from what many other manufacturers in this space have done. It’s a relatively small surface area blade with a rectangular shape rather than a teardrop. This makes the paddle easier for smaller paddlers to use and also lets you paddle with a faster cadence if you are wanting to do a little fitness paddling.
The five-piece version feels mostly the same in the water except for two things I’ve noticed.
First, there is almost always some amount of play where two parts of a paddle connect with just a sprung-button connector. Some paddles have more, some have less. The connections on the five piece paddle have a moderate amount of play, but it’s magnified by the three sections that use this connection. Once you assemble the paddle you can feel it twisting from section to section. For some general, casual paddling this isn’t a huge deal, but it doesn’t match the performance nature of the Ultra series boards.
The other issue I’ve run into is the placement of the connections. One of which happens to be right where my hand rests on the paddle. I’m 5’9” with a regular arm span, so I imagine I’m not the only one who would put their hands in this spot. So far I’ve not accidentally released the paddle section, but I do feel the button rubbing on my hand. This is less likely to be an issue for people of different heights or different arm spans, but it is something that can become a bit of a sore (literally) over long paddling days.
Lastly, I’ve run into an issue with a few different iRocker paddles where the handle section is not properly aligned with the blade. The pin-and-clip adjustment system is simple, solid, and repeatable (which we like in an adjustable paddle) but it also does not allow for any adjustment of the handle orientation.We brought this to iRocker’s attention when we realized it wasn’t a one-off issue and their response was exactly what we hoped for. If anyone is experiencing this problem, contact iRocker customer service for a no-questions-asked replacement.
Stability is one of the most important performance aspects of a paddleboard for beginner and intermediate paddlers who are still honing their skills. If a board is unstable, it’s difficult to focus on techniques when you’re just trying to stay upright. The good news is that the Cruiser Ultra has plenty of stability.
While it is narrower than listed (32” wide instead of 33” wide) this is not really a major issue for this board. The 10’6” length and 6” thickness provide plenty of volume for a very large range of paddlers, and 32” is a very standard width for all-around iSUPs to begin with.
The new drop stitch material keeps the Cruiser Ultra very stiff while on the water which further increases its stability. Stiffness helps to relax your feet as it feels like a more solid surface. It also reduces the amount of flex you experience while paddling, especially in choppy conditions.
Standing on the Cruiser Ultra felt very solid and stable. While the primary stability (flat on the water) wasn’t quite as good on the Cruiser Ultra as the Original Cruiser, you would have to try both boards side-by-side to notice the difference. Bouncing up and down created a small amount of flex in the board that settled back down predictably. In choppier water the Cruiser Ultra kept it’s stability well with only a little bit of extra effort thanks to it’s great secondary stability. Secondary stability is how stable a board feels when on its edge (not flat on the water). I could very easily set the Cruiser Ultra on its edge and maintain that position.
Cruiser-style paddleboards are made for just that – cruising around, having a good time, maybe catching a wave or doing some yoga. What they aren’t made for is top speed. The Cruiser Ultra was the slowest of the new Ultra Series iSUPs that we tested, though not by much. The stiff construction really helps transfer power into forward momentum and the narrower width reduces drag in the water.
Sprint testing the Cruiser Ultra felt more like an all-around than a cruiser board, though. It was quick to accelerate and finished the 100m sprint in just a few seconds slower than the Ultra 10’ and Ultra 11’ all around boards. This is completely expected when comparing these boards, though, and it was faster than the Original Cruiser.
While taking it for a longer distance test at cruising speeds, the Cruiser Ultra was again, just a touch slower, but was once again faster than the Original Cruiser.
If you are wanting a compact iSUP for greater speed and efficiency, I would recommend the iRocker 11’ All Around Ultra. It’s a fast, efficient board that begins to cross over into the category of touring iSUP.
Maneuverability and Tracking
Another design change made to accommodate folding the Cruiser Ultra into a smaller package is the shift from a 1+2 Fin setup to a Twin Fin setup. With a Twin Fin design, both fins need to match or else you’ll be turning in circles all day no matter what you do. iRocker includes two, new, 9” fins for the Cruiser Ultra. These fins add stability and tracking ability to the Cruiser Ultra, but do detract from its overall maneuverability.
To turn a full circle from a standstill took the Original Cruiser about five high-quality forward sweep strokes, but takes the Cruiser Ultra nearly seven to do the same. While this is a big change from model-to-model, the reality is that most people don’t do this exact maneuver on a regular basis. Steering the Cruiser Ultra while paddling and turning smaller amounts (left or right only, rather than a full circle) is still easily done and more comparable to the maneuverability of the Original Cruiser.
Where the maneuverability did take a little bit of a hit with the two long fins, the tracking performance increased. While I was paddling the iRocker Cruiser Ultra it was very easy to keep on course and required relatively few course corrections. During the sprint test, the Cruiser Ultra also kept on track well as the increased stiffness prevented the board from bending and flexing, which can shorten the length of the board that is in contact with the water and allow it to turn more easily.
The two fin boxes are short-base fliplock that are the same as the “side” fins on the Original Cruiser (and other iRocker boards). Because of that, the current choices in fins are a little limited to either the included 9” fins or the 4.5” side fins (sold separately). Swapping the 9” fins for the 4.5” fins does increase maneuverability, but also reduces the tracking and stability. Hopefully we’ll see a new set of options for these fins in the future.
Warranty and Customer Support
iRocker warranties the Cruiser Ultra for three years against material and manufacturing defects. They also warranty the included accessories for one year. If you have any issues with your Cruiser Ultra or included accessories, you can reach out to the iRocker Customer Support team via phone, email, social media, or through their website. If you are experiencing misalignment of your paddle handle, contact iRocker Customer Support for a no-questions-asked replacement. In addition to the excellent three-year warranty, iRocker also has a 90-day no-questions-asked return period. If for any reason you are unhappy with your Cruiser Ultra or any other iRocker iSUP, you can return it to iRocker for a full refund.
We consider all of the factors of any paddleboard when determining what kind of value it offers. This includes the materials and construction, performance, versatility, accessories, and the brand itself (warranty, customer support, etc.). The Cruiser Ultra is more expensive than the Original Cruiser, however it does offer many great advantages. If you are in the market for a compact, all-around iSUP that works for a variety of paddlers and in a variety of conditions, the Cruiser Ultra is a fantastic value. Other compact iSUPs are often more expensive with fewer features and/or less stability.
Overall Impressions/Review Summary
I’ve really enjoyed paddling the iRocker Cruiser Ultra. While there are some drawbacks, they are minimal and overshadowed by the benefits of this paddleboard. The new construction has noticeably increased stiffness, stability, and performance. The compact design is easy to store and take with you anywhere. You no longer have to decide if you are going to take your iSUP with you on your next trip, just how many times you are going to use it!The Cruiser Ultra really does work well for a large variety of paddler sizes and in both flat and choppy conditions. For a first-generation product, the iRocker Cruiser Ultra has been designed and built incredibly well. There are a few things that I’d like to see changed for future generations (like a longer deck pad) but nothing that would stop me recommending this iSUP to anyone looking for a great, compact, board.
iRocker Cruiser Ultra iSUP FAQ
What are the new Ultra series of iSUPs from iRocker?
The new Ultra series, short for ultralight, are compact and lightweight inflatable stand-up paddleboards (iSUPs). They use a new woven drop stitch construction to increase rigidity and performance while also decreasing overall weight.
What is the difference between the iRocker Cruiser Ultra, iRocker Cruiser?
The Cruiser Ultra uses new materials to reduce weight, increase performance, and pack away into a smaller bag for easier travel. The original iRocker Cruiser is a little bit wider and has a longer deck pad. The Cruiser Ultra tracks better and is faster than the original Cruiser, but is slower to turn.
How compact is the Cruiser Ultra?
The iRocker Cruiser Ultra packs down into a new backpack-style bag approximately 24”x19”x12”. The board itself weighs 21lb and the entire kit (including electric pump) weighs 32lbs. It’s small enough to fit in any car and comfortable to carry as a backpack.
How long does it take to pump up the iRocker Cruiser Ultra?
The included electric pump inflates takes approximately 7-8 minutes to reach 15psi.
Can I use a kayak seat with the iRocker Cruiser Ultra?
Yes! There are four D-rings on the side of the board that are compatible with the iRocker Kayak Seat conversion and the paddle is compatible with the kayak paddle conversion.
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