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iRocker 11’ Ultra All Around Review: Overview
This spring, iRocker has launched a brand-new lineup of inflatable paddleboards dubbed the “Ultra” series. These iSUPs are “Ultra” light, “Ultra” compact, and “Ultra” fun to paddle. The 11’ Ultra All Around is a sleek version of the popular iRocker Original 11’ All Around.The new Ultra 11’ All Around uses a new construction and clever design to improve on the original design in a package that is half the size and several pounds lighter.
— iRocker 11’ Ultra All Around Summary Ratings and Review —
iRocker 11’ Ultra All Around
Construction & Durability
Features and Versatility
Warranty & Customer Support
The 11’ Ultra All Around is an excellent, compact SUP that is fast and efficient on the water.
- Compact design
- Woven and Cross-threaded drop stitching
- Excellent glide and speed
- 15 D-rings
- Two storage areas with removable cords
- Removable passenger handles
- Electric pump included
- Excellent warranty
- Deck pad needs to be extended farther back
- Measured width is only 31”
Construction and Durability
Before diving into the detailed review of the new iRocker 11’ Ultra All Around iSUP, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the name. It is a bit of a mouthful, but more importantly it’s very similar to the previous/current iRocker 11’ All Around. For this review I’ll be referring to this new board as the “Ultra 11’” and the original version as the “Original 11’ All Around.” Now let’s get to the good stuff.
It’s great to see brands help push the development of the sport with the adoption of new technologies and new designs. For the Ultra-series, iRocker has used a relatively new cross-threaded drop stitch design. While not the first to use it, the Ultra-series boards are among the early adopters. This base material significantly reduces board weight while noticeably increasing the overall stiffness of the board, even at lower pressures. Where traditional drop stitch materials use vertically-oriented threads between the top and bottom of the board to keep the flat shape, cross-threaded constructions shift the anchor points so the individual threads run at alternating angles making “X” shapes within the board. If you imagine the Eiffel Tower or other large steel structure you can make an easy comparison to the X-shape of the metal supports to the X shape within the board.
The drop stitch core is then covered on top and bottom with iRocker’s triple-layer composite PVC material. This multi-layer build gives the board a very stiff and durable skin while minimizing the board’s weight. Two more layers of PVC are wrapped around the rails of the board, and finally a thin seam-reinforcement strip is added on the top and bottom of these rail layers.
In addition to new materials, the Ultra 11’ also changes up the deck pad, fin placements, center handle location, and the inflation valve and leash attachments in order to let the board fold in half down the middle (hot-dog style) when deflated. Folding the board in half before rolling it up means it will fit into a bag roughly half the size of iRocker’s regular SUP bags.
While I’ve got no concerns about the durability of the materials and construction, there are some aesthetic concerns that come along with the compact design. Because there are now tight folds in the PVC that are repeated each time you put the board away, the coloration on the top layer of PVC does have a tendency to begin to rub off at certain points along the crease. So far this appears to only be an aesthetic concern with no indication of any structural issues, and I will be sure to update this review as we get to spend more time with the Ultra-series boards.The deck pad still uses what appears to be the same logo-embossed deck pad material that is on the Original 11’ All Around, but the shape of the pad is shortened and split down the middle to accommodate the new compact design. Otherwise, those familiar with iRocker’s boards will see many similarities with the built-in features on the Ultra 11’.
|Max Capacity||290 pounds|
|Board Weight||21.4 pounds|
(SUP & accessories)
|Returns period||90 days|
Features, Accessories and Versatility
It’s easy to cut weight on a paddleboard by removing as many non-structural features as possible. And while iRocker could have done this with their Ultra 11’ and maybe dropped another pound from the board’s weight, it also cuts out much of the functionality and versatility of what is, at its core, an all-around iSUP.
The Ultra 11’ keeps, to some degree, all of the features of the Original 11’ All Around. There are two large cargo areas, four passenger handles, a plethora of D-rings, and several threaded action mounts. While there are fewer D-rings (15 instead of 20), and fewer action mounts (3 instead of 4), the cargo areas not only remain roughly the same size, but also upgrade to having removable bungee cords. This small change is not only a nice option for users who may want a cleaner deck, but also help in the folding process (I’ll get to that in a minute).
The most visually-obvious difference between the new Ultra 11’ and the Original 11’ All Around is the smaller, split deck pad and off-center carry handle. However, users will instantly understand why when you first unpack the Ultra 11’. The compact design requires the board to fold in half, so the deck pad material and handle would make it much harder (essentially impossible) to do. The inflation valve and leash mount were likewise moved to accommodate the center fold line.
On the bottom of the board, the center fin box has also been removed. The Original 11’ All Around iSUP included one 9” center fin and two 4.5” side fins. To make up for the loss of the center fin box, the Ultra 11’ comes with two, narrower, 9” fins that fit into the twin side fin boxes. I’ll get more into how these fins impact performance later on.
While the similarities in the features and versatility of the Ultra 11’ and Original 11’ All Around are numerous, there is one very big difference: the width. The Original 11’ All Around is spec’d at 32” wide and does measure 32” wide in person. The Ultra 11’ is also spec’d at 32” wide, however it measures only 31” wide at its widest point – near the D-rings just in front of the standing area. When we first started testing the Ultra 11’ we definitely thought it felt a little different from the Original 11’ All Around, but when we began to investigate that difference further, we were a bit surprised to see such a difference in width.
If all other things are equal, a narrower board will be less stable, but also faster on the water. However, not all other things are equal between the Original and Ultra 11’. The Ultra’s new construction significantly increases stiffness, which also increases its stability and speed. We’ll dive more into these differences later, but the primary concern with this difference is for beginner paddlers and those who will be using the board closer to the weight capacity limit. With a narrower board, learning can be harder, and the weight capacity may not be as high as listed. We found that the other Ultra-series boards (10’ All Around, Cruiser and Blackfin CX) all measured narrower than their listed specs. We’ve contacted iRocker about this difference and will update with their response and as we continue to test and investigate how this may impact these boards.
The paddleboard itself is not the only compact part of the new iRocker 11’ Ultra All Around. iRocker designed a brand new backpack and paddle to match the smaller size. While the bag does lose the wheels that are found on the Original 11’ All Around, the backpack is comfortable to carry when fully loaded.
The bag has a new velcro and roll-top closure and the front panel zips open all the way down on both sides. This makes it much easier to load the folded board back in the bag when you are done paddling. Outside there is a large, flat, zippered pocket on the front panel and two small zippered pockets on the sides. The front also has a bungee cord for light, bulky items you might want to carry with you as well (like a jacket or PFD). Inside are two velcro-close pockets on each side and a series of webbing loops above them to hold the sections of the new 5-piece travel paddle in place.The fins fit easily into the other side pocket, the board fits easily in the bag without there being too much slack, and the included 12v electric pump fits smartly on top (in its own accessory bag). Fully packed, the Ultra 11’ is small enough to fit on the floor behind the front seat of a sedan, though it will still need to be checked luggage on commercial flights.
The Ultra 11’ includes a new 5-piece paddle, however the core design and materials remains the same.
A compact board isn’t really compact if you still need to wrangle a long 1-, 2-, or 3-piece paddle to get to the water. iRocker developed a new 5-piece paddle with a carbon fiber shaft and nylon blade and handle that fits easily in the bag alongside the Ultra 11’.
The paddle is the same overall shape and materials as the Original iRocker paddle. The blade is relatively small with a rectangular shape and slight scoop. It’s well-balanced and easy to use. However this version of the iRocker paddle is my least favorite.
One issue I ran into with the 5-piece paddle, though, is loose connections. The individual parts fit together and lock in place with a sprung push button. This connection works well to keep the pieces together, however there is play between the pieces. On the 3-piece iRocker paddle, there’s only one such connection so the play is minimal and not very noticeable while on the water. However with the 5-piece paddle, there are three such connections and each of them adds more play into the system and are definitely noticeable while paddling. The top-most push button also happens to fall exactly where my hand holds the paddle when in use. I’m 5’9” and have an average “wingspan” so I imagine this may be an issue for many people. Hopefully we’ll see an updated version of this paddle with more secure connections and different spacing on the paddle segments.
The handle section uses the same pin-and-clip adjustment system as the current iRocker paddles to change the paddle length. While this system is very easy to use, the downside is that there is no way to twist the handle section if the handle and blade are not exactly aligned. This has been the case on several iRocker paddles for me. Misalignment like this makes it difficult to paddle straight (as it angles the blade) and has, on more than one occasion, caused me to nearly fall of the board while paddling quickly as the pressure and resistance I expected of the blade being in the water slipped away as the angled blade edge cut through the water. Most paddlers aren’t sprinting on their iSUPs, but the Ultra 11’ is a fast, sleek board that begs to be paddled quickly. If your iRocker paddle is misaligned as shown below, contact iRocker’s customer service. They will replace your paddle with no questions asked.
The new dropstitch core and triple-layer construction on the Ultra 11’ make it a very stiff iSUP. While there is still some flex when bouncing on the board, it’s essentially imperceptible while standing or paddling normally. This is a really good thing both intrinsically and because the Ultra 11’ actually only measures 31” wide – a full inch narrower than the specified width.
Narrower SUPs are less stable than wider SUPs, but stiffer boards are more stable than boards with more flex. The extra stiffness is definitely appreciated, but it does not fully make up for the loss in width over the Original 11’ All Around. With that in mind, the Ultra 11’ is still a stable board both flat and on its edge, but may not be as beginner friendly as we’d normally expect for a 32” wide iSUP. It is also much, much more stable than the Ultra 10’ (which also suffers from a narrower-than-specified width).
Some paddlers may find the handle placement too far to the side and interfere with their standing position. My foot happens to like to live just next to the handle (I’m 5’9”), however our 5’6” tester found that the handle is exactly where she wants to naturally place her foot.
The two 9” fins do offer a good amount of rolling resistance while on the board. I’ll get more into the fins later in the Maneuverability and Tracking section, but in terms of stability they do a great job in keeping the board flatter and slower to react to weight changes from side-to-side.
Lastly, for the intermediate and advanced paddlers, the deck pad on the Ultra 11’ stops very short of the tail of the board. This makes stepping back for a pivot turn very… spicy. As soon as your feet leave the deck pad the wet PVC surface becomes very slippery and you need to step onto the back cargo area to put any weight over the fins/lift the nose. It’s still do-able, but takes significantly more effort and concentration and really makes things interesting in choppy conditions.
The Ultra 11’ does gain a speed advantage from its narrower outline and stiffer construction. I found the Ultra 11’ to be faster on the water than the iRocker Sport and similar in speed to the Blackfin Ultra CX. The Ultra 11’s speed and efficiency offers a bridge into the world of touring iSUPs.
During our speed testing we found the Ultra 11’ to be quick on the sprints, but also easily cruises along at a bit over 3mph with a casual paddling cadence and glides over 1.8 board lengths before slowing down between strokes. This efficiency on the water makes the Ultra 11’ a pleasure to paddle for fitness and distance. If you are looking for a daily-use iSUP that can handle the occasional touring trip, the Ultra 11’ may be just the ticket for you.
Maneuverability and Tracking
Maneuverability and tracking are all impacted by the length, width, depth, rake, and surface area of fins in addition to the length, width, shape and rocker of the board, and lastly the paddler and turning methods used. While I won’t go into each excruciating detail, the biggest points impacting the Ultra 11’s maneuverability are its fins, length, and how you turn it.
It’s crucial that both fins match each other with a twin-fin setup like on the Ultra 11’. The dual 9” fins included with this board are not only relatively deep, but also have a significant amount of rake – or how far back they sweep. This does a great job of keeping the board moving straight, but can make turning difficult especially for smaller paddlers. When turning from a standstill using only forward sweep strokes, it takes nearly double the amount of effort to turn a complete circle with the Ultra 11’ than it does on the Original 11’ All Around (10 strokes vs 5.125 strokes on average).
Turning in a circle from a standstill isn’t always a real-life application, though, and while paddling on the Ultra 11’ I did find it easy enough to steer where I wanted to go while underway, but fast turning required a technique change. Using static bow draws and weighting the back of the board does help turn more quickly. Like all boards, reverse sweeps are also very quick to turn the board, but eliminate all of your forward momentum.
On the flip side, the Ultra 11 does track very, very well. Testing how well a board tracks has always been a rather subjective thing. We’ve begun trials with a new testing method that should let us begin putting some actual data to this performance feature. While we haven’t tested enough boards to start publishing that information, our preliminary testing shows excellent results for the Ultra 11’, and some of the best results of the new Ultra series iSUPs from iRocker.
It also matches with how the board feels on the water. It really is easy to keep the Ultra 11’ going where you want it. The twin 9” fins hold course well and the stiffer construction prevents the Ultra 11’ from bouncing while paddling – even while sprinting.The twin fin boxes on the Ultra series iSUPs have the same short base as the side-fins on iRocker’s other iSUPs. If you paddle in shallow water or want more maneuverability (at the cost of less tracking and stability) you can swap the 9” twin fins for a set of 4.5” side fins designed for other iRocker boards (but not the 4.6” river center fin).
Warranty and Customer Support
The iRocker 11’ All Around Ultra is backed by iRocker’s 3 year warranty and 90-day no-questions-asked return policy. If you don’t like your Ultra 11’ for any reason, iRocker will take it back for a full refund (but the customer is responsible for return shipping). If you have any questions about your Ultra 11’ or do need to start the warranty process, you can contact iRocker by phone, email, social media, or through a chat function on their website for a quick response.
We look at the overall package included with any iSUP, how it performs against other boards in the same category (and holistically) and, of course, the list and sale prices when evaluating the value of an iSUP. When we take these factors into account, the iRocker 11’ All Around Ultra is a fantastic deal. It’s not only a high-performance, high-quality iSUP, but it includes a great electric pump, fantastic warranty, and it’s amazingly affordable compared to other compact/lightweight paddleboard kits available.
Overall Impressions/Review Summary
The iRocker 11’ All Around Ultra is a fantastic iSUP for paddlers of any skill range who want a fun, fast, light, and easy to store and transport iSUP they can take anywhere. It borders the realm of touring boards in speed and efficiency, but still has all of the creature comforts and stability of an all-around. Paddlers under 5’6” may like the Ultra 10’ better for its shorter length, but should be aware that it is also narrower than specified at 30.75”. When in doubt, beginners should size up for better stability. Overall, the iRocker Ultra 11’ will be one of my top recommendations for compact boards and will likely find its way with me on my own travels as well.
iRocker 11’ All Around 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 Ultra All-Around 11 and Blackfin Ultra CX?
The Blackfin Ultra CX is sized between the Ultra All-Around 10 and Ultra All-Around 11 and features the same carbon fiber rail found on other Blackfin series iSUPs. The Blackfin Ultra CX is also the lightest of the new Ultra-series iSUPs at only 19.8lb. The Ultra 11’ is a little more stable than the Ultra CX due to the extra length and wider tail.
How compact is the Ultra 11’?
The Ultra 11’ packs down into a new backpack-style bag approximately 24”x19”x12”. The board itself weighs 21.4lb and the entire kit (including electric pump) weighs 33.8lbs. 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 Ultra 11’?
The included electric pump inflates the Ultra 11’ in approximately 8-10 minutes.
Can I leave the Ultra 11’ inflated, or does it always need to be deflated?
Absolutely, you can leave the board mostly inflated. It’s best to reduce the pressure inside the board for storage. Just don’t let the board sit out in direct sunlight for extended periods of time, as this can cause damage from over pressurization and long-term damage from UV exposure.
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