Bluefin Cruise Carbon Review
Cons: Heavier, somewhat expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bluefin Cruise Carbon 12' scores well in nearly every rating metric, standing out for its impressive blend of glide and stability thanks to its rigid design. While its heavy-duty materials and construction make it a little more challenging to haul around, they are evident once you hit the water and slice through waves and chop with ease. The high-quality dual-chamber pump is one of the best that we've tested and keeps the inflation effort reasonable for such a large board, and an impressive list of design features and accessories provide a great value despite the high price tag. Unique to this model, the included kayak seat and convertible paddle add an extra level of versatility that allows the board to be quickly converted to a kayak. With so many features and impressive paddling performance, the Cruise Carbon earns our Editors' Choice Award.
With its 12-foot x 32-inch x 6-inch dimensions, the Cruise Carbon 12 is one of the longer and higher-volume models in our lineup, providing plenty of stability in most paddling conditions. The board maintains its 32-inch width along a good portion of its length with a gradual sidecut that tapers to a pointed nose and a squared-off tail, providing more overall board volume and stability than other models with more aggressive sidecuts that narrow from the waist more abruptly.
The board's rigidity is enhanced by a second inflation chamber underneath the deck pad, and a carbon fiber Flex Reduction System (FRS) built into each side rail. These features combine with the board's larger overall size and weight to help withstand waves and chop better than most competitors. Other models have similar carbon fiber reinforcements to help enhance rigidity, but lack the overall mass of the Cruise Carbon to avoid being tossed around in rough waters. Our paddlers had no problem fighting through the choppiness during a windy day on the Pacific Ocean.
The three-fin set up with two smaller, permanently-affixed side fins and one larger, removable center fin provides an ideal balance of glide performance and stability.
If the wind really picks up and threatens your paddling progress, the innovative kayak conversion kit can come to the rescue. The included adjustable paddle includes four total pieces and can be converted from an SUP paddle to a kayak paddle. Simply remove the upper SUP handle grip, and replace it with the second paddle blade. This extra paddle blade, along with the included kayak seat, can be stowed onboard the vessel in either the front or rear cargo area and can be converted on the water as needed. This versatile design provides extra flexibility during windy conditions or for tentative paddlers, where sitting down to paddle would be more comfortable or efficient.
With its 12-foot length, enhanced rigidity, and touring-style geometry with a pointed and gradually rockered nose, the Cruise Carbon 12 slices through both calm and choppy water with relative ease. Although not as efficient as a true touring or racing-style board with a longer and narrower shape, this model outperforms most other competitors.
The built-in features that help enhance the board's rigidity help it glide through the water more efficiently. The second inflation chamber underneath the deck pad provides a stable platform for the rider to stand on, eliminating bending and flexing of the board that can absorb your paddling energy and can rob you of your power and efficiency.
Similarly, the built-in Flex Reduction System (FRS) encases a carbon fiber layer along each side rail that enhances the stiffness of those edges. This allows the board to slice through the water more efficiently, instead of absorbing lateral wave energy that can compromise your forward momentum.
One minor drawback that potentially reduces the Cruise's optimum glide performance is that the included paddle is very flexible when used as an SUP paddle. Even though it has a carbon fiber shaft, it lacks the stiffness and rigidity of other high-end SUP paddles. While this makes the paddle more forgiving in more difficult paddling conditions, it reduces its overall power and efficiency. Most general users will be content with this paddle and will appreciate the versatility that it provides with the extra convertible paddle blade, but riders looking to push this board to its highest performance capabilities may opt for a stiffer paddle to match the stiffness of the board.
The Cruise Carbon 12 receives average scores in this rating metric. The board's 12-foot length and gentle waist taper make it a bit less nimble than other competitors, but its enhanced rigidity helps turning efficiency and reduces energy loss while maneuvering due to bending or flexing.
Most SUP boards in our lineup see some kind of tradeoff between stability, glide performance, and maneuverability. Longer boards typically track in a straight line more naturally and maintain stability at speed, but find that their geometry makes it harder to make more precise movements. Likewise, shorter and more nimble boards that are more agile and maneuverable will likely sacrifice stability and speed.
Ease of Transport
This is the only noteworthy area where the Cruise Carbon 12 struggles a bit. Its heavy-duty materials and construction, second inflation chamber, and carbon-reinforced side rails add up to make this board a whopping 28 pounds. While certainly heavier than other light-duty boards in our lineup, this is one of the longest and widest boards we tested, and its overall weight is still a bit less than rigid fiberglass boards in the same size range.
The Bluefin's included carry bag is one of the burliest and most comfortable options in our lineup, but it has to be in order to carry the heavy board and all of the included accessories. Even though the bag has comfortable backpack straps, additional handles, and roller wheels, it can be a challenge to squeeze all of the equipment inside, and the load is quite massive when fully packed. Although packing and carrying this bag is less convenient than most others, we think it's worth the sacrifice for such a high-performing product.
When fully inflated, the Cruise Carbon has five grab handles that make it convenient to haul around either solo or with a partner. The handles are comfortably padded and well-placed for efficient carrying.
Ease of Inflation
Even though it has two separate inflation chambers that help enhance its rigidity, the Cruise Carbon 12 inflates pretty quickly thanks to its high-volume dual-chamber pump. This pump is one of the best that we tested, and has three different pumping options to help optimize power or efficiency. This high-quality pump helps compensate for the board's high volume and dual air chambers, putting its inflation time in line with most other competitors.
While inflatable SUPs are more portable and convenient compared to rigid fiberglass boards, inflating them can be a daunting task and quite the workout. Improvements in pump design and efficiency should continue to improve this process, and there are electric pumps available to assist with inflation. This part of the paddling experience may be challenging, but the fun and convenience of an inflatable board is worth the sacrifice.
Even though its list price is on the more expensive end of the spectrum, the Cruise Carbon 12 provides a great value with its high-end materials and construction, excellent all-around performance, and versatile kayak conversion capability. This board outperforms many similarly priced or more expensive models, and easily outshines bargain-priced models with its higher-end materials, accessories, and performance. Paddlers looking for versatile performance will be please with the value that the Bluefin provides.
The Bluefin Cruise Carbon 12 is an impressive option with burly construction and versatile accessories that enhance its solid all-around performance. Ideal for all types of paddlers in all types of conditions, the Cruise Carbon earns our Editors' Choice Award for the best inflatable SUP.
— Nick Bruckbauer