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Bluefin Cruise Carbon Review

This fast, stable inflatable gives solid core boards a run for their money
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Bluefin Cruise Carbon Review (The second inflation chamber underneath the deck pad provides a stable platform)
The second inflation chamber underneath the deck pad provides a stable platform
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Price:  $999 List
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Manufacturer:   Bluefin
By Jenay Aiksnoras ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 1, 2023
77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 15
  • Stability - 35% 9.0
  • Glide Performance - 25% 9.0
  • Maneuverability - 15% 6.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 3.0
  • Construction Quality - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

The Bluefin Cruise Carbon 12' has been recognized as one of the best boards for paddlers seeking a high-performance inflatable. It's made with high-end materials, has a solid construction, and performs consistently in all conditions. This board is uniquely designed with a second inflation chamber under the deck pad to add structural rigidity. The carbon-reinforced side rails help it slice through the water and maintain stability in chop. A host of high-end features complete the package, including five total grab handles, 15 D-rings, front and rear cargo systems, a high-volume pump, a convertible paddle, and a built-in GoPro mount. Weighing in on the higher end of the scale, we recommend this board for paddlers wanting an inflatable board that performs like a solid one — it's designed for performance, not travel. Get the skinny on how it stacks up against other top products in our article on the best inflatable sups.
REASONS TO BUY
Stable and fast
Carbon-reinforced construction
Kayak conversion kit
High-volume pump
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Bulky
Expensive
Editor's Note: This review was revised on September 1, 2023, with info on the updated version after a full retest.

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Bottom Line A high-performing inflatable that performs like a solid boardA beginner-to-intermediate board that keeps paddling fun in mixed conditionsAn impressively designed hybrid board that's comfortable for both your feet and seat that you can easily transport whether packed up or inflatedA lightweight, easy to use, and affordable board with solid all-around performanceThis board is our pick as the best travel board due to the generously sized bag and electric pump
Rating Categories Bluefin Cruise Carbon Bote Breeze Aero Isle Switch FunWater 11 Thurso Surf Waterwa...
Stability (35%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Glide Performance (25%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Maneuverability (15%)
6.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
Ease of Use (15%)
3.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Construction Quality (10%)
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
Specs Bluefin Cruise Carbon Bote Breeze Aero Isle Switch FunWater 11 Thurso Surf Waterwa...
Measured Weight 31 lbs 20 lbs 19 lbs 18.9 lbs 23.7 lbs
Weight Capacity 400 lbs 250 lbs 425 lbs 330 lbs 210 lbs
Inflated Width 32" 33" 36" 33" 32"
Inflated Length 12" 10'8" 11'7" 11' 11'
Inflated Thickness 6" 6" 6" 6" 6"
Paddle Included Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fin Configuration 2+1 plastic fins, all 3 detachable 2+1 plastic fins, with large detachable center fin Detachable flexible 9" touring fin 2+1 plastic fins, with large detachable center fin 2+1 removable quick-lock fin set
Folded Dimensions 34" x 15" x 10" 38" 18" x 12" 37" x 12" x 9" 34" x 16" x 7" 32" x 14" x 8"
Bungee Cargo System Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pump Included Yes, high-pressure, dual chamber Yes Yes Yes Yes, rechargeable electric air pump
Backpack Included Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Cruise Carbon stands out for its impressive blend of glide and stability thanks to its rigid design. The quality build and construction are evident once you hit the water and feel how easily you can cut through waves and chop. The dual-chamber pump is one of the best we've tested, keeping your inflation effort reasonable for such a large board, and an impressive list of design features and accessories continue to place this board at the top of the class. There's even an included kayak seat and convertible paddle to add versatility. With so many features and an impressive paddling performance, the Cruise Carbon is in a category all its own. That said, the heavy-duty materials and construction make it far more challenging to haul around…

Performance Comparison


bluefin cruise carbon - the cruise carbon is high quality, high capacity, and one of the...
The Cruise Carbon is high quality, high capacity, and one of the largest boards in our lineup.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Stability


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. These dimensions help it provide plenty of stability for 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. This provides more overall board volume and stability compared to other models with 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, which lessens the risk of being tossed around in rough waters. Our paddlers had no problem fighting through the choppiness during a windy day.

bluefin cruise carbon - the board is 32-inches wide along a good portion of its length with...
The board is 32-inches wide along a good portion of its length with a gradual sidecut.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The three-fin setup with two smaller, permanently affixed side fins and one larger, removable center fin provides an ideal balance of glide performance and stability. Attaching the center fin can be tricky as the small screw must be lined up with a hole on the board.

bluefin cruise carbon - the removable center fin is attached using a small screw.
The removable center fin is attached using a small screw.
Credit: Jenay Aiksnoras

Many new inflatable SUPs come with a kayak conversion kit. The paddle can be converted from an SUP paddle to a kayak paddle. The 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 allows for the option to sit in the case of larger waves, or for tentative paddlers, where sitting down to paddle would be more comfortable or efficient. While this board includes a conversion kit, there are better options if this is a key factor when selecting a board.

The kayak conversion kit includes an additional paddle attachment.
The kayak conversion kit includes an additional paddle attachment.
The seatback attaches to D-rings located on the sides of the board.
The seatback attaches to D-rings located on the sides of the board.

Glide Performance


The length and enhanced rigidity, as well as touring-style geometry and a pointed, gradually rockered nose, allow the Cruise Carbon to slice 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 in this realm.


The built-in features that help enhance the rigidity of the Cruise Carbon 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 rob you of your power and efficiency.

bluefin cruise carbon - the second inflation chamber underneath the deck pad of the cruise...
The second inflation chamber underneath the deck pad of the Cruise Carbon provides a stable platform for the rider.
Credit: Jenay Aiksnoras

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.

bluefin cruise carbon - the included paddle can convert from sup to kayak.
The included paddle can convert from SUP to kayak.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

One minor drawback that potentially reduces glide performance for the Cruise is that the included paddle is very flexible when used as a SUP paddle. Even though it has a carbon fiber shaft, it lacks the stiffness and rigidity of the top-rated SUP paddles. While this makes it more forgiving in difficult paddling conditions, it reduces overall power and efficiency. That said, most general users will be content with this paddle and will appreciate its versatility. Those looking to push this board to its highest performance capabilities may opt for a stiffer paddle to match the board's stiffness.

bluefin cruise carbon - the bluefin performs like a solid board once you get it on the water.
The Bluefin performs like a solid board once you get it on the water.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Maneuverability


This board's 12-foot length and gentle waist taper make it less nimble than other competitors. Its enhanced rigidity helps with efficient turning and reduces energy loss while maneuvering due to bending or flexing, but because it is so long, you have to give it time to come around.


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 their geometry makes it harder to make more precise movements. Likewise, shorter, nimbler boards are more agile and maneuverable but will likely sacrifice stability and speed.

bluefin cruise carbon - longer boards typically track better but their geometry makes it...
Longer boards typically track better but their geometry makes it harder to make more precise movements.
Credit: Jenay Aiksnoras

Ease of Use


This is where the Cruise Carbon is lacking. Its heavy-duty materials and construction, second inflation chamber, and carbon-reinforced side rails add up to make this board a whopping 31 pounds. It is heavier than other boards in our lineup and one of the longest and widest boards we've tested. Its overall weight parallels some of the rigid fiberglass boards in the same size range. The carrying handles provide multiple options for gripping it, but smaller paddlers found it a struggle to transport.


The included carry bag is one of the largest and most awkward in our lineup. When packed full with the heavy board and all of the included accessories, the final weight is around 40 pounds. The straps can't be adjusted short enough for smaller folks either, and the bag size was almost equal to some of our paddlers! The additional handles are not very helpful, and the roller wheels are far too small for the bag's weight. While rolling, the top handle is in a location that allows the bottom of the bag to drag when pulling it across sand. We also found it challenging to squeeze all of the equipment inside, and the load is quite massive when fully packed. Because packing and carrying this bag is so much less convenient than most others, it's not a good choice for anyone who wants to travel with their board.

When packed into the oversized bag, the carrying weight is close to...
When packed into the oversized bag, the carrying weight is close to 40 pounds.
The Bluefin's included carry bag is one of the largest and most...
The Bluefin's included carry bag is one of the largest and most awkward in our lineup.
The size of the bag was almost equal to some of our paddlers.
The size of the bag was almost equal to some of our paddlers.

When fully inflated, the Cruise Carbon has five grab handles that offer options for hauling solo or with a partner. The handles are comfortably padded and well-placed for more ease while carrying. The front and back of the board features small cargo nets, the sides of which double as handles. There are also handles on each side of the board, parallel to the center one.

Even though it has two separate inflation chambers to help enhance rigidity, the Cruise Carbon inflates quickly thanks to its high-volume dual-chamber pump. Testers were able to inflate it to capacity in about 10 minutes. This pump is one of the best that we tested and has three different pumping options to help optimize power or efficiency.

While inflatable SUPs are more portable and convenient than rigid fiberglass boards, inflating them can be daunting and quite a workout. Improvements in pump design and efficiency continue to improve this process, and there are electric pumps available to assist with inflation. This part of the paddling experience is likely to be the most challenging aspect.

bluefin cruise carbon - any inflatable sup can be a chore to inflate. the bluefin's large...
Any inflatable SUP can be a chore to inflate. The Bluefin's large size and volume are accompanied by a high-quality dual-chamber pump. Here we inflate an older version of the Cruise while testing in the Pacific Ocean.
Credit: Nick Bruckbauer

Construction Quality


Almost every other metric is affected by the build of a board, and the Cruise Carbon tops the list when it comes to construction quality. This board is built with a carbon-railing construction and dual inflation chambers to increase rigidity and stability on the water. To reduce the effects of the sun, Bluefin has added an Exo-Surface Laminate coated with a UV-protective layer.


Heat-welded bonds and the densest drop stitch pattern on the market are how Bluefin claims to increase durability. The double-layer side rails are reinforced with 500 denier PVC fabric and heat bonded. Unfortunately, our board's top chamber deflated while sitting overnight, inflated in a garage. While everything points to the Cruise being able to last, we were disappointed that this occurred after only a few uses in mild to moderate conditions. Despite this odd occurrence, we rated this board with high scores due to its overall build. We will report back if anything changes as we continue to use it.

bluefin cruise carbon - burly construction and versatile accessories enhance solid...
Burly construction and versatile accessories enhance solid all-around performance.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Should You Buy the Bluefin Cruise Carbon?


The Cruise Carbon 12 is a quality board built of high-end materials, and the price reflects this. On the water, it offers excellent all-around performance, as well as the versatility of a kayak conversion. As a SUP board, it outperforms many similarly priced or more expensive models and easily outshines bargain-priced models with its higher-end materials, accessories, and performance. It's the only board we've tested that we'd put up against a solid board. Paddlers looking for a board that performs on the water will be pleased with the experience this one provides.

bluefin cruise carbon - the cruise carbon felt the most like a solid board of all those we...
The Cruise Carbon felt the most like a solid board of all those we tested.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

What Other Inflatable SUPs Should You Consider?


The Bluefin Cruise Carbon 12 is an impressive option with burly construction and versatile accessories that enhance its performance. But if the price is too high and you'd prefer something much lighter weight, the Bote Breeze Aero is not to be missed. And if you love the added feature of a kayak seat, our favorite hybrid is the Isle Switch.

Jenay Aiksnoras