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Isle Explorer Review

A reasonably priced board with high-end materials and construction and solid all-around performance
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Price:  $795 List
Pros:  Stable, tie-downs and handles on both ends, nice paddle
Cons:  Not super fast or maneuverable
Manufacturer:   Isle
By Nick Bruckbauer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 18, 2020
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Stability - 30% 8
  • Glide Performance - 25% 8
  • Maneuverability - 25% 6
  • Ease of Transport - 10% 8
  • Ease of inflation - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Isle Explorer has high-quality materials and construction, excellent stability, admirable glide, and a reasonable price. This SUP can handle everything from long-distance paddles on the lake to windy afternoons and spicy descents down creeks and rivers. With a dual cargo system and an easy-to-use carry handle, the Explorer has plenty of room on deck for all of your gear and is easy to haul in and out of the water. Even with all of these features, it's still one of the lightest boards in our lineup. This is the model we'd recommend for paddlers wanting solid all-around performance with higher-end materials, construction, and style without the premium price tag of the most expensive boards.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Isle Explorer is a favorite among our testers because it's stable, easy to paddle, lightweight, and has tons of cargo space. It scores near the top of its class in nearly every rating metric, and our team is always happy to take it out for a spin. The Explorer combines dependable all-around performance with higher-end materials and construction than most of the bargain-priced boards, but still comes in at a reasonable price compared to the higher-end competitors.

Performance Comparison


The Explorer provides a great all-around paddling experience in a package that's dressed up with nicer features and higher-end finishes than many other boards.
The Explorer provides a great all-around paddling experience in a package that's dressed up with nicer features and higher-end finishes than many other boards.

Stability


The Explorer is among the top performers in this metric, thanks to its hefty, yet surprisingly lightweight dimensions. At 11 feet long, 32 inches wide, and 6 inches thick, this board provides plenty of width and volume to withstand choppy conditions. A triple-fin setup also helps improve stability while maintaining its ability to glide. This provides user-friendly stability for all levels of paddlers, including beginners, without hindering its performance capabilities for more advanced paddlers.

The triple-fin design with two smaller fixed side fins and a larger removable center fin provides an ideal balance of stability and glide performance.
The triple-fin design with two smaller fixed side fins and a larger removable center fin provides an ideal balance of stability and glide performance.

Interestingly, the Explorer's large storage capacity (which we love) with front and rear bungee systems can potentially get in the way of its stability. If you add larger loads but don't balance them properly, the board's stability will suffer. The Explorer is plenty capable of hauling heavier loads, but remember to evenly balance and secure your loads before launching.

The front and rear bungee storage systems are a great feature  but make sure your gear is properly balanced and secured before taking off.
The front and rear bungee storage systems are a great feature, but make sure your gear is properly balanced and secured before taking off.

Glide Performance


This SUP scores well in our glide rating metric, but it isn't quite at the top of the class. Because of the Explorer's low weight, it's able to skim the water well, but its slightly bulkier profile makes it a little bit slower than some of the sleekest boats in the review. During mellow paddle sessions with friends in normal conditions, the Explorer can keep up just fine. When the water gets choppier or the intended pace increases, longer and thinner boards tend to excel.

The Explorer has good glide performance that is enhanced by the included carbon-shafted paddle.
The Explorer has good glide performance that is enhanced by the included carbon-shafted paddle.

The Explorer's features two hard, smaller side fins with one larger removable middle fin. Most of our testers approve of this setup, which is commonly seen on other boards in our lineup as well. This configuration balances stability and glide performance on the open water, but still allows for some stability in shallow water if you need to remove the larger fin for safety. A drawback to this design is that that built-in finds do not allow the board to be rolled up as tightly as we'd like, but it still packs down compactly.

Maneuverability


The Explorer's profile and fairly wide dimensions land it in the middle of the pack in this rating metric. While it is maneuverable enough for general paddling in most conditions, other boards that are slightly shorter, narrower, more aggressively rockered, or include stomp pads can outmaneuver this vessel.

This model is capable of maneuvering any open water conditions but isn't as nimble as smaller and lighter boards.
This model is capable of maneuvering any open water conditions but isn't as nimble as smaller and lighter boards.

Ease of Transport


The Explorer is easy to transport with a very comfortable middle carrying handle that easily allowed testers to tackle a rowdy portage through scrub and mud. Plus, additional front and rear grab handles allow two people to tag-team the carry. Another bonus is that its overall lightweight construction won't tire you out too quickly.

The included carrying bag is comfortable and provides plenty of capacity for the board and all of the included accessories.
The included carrying bag is comfortable and provides plenty of capacity for the board and all of the included accessories.

With the included backpack, the Explorer easily rolls up and packs away with plenty of extra room for snacks and a towel. The pack is well padded and has enough room for the included pump, fin, leash, and paddle. The stock adjustable three-piece paddle that is included in the package has a hybrid design with a carbon fiber shaft and a nylon blade. It one of the best paddles included in any of the SUP packages that we tested.

The included three-piece adjustable paddle with a carbon fiber shaft and stiff nylon blade is one of the best stock paddles included in any inflatable SUP package.
The included three-piece adjustable paddle with a carbon fiber shaft and stiff nylon blade is one of the best stock paddles included in any inflatable SUP package.

Ease of Inflation


Like most of the boards in this review, the Isle earns a middle-of-the-road score in this metric. It outperforms some boards with larger overall volumes but gets outperformed by others with heavier-duty pumps. The stock pump included in the package is very similar to that of most of the products in our lineup. This model provides adequate performance in this metric.

The Isle's average pump and average size earn it average scores in the ease of inflation scoring.
The Isle's average pump and average size earn it average scores in the ease of inflation scoring.

Our testers found that, in general, the inflation process is the biggest drawback to having an inflatable SUP. This process can be time-consuming if you use your board daily and do not have space to store it inflated. We recommend checking out an electric pump, or preparing to get some serious muscles by the end of the summer!

Value


This board is not the cheapest in the test, but it is certainly not the most expensive, and it boasts exceptional overall performance and high-quality materials and construction. It has an extra-large 6 D-ring cargo system in the front, a 4 D-ring cargo system on the back, two sturdy handle straps on the nose and tail, and a sturdy middle strap. It also comes with a pump, fin, patch kit, SUP leash, paddle, and backpack. It is made of sturdy materials and comes with a one-year warranty. We tried to beat this board up, but it handled everything we threw at it with grace.

The thoughtful finishes and design features and solid all-around performance make the Explorer a good value for a higher-end board.
The thoughtful finishes and design features and solid all-around performance make the Explorer a good value for a higher-end board.

Conclusion


As one of the highest-scoring products in our test, the Isle Explorer is a well-loved SUP among our testers. This board is a high-performer in the water, and its construction and design make it among the most versatile boards in our test. With solid performance across the board and high-quality materials and attention to detail, the Explorer is an excellent purchase.

Nick Bruckbauer