Hands-on Gear Review

Isle Explorer Review

Top scores in nearly every metric combined with a reasonable price for such a high quality board, the Explorer is our Best High Performance Buy.
Isle Explorer 11
By: Shey Kiester and Leslie Yedor  ⋅  Sep 12, 2018
Price:  $845 List  |  $845.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Stable, sturdy, thick, dual cargo system, handles on both ends
Cons:  Not super fast
Manufacturer:   Isle
84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 12
  • Stability - 30% 9
  • Glide Performance - 25% 8
  • Maneuverability - 25% 8
  • Ease of Transport - 10% 9
  • Ease of inflation - 10% 8
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Best Buy Award

Our Verdict

The Isle Explorer has impressive construction, excellent stability, admirable glide, and a reasonable price. It earned a top spot in our testers' hearts, landing it the Best High-Performance Buy award. This model handled 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 is intuitive and a cinch to get in and out of the water. There's also plenty of room on deck for all of your accouterments. Even with all of these features, this contender was still one of the lightest in the test. A roomy and comfortable backpack earned it a high score in our ease of transport test. The Explorer has an impressive feature list but won't break the bank.

For an absolute top of the line all-around board, we recommend the Hala Carbon Straight UP, our Editor's Choice. If you're looking for a much cheaper model and don't mind sacrificing some performance, look at the PEAK Inflatable instead.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Explorer is a favorite among testers because it's stable, easy to paddle, is lightweight, and has tons of cargo space. It scored near the top of its class in every metric, and testers are always happy to take it out for a spin. If you're looking for a high-quality and versatile board that isn't the most expensive on the market, this is the right choice for you.

Performance Comparison


The Isle model was versatile and durable  making it a favorite for shallow  rocky creek descents.
The Isle model was versatile and durable, making it a favorite for shallow, rocky creek descents.

Stability


The Explorer was among the top performers in this metric thanks to its dimensions. At 32" wide, 6" thick and only 11' long, paddling is a breeze. A triple fin setup also helps improve stability while maintaining its ability to glide. This provides beginner-friendly stability without hindering its capabilities for more advanced paddlers.


Interestingly, the Explorer's large storage capacity (which we loved) can get in the way of its stability. If you add larger loads but don't balance them properly, stability suffers. So it is essential to even out and secure your load before launch.

A stable design makes the Isle a versatile model  meaning it can handle creek rapids and an afternoon beer float.
A stable design makes the Isle a versatile model, meaning it can handle creek rapids and an afternoon beer float.

Glide Performance


This SUP scored well in the glide metric, but it wasn't 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 proved a bit slower than the sleekest boats in the review. However, nearly all of our testers found the difference to be negligible during mellow sessions with friends or solo sunset cruises. If you are into longer missions and seek a boat with serious glide, we recommend the Red Paddle Co Explorer, our Top Pick for Performance.


The Explorer's fin setup is unique. Only a handful of other boards use the same design. The board features two hard, smaller fins, with one larger removable middle fin. Most of our testers greatly appreciate this setup. It adds stability and glide performance on the open water and allows for extra stability in shallow water when you need to remove the larger fin for safety. A drawback to this design is that it does not let you roll the board as tightly as we'd like, but it still packs down compactly.

The Isle model featured three fins that added stability and came with a well-designed backpack and quality pump.
The Isle model featured three fins that added stability and came with a well-designed backpack and quality pump.

Maneuverability


The profile of this board and the slight nose rocker landed it near the top of the pack in this metric. Only the more aggressively rockered Hala boards outmaneuver the Isle. The Hala boards have the advantage of rear stomp pads.


Ease of Transport


The Explorer is a cinch to transport, with a comfortable middle handle that easily allowed testers to tackle a rowdy portage through scrub and mud. Plus, rear and front handles allow two people to tag team the carry. Another bonus, its lightweight construction didn't tire us out.


Awesome carrying handle with padded strap on the Explorer.
Awesome carrying handle with padded strap on the Explorer.

With an 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, although some testers felt that there was almost too much padding.

If you're looking for a SUP that is as transportable but with rollers on the bag, we recommend the Hala Carbon Straight Up. It'll cost you though.

Explorer
Explorer

Ease of Inflation


Like most of the boards in this review, the Isle earned a middle-of-the-road score in this metric. It outperformed some boards, like the Tower Adventure, but was outperformed by others, like the Red Paddle Explorer. The Isle model provided adequate performance in this metric.


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 biceps by the end of the summer!

The Isle was relatively quick to inflate  and it was also durable.
The Isle was relatively quick to inflate, and it was also durable.

Durability


Although no board scored a perfect ten for durability, the Isle model was among the highest scoring models. This board's construction makes it obvious that Isle built it to last, with quality seam connections and premium materials. The board easily handled rocky creek descents, and it is sure to last through many seasons of use.

Best Applications


The Explorer is an excellent board for a wide range of experience levels, including beginners. It is versatile and ready for adventure and will save a buck or two. The boat's burly construction and all-around performance mean that it can duck and weave from the lake to the creek. Two bungee storage areas seriously expand the possibilities, allowing you to strap down just about anything.

Pictured here is the iRocker  along with a slew of other contenders in our fleet.
Pictured here is the iRocker, along with a slew of other contenders in our fleet.

Value


At $845, this board is not the cheapest in the test, but it is certainly not the most expensive, and it boasts exceptional performance. 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, patch kit, SUP leash, extra padded carrying strap, 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.

Conclusion


As the second-highest scoring product in our test, the 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. Unless you are looking for the absolute best money can buy, the Explorer is an excellent purchase.

Shey Kiester and Leslie Yedor

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 12, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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