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Isle Pioneer Pro SUP, a Definitive Review: The Most Maneuverable Inflatable Paddleboard

Sometimes I paddle solo, and sometimes I take my three dogs along. Typically, an inflatable SUP can't accommodate. This one can.

Testing the Isle Pioneer Pro Series; (photo/Berne Broudy)
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I love inflatable paddleboards because they stash in a small space and are easy to carry. But inflatables have some drawbacks. They often lack the performance of a rigid board because even inflated to maximum pressure they still flex, which is less fun to paddle.

And, of course, there are weight limitations. And when a paddleboard is supporting not just the weight of a human but also gear or, say, one to three 50-plus-pound pups, that flex can be exacerbated.

In short: Isle’s new Pioneer Pro board has made paddling an inflatable compromise-free. The Pioneer Pro is a “semi-rigid” board made with a proprietary material called Infinity Fiber, a continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic. Instead of embedding flexible carbon fiber or fiberglass in a rigid epoxy, Isle embeds a flexible fiber into a plastic material. Essentially, when it’s rolled, it’s flexible, and when it’s extended, it’s stiff.

Isle uses Infinity Fiber in the Pioneer Pro’s rails (the sides of the board) and beam (the center of the board on the top and bottom) to give it structural stiffness that’s leaps and bounds above other boards on the market. We tested this claim when the Pro first launched. Other adjustments also include using a woven fabric instead of a knitted fabric with PVC skin, for greater rigidity and lighter weight. All in all, the Pioneer Pro board was a different experience. We highly recommend.

Isle Pioneer Pro Paddleboard Review

First Impressions

All the attachment points on the Isle Pioneer Pro; (photo/Isle)

This board is made for generalists, but is ready for a wide range of uses. The Pioneer Pro is relatively wide with a lot of space on the deck, and plenty of tie-downs. The board comes with a paper bag full of straps that clip onto burly webbing loops along the whole length of the board.

The loops let the clips slide in smoothly, and the clips don’t fall off when I deflated and folded the board for storage. The polycarbonate deck clips are made by Isle and rated to over 100 kg breaking strength.

The board also comes with a surf leash, standard for most SUPs on market. One day when I decided to do a longer swim, I towed the board with this leash to test it for comfort.

If standing on a paddleboard doesn’t appeal, the Pioneer Pro can also be used as a kayak. Isle sells a seat and footrest that are surprisingly comfortable and easy to set up. The seat and footrest clip onto the webbing loops along the sides of the board. This amount of attachment points also allows you to move the seat and footrest to accommodate other gear that needs carrying.

The setup positioned me 4 inches above the deck, which made paddling comfortable and low strain on my back. With the seat in place, this board is also great for fishing. Though the board is 10’6”, there is still room for a cooler and other gear plus a paddler.

Paddling through clear waters on a local lake; (photo/Berne Broudy)

The board uses an innovative fin attachment system. Small plastic discs insert into the base of the fin so that the fin pressure fits into the fin holder on the bottom of the board. Mine came with two different density discs, which allowed me to choose how tight a fit I wanted. It also came with a standard pin for the fin for people who aren’t comfortable with a pressure-fit attachment.

Most paddleboard bags strive to be as compact as possible. That means that once removed, a standard paddleboard can be near impossible to get back into the bag. This paddleboard comes with a spacious roller.

No, you won’t be able to fit it in the overhead compartment on your next flight. But the bag has plenty of space for a paddle or two, the seat and footrest, a life jacket, and most other things you’d want to store in there. And there is a separate organizer compartment to hold deck bungees and the fin plus accessories.

Everything on the board is thoughtfully designed. Isle made a proprietary 3/16ths stainless steel G-hook attachment for the kayak seat, and gear management straps have polycarbonate G-hooks that are rated to more than 100 kg. When you deflate the board, you can leave them on and they stay connected.

Testing on the Water

The author plus 70 pounds (two dogs) on board in testing; (photo/Mike Donohue)

Like GearJunkie’s editors who initially tested, I was skeptical about Isle’s claims, but the first time I launched the board, I immediately felt the difference.

Usually, when I step aboard an inflatable — with me plus 70 pounds of dog — we wallow. This board immediately paddled smoothly and tracked straight. The board was extremely stable. I was even able to paddle with all three of my dogs, a total weight of 200 pounds, and have fun doing so — which has not been possible on other boards.

And when I paddled solo, the board characteristics were the same. It handled choppy water, floated easily through wake, and was a delight to paddle when it was smooth.

The boat has superb stability. On nearly every paddleboard outing I’ve done with my pups, my youngest dog, Sassafras, capsizes the paddling party when she launches off the board for a swim. On the Pioneer Pro, Sassafras didn’t tip over the rest of the crew, even when she sprang off the bow into the water. This board will definitely appeal to those who paddle with bigger dogs (like myself).

The author, plus three dogs on the 10’6″ Isle Pioneer Pro. Stability was not a problem!

And carrying it to the water from my car was a breeze. The board is on the wide side — the 10’6” board I paddled is 34 inches wide, and a manageable 23 pounds. The Pioneer Pro also comes in a 9’6” and 11’6” sizes (which bumps the weight capacity from 300 up to 450 pounds). All are 6 inches thick.

Because this board is so adept at carrying weight, it would be fantastic for paddling to a remote campsite, and for paddling with kids on board. Speaking of extras on board, whatever you need for outfitting your SUP, Isle has it.

The seat and footrest are sold separately. So are a variety of paddles, and Isle also offers a dry bag and electric pumps. Of course, this is par for the course with any SUP brand nowadays. Still, it’s nice knowing you can invest in the exact gear and accessories you think you’ll need through one brand.

Cons

As with any new product, there is a learning curve. And for me, it was the fin. It took me a while to master the pressure-fit inserts. And as with any inflatable, a variety of things can affect the pressure inside the boat, including changes in temperature.

So, while you can inflate this board every time you use it, you could also leave it inflated (not recommended), but you should check the pressure inside each time before you paddle for the best experience.

Our last con: most boards come with a pump. However, this one does not. The brand noted that’s so customers can choose the pump that works for them. If you are already spending $995 for what can easily be a one-quiver board, this is a bit of a bummer.

Isle Pioneer Pro Paddleboard: Conclusion

The Pioneer Pro can be loaded down with heavier gear, no problem; (photo/Isle)

Like our initial editor, Mary Murphy, experienced in her test, the Isle Pioneer Pro lives up to its stable, semi-rigid claims.

My verdict: Buy it. I liked my test board so much, I plan to buy one. The Pioneer Pro is a great choice for casual paddlers, anglers, and those wanting to transport heavy loads. It would be a great board for a heavier paddler and multiple riders too.

In addition to the Pioneer Pro, Isle makes the Switch (not a pro model, but can capably carry lots of gear) and the Voyager Pro for longer routes and faster speeds. It’s a narrower touring-style boat that we’ll be testing soon. All Isle Pro boards come with a 4-year warranty.

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