2021 iRocker Blackfin X
One of the biggest names in the game since the beginning is iRocker which eventually went on to form their Blackfin line of paddleboards. If you’re unfamiliar with Blackfin, you could think of it as the Lexus to a Toyota or the Acura to a Honda. You can count on the same dependability of the manufacturing and design but just about every feature is premium compared to its iRocker or counterparts.
The 2020 model of the Blackfin paddleboards brought in a whole mess of new features, as was common with many other manufacturers in the 2019-2020 design years. As such, the 2021 model doesn’t appear to have many new features compared to the 2020 model but is really focused on the writer experience itself.
Here we’ll be considering the Model X. Considering the fact that there is somewhat of a price increase from last year’s model, do we think that it’s worth it? Well, this article will delve into all the major points that we found when reviewing this board and whether or not we think it’s worth your hard-earned dollars.
Right off the bat, we should mention that this board is not your average 10-foot6- inch inflatable paddleboard. In fact, just about everything you would expect on a board of this size is turned on its head with the Model X. Due to its profile, you’re not going to get the fastest experience on the water compared to other boards that typically come in at around 32 inches wide, since this big boy is coming in at 35 inches in width. As a result, you’re going to get significant amounts of drag compared to a thinner board of this length.
Of course, you shouldn’t really be looking for the Model X if you’re looking for a fast board. The people who enjoy the sport most are those who like to do other types of activities on the water besides just race. Based on the profile of this board, we found that the best uses for it or either 4 Sup fitness activities or for fishing, which is something that will go over later in the review.
The model X is probably one of the most stable boards of its length, not only because of its massive width but because of the other features built in. As a result, it definitely makes for an ideal board for someone who is relatively new at paddleboarding or who doesn’t want to focus as much on keeping balance while on deck.
That being said, while we wouldn’t recommend specifically looking out choppy water with this board, if you find that the winds are changing and that the water conditions start to get rougher than you expected, you’ll feel extra stable on this board compared to others. As a matter of fact, it was the only board in the blackfin line that we felt comfortable with when it came to doing some light surfing.
As we previously mentioned, iRocker as a whole has really been following the recent trends of adding more and more features to their paddleboards. The simple reason for this is because people are doing more with paddleboards and expect more out of the product that they purchase. Since there is so much more to paddleboarding than just floating around aimlessly on a nice afternoon, what manufacturers include can play a large role in what you can end up doing with these boards?
There are few brands out there with more D-rings than iRocker. The Blackfin ModelX has remarkable 20D rings throughout the board. These all serve various purposes from having a place to attach adocking rope to serve as attachment points for the optional kayak seat. You can also end up using these to hold additional gear or, if you’re fishing, to keep your fish in the water until you’re ready to go back to land.
One particular thing that we really appreciated was having one of the D rings underneath the nose of the board. This is something that a lot of manufacturers tend to ignore as being unnecessary, but if you were going behind a boat or having somebody pull you into shore, that one little feature can make a big difference.
One change that we found to be quite useful was with the nose grab handle. Just like in other years, the model X has three grab handles, one in the front center and rear of the deck, that really gives them a special place in our heart. Having the ability to move the board both in and out of the water easily but as well as being able to drag on the beach or shore without damaging the fins, is a major plus in our book. However, the front grab handle almost escaped us because it was literally on the very nose of the board instead of flush on deck. But the positioning of it, although just a minor difference from the year before, was actually a welcome addition and very helpful in moving the board throughout the water.
Bungie storage areas in the front and rear not only have a generous amount of storage space for your gear but also give you an extra spot to hold on to. Yes, we know that these bungees are not technically meant to be a grab point and aren’t necessarily designed for that, but when you’re actually using these out in the water, you might need a quick place to grab on to to get yourself on board, especially if you see a big wave coming your way. Having these reinforced sheaths to hold on to gives you the confidence to grab without worrying about doing any damage.
Of course, we would be remiss without talking about the action mounts on board, numbering up to 8 in total. These are universal and allow you to attach cameras, cell phones, GPS devices, or even cupholders! There are also two attachment points For a fishing rack, which allows you to get even more use out of this iSUP. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also an attachment for a sand spear, which gives you a place to anchor in shallow waters or in sandbars.
As you can tell by all the features that come standard with this board, plus a lot that is optional, it should come as no surprise that the board itself needs to be designed well, or else you’ll just fall into the water before you have a chance to take advantage of all it has to offer. That’s why it has such a wide profile on the water, with very few other boards on the market even coming close to this type of shape.
In addition, the rails are reinforced with carbon fiber which makes the board even more solid when it’s fully inflated. Plus, it gives you a little extra confidence if you’re going by docs that might have barnacles or oyster shells that would normally tear other iSUPS to shreds.
Regarding options, there are a wide variety of colors available for you to choose from, especially considering how the 2020 model only gave you three choices that were just variations on a theme. The 2020 model gives you the option of Berry Pink, Ice Gray, Summer Blue, Steel Gray, Regal Blue, and Mossy Green.
One of our favorite design features of the 2021 board is also one of the newest. The deck pad really had a major overhaul with this model having two distinct sections. The first is the general section with the channeled foam padding. This gives you a significant amount of traction but the channels allow water to move quickly off the deck.
The big difference over previous models is the extra channels added to that section so that water came quickly pool and move off the deck faster than ever. There is also a dedicated section towards the back for standing that, while we would normally say would be diamond textured, is actually Blackfin textured on the Model X. That’s right, there are tons of little Blackfin logos that give you massive amounts of extra traction in that dedicated area. This works to your advantage if you decide to do any sort of surfing since that spot gives you the best weight distribution to do so. Plus if you’re doing any sort of fishing, you can stand there and know that you have the extra traction you need for bringing in any fish or hanging off the side to use your nets.
As always, a three fin setup comes standard, with all fins being detachable. Very few brands offer that feature but it becomes a big difference when it comes to storing a deflated board in a bag or if you want to stack multiple inflated boards for later use. We know it’s a little added expense on the part of the manufacturer, but we really don’t know why so few brands include this welcomed feature.
Whenever you start to get to the more premium categories of inflatable paddle boards, there is always this debate about whether three or four layers of material are needed. On the one hand, having four layers is obviously going to give you the toughest construction, but at the cost of a significant amount of added weight and loss of performance compared to a triple-layer construction. In our personal experience, four layers obviously feel more solid, but we’ve never really seen any additional benefits over triple-layer construction.
That being the case, iRocker has continued to use triple-layer construction with their 2021 blackfin models. To all but the most discerning of customers, you probably would feel no major difference between that and a four-layered iSUP. Still, we felt that it was strong enough, and frankly, we wouldn’t want to add any more weight to this board. After all, there aren’t a lot of 10-foot 6-inch boards out there that way 27 pounds!
We’ve probably been beating a dead horse with how often we’ve been mentioning how solid this board is built and how solid it feels when you’re out in the water, but we’ll mention it one more time. Because of that, you end up with a board that can hold much more weight than any of its peers in the same size range. When we think of a board of this length, we might imagine it being able to hold around 200 or 220 pounds. But the Blackfin Model X can hold in a whopping 450 pounds of weight and possibly even more with an experienced writer!
All that being said, the only real complaint we have is with the amount of effort needed to inflate the board. Honestly, that’s probably the worst part of any iSUP experience (rivaled by deflating the board and putting it back in the bag). We have been known to inflate more than five boards in a single day when doing our testing, albeit after a period of wondering if we should go to the hospital or not. Still, the Model X is one of the more difficult boards to inflate even when using a double chamber pump due to its massive construction. If you end up getting yourself an electric pump, you would have nothing to be ashamed of here!
As you would imagine for a board that builds itself on its premium image, there is nothing lacking in the accessories Department here. Out of the box, you can expect the following:
- 1 X 3-Piece Travel Paddle with Carbon Matte Shaft and Nylon Blade (An upgrade from the carbon blend shaft used in the previous years)
- 1 X Dual Chamber, Triple Action Hand Pump
- 1 X 10’ Leash with Key Stash Spot
- 1 X Travel Roller Backpack
- 3 X Removable Nylon SUP Fins (1 Center and 2 Side Fins)
- 1 X Repair Kit (Patches and Valve Wrench)
You’ll rarely see us complain about anything coming out of the iRockers factory, And this is doubly true when it comes to their Blackfin products. These are people who really take the time to understand not only their product but also the customers that end up using them. Our single favorite feature about this company is how responsive they are to the market and how little hesitation they have to make changes when it makes sense.
The only real negative thing that we can say about the model X is its price. At close to $1000, it may be out of range for a lot of people out there. We firmly believe that paddleboarding is something that should be able to be enjoyed by people of all income levels and we recognize that this may be out of reach for a large portion of our readers. That being said, other brands, including iRocker, have iSUPs with similar features at a more budget-friendly price. But just like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. If you have the means, then we would highly recommend this board and feel that it’s actually a bargain for what you get. We have reviewed boards with similar features that had price ranges well above the Model X.
One thing that we appreciated was in the marketing of this board even iRocker showed it being used as an auxiliary craft with boats being used to bring the people to the fishing spot. If you plan on using this board for fishing, its wide profile will make for a tiring trip to your spot. Unless you plan on going immediately to a fishing spot right off the coast and catching smaller fish, having a ride in and out might be your best bet.
If you have never been fishing on an iSUP, the biggest difference is that you need to be more actively involved from beginning to end compared to going on a fishing boat. Unlike that fishing boat, you can’t just take a nap and drink some beer while waiting for the fish to bite. That being said, with the fishing rack and the area with extra traction, this is probably going to be one of your better fishing boards on the market.
Overall, this is about as premium as you get in an inflatable paddleboard. There are definitely more expensive boards in the market, but very few of them have anything more to offer than what we see here. This is a very stable and feature-driven iSUP that really pushed the limits of what these boards can do.