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2021 iRocker Blackfin XL

2021 iRocker Blackfin XL

Summary

2020 was a huge year for iRocker in how they upgraded just about all their models and even added a few. If you’re unaware, Blackfin is iRockers premium line of paddleboards, taking just about everything we love about their standard products and dialing it up to 11.

Overall

4.9

4.9/5

If you read our other reviews, you know that we’re a big fan of anything iRocker produces. This is because this company takes great pride in the product that they produce as well as maintains a strong relationship with the people that end up using them.

2020 was a huge year for iRocker in how they upgraded just about all their models and even added a few. If you’re unaware, Blackfin is iRockers premium line of paddleboards, taking just about everything we love about their standard products and dialing it up to 11.

Although not having as many new features as last year, the 2021 line of blackfin iSUPs gives us and much more refined feel to these boards, and the blackfin XL is a perfect example of that. Since these are certainly not what we would consider budget boards, we feel that these reviews are very important to help people understand whether or not it’s worth their hard-earned money.

As we go over the iRocker 2021 model XL, pay close attention not only to what is new and exciting about this model but about the board as a whole. It may be premium, but is it right for you? Let’s find out!

Performance

Out of the three boards in the blackfin lineup, this is truly the most all-purpose. This is because of the balance between its length and its width. The Model X is much more short and stout, making it better for fitness activities or even fishing, while the Model V is meant for speed. The model XL has a perfect ratio of length to width, making it able to do just about anything you want it to do — a true Jack of all trades.

That being the case, you won’t find any issues with drag beyond the overall size of this board since it is larger in volume than your typical iSUP. With speed and maneuverability at levels exactly where you would imagine, it ends up making for a very comfortable and pleasant experience. We find this to be perfect for larger writers who still want to get the maximum performance out of their board. Due to the overall size and weight, some smaller riders and children might find this iSUP up to be a little more challenging.

For those of you who want to do some surfing with their iSUP, we would probably advise against it with the model XL and reserve that more for the model X. The problem is that the nose can dip into the water if you get some substantial waves and end up throwing you off the tail. That being said, the model Excel is more than capable of handling the waves if you’re finding that conditions are getting choppier than you initially had expected.

With a newly designed deck pad that will mention later in the review, you’ll find that it’s easier to keep a center of gravity that will benefit your speed and stability. While it may make riding a little bit more difficult for beginners, those who have a little bit more experience under their belt will find themselves having a much better experience knowing exactly where to stand for maximum performance.

Features

Compared to the 2020 version of this board, there aren’t a lot of new features to mention, though, for those unfamiliar with this model, you might be surprised buy everything that comes out of the box!

One of the standout features of this board is how many D-rings it has. While many boards have a handful for attaching gear or connecting a rope to a dock, the XL has 20 D-rings overall! Some of these are for the available kayak seat, while others are for just about any reason you could think of. This might seem excessive for some people, but when you actually get to using all these D-rings, it makes your life a lot easier when trying to move or attach the ice up in less than ideal settings.

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.

The model XL has three grab handles, one on the front, rear and nose of the board. We love having a rear grab handle since it allows you to move the board on land without damaging the fins. What was very interesting was how they moved the nose grab handle from the deck to the front of the rail. this is extremely helpful when trying to move the board when in higher waters.

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 get yourself onboard, 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 absolutely need to talk about the action mounts, 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.

Board Design

Of the three boards in the blackfin lineup, we would consider this to be the most balanced when it comes to design. While it’s true that it’s wider than the standard 32 inches of most ice UPS, it’s extra long so that it makes up for it. When you actually look at the board itself, its proportions are perfect and what we would typically consider ideal for an all-purpose board.

To make the board extra strong, 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.

One of the weaker areas in the design of the 2020 model of the Excel was only having three color options which were pretty much the same thing with the colors in different proportions. But this year, we were given the options of Berry Pink, Ice Gray, Summer Blue, Steel Gray, Regal Blue, and Mossy Green.

Probably the most significant change this year is with the deck pad. It really had a major overhaul, with this model having two distinct sections. The first is the general section with the channeled foam padding. This portion of the deck pad is extremely comfortable and is perfect if you want to sit or lay down or to do any sort of exercise, such as yoga, on board.

There is an extra section just in front of the rear bungee area that is meant for you to stand and gives you extra traction. We have seen this on other models from other companies, but this is something brand new for iRocker and the blackfin line. One thing that we found especially interesting about this is that while other companies typically use a diamond groove pattern for this section of their deck pad, iRocker included a blackfin logo texture. At the end of the day, it’s still going to give you the same amount of traction as a diamond groove but is a nice little touch.

The three fins setup is also one of the reasons why we love iSUPs from this company. Not only does it make it more maneuverable, but by having all three fins removable, set up, and packing up are a breeze. Plus, if you find yourself in very shallow water, you may find that having the fins is just going to be a liability anyway and it’s great to have the option to take one or more off.

Construction

Whenever you start to get to the more premium categories of inflatable paddle boards, there is always this debate between 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. Given that this board is 30 pounds, we really think that having an extra layer would not help the experience. After all, the weight of this board is at the limit for a lot of paddlers.

Still, having a board of this size and this weight does have its advantages. For instance, it can hold an impressive 485 pounds of weight. We doubt that most riders would weigh that much, but this means that you can bring on another person and gear without having to worry about falling into the water or tipping over.

Included Accessories

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)

Our Take

We know that iRocker is definitely trying to push the features on these boards, and for a good reason. You’re paying a lot of money for a lot of board that really can be used for so many purposes, especially if you decide to opt for additional gear such as the kayak seat or the fishing rack.

Out of all of the Blackfin models, the model XL is our favorite because of how it is truly an all-purpose board. The shorter Model X really seems to be built for fishing or fitness activities at the expense of the writing experience, while the Model V is really meant for speed and doesn’t allow you to use as many features as easily.

The biggest problem with this board is the expense, making it out of reach for a lot of casual paddleboarders. That being said, not only do we see other brands that have comparable stats like this one for less money, iRocker themselves also offers exceptionally good quality iSUPs with many of the same features at a more reasonable cost.

Still, you get what you pay for. If you have the cash for a nice up that costs more than $1000 (though often having sales), then we say this would be money well spent. This is a solid, dependable board that we feel could last you well into the future and would probably be upgrade proof for at least the next few years. While we can think of some areas or features that could be improved on, if you have the 2021 Blackfin Model XL, we think that you could get by without needing to swap out the board for a while!

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