On a visit to Devon I got the chance to review the Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6″ – here’s what I discovered paddling on a beautiful, windless evening on the Exe Estuary at Lympstone, followed by a blustery and far more testing lunchtime paddleboard sessions…
Like most board sports, you can have a paddleboard for every occasion; surfing, cruising or touring. But in the end, most people really just want one ‘do everything’ board, which is where the Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6″ MSL comes in.
Paddleboarding itself is having a moment – in a changed world, Brits in particular are waking up to the fact that most of us live within a short cycle, or drive, to a lake, river, estuary or the sea. Navigable waterways are a rich leisure resource that have been right under our noses, all the time.
The trouble is that boats, while amazing, are a bit of a faff – enter the inflatable paddleboard, the packable, portable, approachable solution.
My sister and brother in law were ahead of the curve, buying a pair of boards Red, which gave me the perfect opportunity to test out their Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6” on the tidal waters of the Exe estuary in Lympstone…
The Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6” is their go anywhere, do anything board, which they claim is also the world’s most popular inflatable model. With that in mind, I decide to take it out in two very different scenarios. The first was an incredibly still, calm and sunny Devon Friday evening with the bronze sun setting behind the hills of Dartmoor, on the horizon.
Because the Ride packs down into its own bag, with wheels, Pippa, Al-Amin and I were able to walk down to the slipway in Lympstone with the board (as well as the larger Ride 10’8″ Ride), just as the tide was coming in, perfectly timed for a sunset paddle.
The slipway was in use when we arrived, but we were able to unpack the bags and start inflating the paddleboards without getting in anyone’s way. Once you get it going, inflating them is pretty fast – it takes about 10 minutes – but you will appreciate someone holding the hose nozzle in place, because this can be a bit fiddly the first time you do it (I recommend doing a trial run at home first). Oh, and if you’re using a tidal slipway then remember to leave the bag and pumps above the high tide line!
Launching the Ride 10’6” using a slipway is incredibly easy, as with most paddleboards. You just need to walk the board out into enough water to float, then hop on (you can stay on your knees until you get into deeper water, if you’re worried about falling in). Just be aware that most slipways are, er, slippery, because of the algae that grows on them.
If the weather is good then you need minimal kit to paddleboard – I wore my Helly Hansen sailing life jacket, board shorts and a surfing rash top
Hopping onto the Ride 10’6”, it’s immediately obvious that it has been designed for stability – I weigh about 80kg, but even when throwing my weight around and rocking the paddleboard, it didn’t seem at all tippy.
What’s surprising is that the stable shape and width is also pretty responsive and agile. Turning a paddleboard is often about technique, but whereas some models can fight your technique, the Ride 10’6″ seems to work with you.
I’m using a Red paddle with a carbon blade (an optional upgrade) which feels light to use and powerful in effect. As I strike out into the estuary, the board glides across the water, holding its line and making good progress against the incoming tide. Any paddleboarder should know that reaching ahead of you to place the blade into the water, then taking it out as it reaches your feet, will help you travel in a straight line.
One thing you really notice out on a paddleboard is the lack of noise. There’s no engine to batter the air, and if your pedal stroke is smooth then there’s hardly any splashing about, either. So, I take a quiet moment to drink in the sunset, and bathe in the bronze light bouncing off the water all around me.
I’m able to appreciate the simple beauty of a day coming to a close, in a way that feels completely different to being on land – the dark surface of the water is alive with sunlight and it feels like I’m actually a part of the sunset, rather than being a spectator.
The distance I put between my paddleboard and the shore becomes mental and physical space that allows me to truly relax after a stressful train journey from London – even if I’m getting a stealth core workout at the same time!
Having confidence in your paddleboard will help you to achieve a similar Friday evening de-stress, which makes the construction of the 10’6” important. The brand now uses its own manufacturing method (the MSL bit) to create a double-layer board, making their new boards 2kg lighter but also stiffer (even with less air pressure). They claim that this makes them more durable and less likely to suffer the ignominious fate of curling up at each end, like a banana, which seems to be the paddleboard genre’s Achilles heel.
Whatever the tech specs (you can find out more on that in the graphic below), the 10’ 6” Ride glides through the calm waters like a greased otter. I test the durability by accidentally running aground when I get too close to the headland in the twilight – oops! The lack of explosive decompression shows that this board can withstand real-life user error.
Paddling about on almost supernaturally flat and windless Exe estuary isn’t the sternest of tests. Which is why I also headed out on a longer-distance mission on the Ride 10’6”, in the company of Al-Amin on his 10’8”. There was only one remaining window with the combo of sunny weather and a high tide during my stay, and the wind wasn’t forecast to be too bad, so we went for it.
Arriving back at the slip, we soon realised the wind was charging down the estuary, whipping up white horses in the water beyond the shelter of Lympstone’s harbour. After checking we both had lifejackets and charged phones, we decided to launch anyway. This earned us a half ironic, half approving comment from a salty sea dog on the slip: “You’re going out today, are you? Good for you!”
This time, I also loaded up the Red Paddleboard Waterproof Sup Deck Bag 2L with water, snacks and my GoPro. As soon as we launched, I could feel the wind’s action on the board. It was a tougher paddle, but the stable nature of this board backs you up when you’re making harder paddlestrokes, and generally putting your back into it.
Once we were out in the estuary proper, wind and choppy waves added to the challenge. Once again, I was able to steer the board between incoming wave crests, and push it through the chop, when I had to.
Having a loaded, 22L bag strapped to the front of the board, had less impact on the board’s manoeuvrability than I was expecting – unsurprisingly, it did tend to catch the wind.
After satisfying myself with the ability of the Red Paddleboard Ride 10’6” to cope with these conditions, I turned the board around and paddled for the headland of burnt orange mudstone rising up to protect the flank of Lympstone harbour.
Because the headland was blocking the wind, the water beyond it was significantly calmer. It felt like paddling into an oasis, a feeling that deepened when I found an underwater garden of seagrass, shoals of small fish darting out from it as I paddled overhead – all creatures enjoy shelter from a storm!
With the headland behind us, Al-Amin and I struck out, hugging the shore, to test the longer-distance capability of our paddleboards. What’s surprising about paddleboarding is the high average speed you can maintain with moderate effort – you cover a lot of water!
The Ride 10’6” didn’t disappoint, and in terms of performance, I really felt that I was getting everything out of the board that I was putting in. OK, so it’s never going to compete with a dedicated touring paddleboard, but it does that job just fine, and can turn its hand to other roles too.
On the trip back, we decided to stop for a breather at one of the many ‘mini-beach’ inlets on the Exe Estuary. One of my favourite things about paddleboarding is the sense of exploration.
Take the orange headland itself, topped with gnarled trees, their roots showing through the eroded stone. You wouldn’t ever imagine it could look like this when walking around the playing field at the top of the cliff.
Fortunately, the beach we found had a more relaxing backdrop, and snacks eaten gazing out over the water, with a beach to yourself, muscles pleasantly aching, do taste so much better!
That’s enough about what I thought of the Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6” – what does the person who bought it think?
“The bag is a bit unwieldy to carry and does not fit to my back very well, but the board is stable to use and has lasted well, withstanding the salt water – the ends have not curled up at all. I really rate the flexibility of having an inflatable board that I can chuck into the boot and drive to a different location – no fussing about with a roof rack required!”
“And the light carbon fibre paddle is a bonus, making paddling easier as a beginner.”
Photos © Matt Ray, all rights reserved. Shot with Sony A7RIII and Sony FE 2.8 24-70mm/ GoPro 7. Ethical Statement: I was loaned a paddleboard for review. Red Paddleboards did not pay for or contribute anything to this review.
Red Paddleboard calls its 72-hour manufacturing process Tec Air and it’s what gives the board its progressive rocker shape, for an authentic feel. The rails have three layers of tape for added durability, and the MSL tech saves 2kgs on previous boards.
This paddleboard is shaped to fit in a versatile sweet spot that combines stability with manoeuvrability in oder to tackle conditions from pancake-flat to storming surf.
Red claim that their flexible twin iFins are faster and straighter to paddle than three-fin set ups, as well as adding some agility.
For more on paddleboarding check out my urban adventure in Copenhagen. Coming soon…