Reviews, SUP

iSUP Speed Test – Red Race 12’6 vs Red Explorer 13’2

There’s a question that I feel I know the answer to, but which I have never actually checked; which of my SUP boards is the fastest?  You see, I originally owned my Red Race 12’6 x 28′ and loved it.  We then bought a pair of Red Explorer 13’2 x 30′ boards after a successful demo where we were convinced they would be a great all round boards with a nice balance between stability from the slight extra width but without compromising speed due to the extra length.  They have been our ‘go to’ SUPs for the last couple of years, for everything from lake touring to training on the canal, but recently I keep finding myself preferring to paddle the Race for mainly one thing – it feels much faster!

Two great boards, but only one can be the fastest…

But, feeling fast and going fast can be two different things and looking at the board designs gave more questions than answers.  The Explorer is longer, so wouldn’t even be allowed to enter the same competitive class as the Race, but the Race is narrower, meaning less drag, and shaped for speed rather than stability.  So the only way this was going to be truly sorted was with some form of experiment.

feeling fast and going fast can be two different things…


So it was with this in mind that I took both boards to my local canal for the showdown.  Now, it couldn’t possibly be fully scientific because I had no control of external conditions, in particular wind and debris in the canal.  Also, I had only my own sense of perceived exertion to control how hard I was working on each test leg so this couldn’t possibly be precise.  However, to make the playing field as level as possible, I picked a section of canal to test the boards on, each board had runs in both directions, I used the same paddle throughout and I did my best to stay at a fast cruising speed that would be sustainable throughout the test to avoid fatigue being a factor.  Finally, I’d complete the test over two days and change the order the boards were tested each day, just in case fatigue was a factor in each test.  The experiment was as controlled as I could make it…

Getting the Red Race up to speed…

Paying more attention…

Before I get to the timing results, it is worth noting a few observations from the test runs, as it is rare you get to compare boards back to back in this manner.  Firstly, I think the Red Race is more fun to paddle; the ride is lively and engaging and rewards effort with acceleration, encouraging a faster paddling cadence.  The Red Explorer is definitely more of a cruiser, slower to get up to speed, requiring more power resulting in a slightly slower cadence, but much more stable to ride and once at speed does hold its momentum.  A surprising factor was it felt like the Race was the easier board to keep on track, and I was able to paddle more strokes on one side before needing to swap, but it is also definitely the faster board to turn when you want it to (go figure…).

Testing the Red Explorer…

And the Winner is…

But enough of feelings and observations, this test was designed to establish facts, and those are that the Red Race doesn’t just feel the faster board, it is the faster board, by quite a margin when the results of the four runs were averaged out…

Red Race 12’6 –  8:55 min/km (Average pace over 4 runs)

Red Explorer 13’2 – 9:21 min/km (Average pace over 4 runs)

So, instincts were right and the board that felt nippy and lively does indeed move faster than the longer cruiser board.  If you are making decisions about buying a board this may be a specific factor for you to consider, especially if you are trying to decide if going narrower is worth the stability risk.

 But there is a wider point here.  If you need to make a decision between two boards, especially if you are considering investing a good amount of cash, go somewhere that you can test both boards back to back.  If this experiment proved anything it’s that the only true way to compare boards is to go to a controlled venue, take both boards and paddle them in the way you want to use them, trusting feelings and perhaps a stopwatch to give you the answers you need…

A well deserved lie down after a hard speed testing session…

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Full results of the trials are in the table below –

Time (+ Direction)
Stroke Rate
(Av – Max)
Stroke Distance
Average Pace
5min 51sec E
41 – 49
6min 29sec W
41 – 49
5min 41sec E
44 – 62
6min 12sec W
42 – 49
6min 3sec
42 – 52
5min 38sec E
43 – 53
5min 50sec W
44 – 49
5min 36sec E
46 – 53
5min 42sec W
44 – 56
5min 41sec
44 – 53

1 thought on “iSUP Speed Test – Red Race 12’6 vs Red Explorer 13’2”

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