The Isle Explorer has been one of Isle’s main inflatable paddle board lines for a while now. It is meant as the sporty touring line from Isle’s more stability-focused paddle boards.
Is it really so? In this Isle Explorer Paddle Board Review, we go through the board’s on-water performance, the board’s features, and specifications. We also actively compare this SUP to other all-around touring boards and if it’s a good buy.
We also compare the Isle Explorer’s price point to other SUPs that have similar dimensions and uses.
Let’s get into the review!
To see A general overview of Isle Paddle Boards check here.
Isle Explorer Paddle Board Review Ratings
Below is how I rated the Isle Explorer based on the following criteria. Click any of the links below to jump to each section.
Total Score: 8/10 (Based on Accumulated Scores Below)
- On-Water Performance – 8
- Stability 8
- Tracking 8
- Speed 8
- Maneuverability 7.5
- SUP Construction – 8
- Board Features – 7.8
- Deck Pad 8
- D Rings 7
- Deck Bungees 8
- Handles 8
- Accessories – 8
- Backpack 8
- Paddle 9
- Pump 7.5
- Fins 7.5
- Set-Up/ Take Down – 8
- The Isle Explorer is still pretty stable when compared to other Isle SUPs
- This will be the best tracking and fastest SUP in the Isle line-up
- 5 Rows of bungee deck webbing work well for evenly distributed weight management
- Has a USFin Box set up for the center fin
- Comes with a touring-style fin to help with tracking
- The paddle holder is a nice touch
- The carbon hybrid paddle that comes with the package will be sufficient for most paddlers who use this SUP
- Two textured deck pad helps you get more traction in the back where you need it for more advanced paddling techniques like pivot turns
- Has 4 free D rings/ fabric loops to attach kayak seats, coolers, etc.
- There are boards with similar dimensions that have a better touring performance
- Plastic side fins in my experience are pretty useless and just take up folding space
- A kick pad for advanced maneuvers would be nice to add considering there is diamond-grooved deck padding in the back
Who Should Be Using the Isle Explorer SUP?
The Isle Explorer can be used by both beginner and intermediate paddlers across a wide range of body types. The board’s 11 ‘6 ” length and 32” width allows it to be steady even for heavier or taller folks. In my experience with 11’6” paddle boards, they tend to feel planted in the water. This is convenient for a taller lad such as myself, as it gives you more confidence standing and eventually doing more advanced maneuvers.
The Explorer is marketed as the “touring SUP” in Isles range. While it is the best board in the Isle lineup for touring I wouldn’t say it’s the best touring paddle board out there. The Explorer still has some All Around paddle board traits such as the hybrid style nose and tail.
If you are looking for a true high-performing touring board SUPs look at our Best Touring Paddle Boards article.
The Explorer is good for those who want an all-around/ touring hybrid that does not break the bank. It is a pretty good pick for multi-day trips as well thanks to the 5 rows of bungee deck webbing.
What SUP Activities can the Isle Explorer Be Used For?
The Isle Explorer’s narrower body compared to the Pioneer can be used for more performance-related activities. However, it can still, be serviceable for activities that need more stability.
Check here for our Isle Pioneer 2.0 Review.
The Explorer can fit a wide range of different paddlers but it favors those who want to go longer distances or are a bit taller/ bigger in stature. Smaller paddlers can definitely take this board out but may have to put in a bit of extra effort to maneuver the board thanks to its longer 11’6” profile.
The Isle Explorer in my mind is a SUP that you can take for a few hours along the coast of your local lake or ocean. Its dimensions will make paddling further easier compared to the Pioneer 2.0.
Out of the paddle boards in the Isle line-up, this would be the one I would pick to battle wind and tides due to its narrower frame.
The Isle Explorer would not necessarily be my first pick in terms of raw touring performance but it makes a decent board that can take on some touring capabilities. In this case, we have to define what touring means to you.
Can you paddle all day on this SUP and cover a decent amount of distance? Yes
Can you paddle on a multi-day trip with this SUP? Yes
Are there SUPs out there that can do a better job at those two things? Yes
In my opinion, the Isle Explorer does have a bit of a lighter carrying capacity compared to boards of similar dimensions like the Atoll 11 or the Nixy Monterey SUPs. So if you have a ton of gear to bring with you on a multi-day trip it’s something to consider.
Paddle Board Hybrid
This SUP can be used as a kayak/ SUP hybrid thanks to the fabric loops and 2-D rings towards the middle of the deck pad. This allows you to be able to use kayak seats that either have 2 or 4 attachment points to the board.
I do wish Isle sold their full kayak hybrid kit that comes with the Isle Switch SUP. As it is one of the better kayak hybrid packages on the market due to the leg support system and uplifted seat. Which helps stiff/ lower back pain survivors such as myself :P.
The Isle Explorer can be used for SUP fishing. But if that’s your only purpose for the SUP I would go with the more versatile Sportsman series which has 3 Scotty Mounts on it.
The Explorer is a SUP that I would just strap a fishing rod under the bungees and paddle. Although in this case, Isle does themselves a bit of a disservice by not including Action Mounts like the iRocker All Around 11 or Nixy Monterey.
Isle Explorer Stats Deconstructed
- Type of Board: Recreational Use
- Length: 11’6″
- Width: 32″
- Thickness: 6″
- Volume: 336 L
- Weight: 24 Lbs
- Maximum Capacity: 300 Lbs
The Isle Explorer is made from what they labeled as a “Dual Layer Military Grade PVC”. In their Explorer product video they go on to say that this layering is 25% lighter than the double layer and 60% thicker than a single layer. I can only assume that the dual-layer PVC is similar to the dual-layer fusion that is incorporated into many of these brands today.
Isle for the longest time had 11’ and 12’ Explorer boards but has since chosen to make a model that’s an in-between. We are not entirely sure why this was done but I have a hunch it could be to cut down on production costs or one model sold more than the other so they decided to fuse the line into one.
Isle Explorer SUP Profile
When comparing Isle boards, the Explorer has the narrowest profile which makes it your best Isle option for glide and tracking. Compared to the Pioneer 2.0 and the Sportsman, the Explorer has a pointier nose and a bit more of a tapered tail that helps the hydrodynamic flow and reduces drag in the water. Especially when compared to the wider 34” Isle models.
The nose of the Explorer has a more aggressive rocker compared to the Pioneer 2.0. This is because the Explorer is meant for a bigger range of water environments so the rocker allows a smoother ride over waves compared to falter boards like the Pioneer which are meant more for calmer waterways.
It should also be noted that if you do plan on using this SUP for some multi-day excursions, the load should be evenly transferred on the front and rear of the board so that neither the nose nor tail drags in the water affecting the speed and handling of the SUP.
Whats On Deck
The Isle Explorer has many similarities to the most popular inflatable model, the Pioneer 2.0 but there are some subtle differences to go through! Like the Pioneer it’s an overall very clean deck, which makes this SUP a decent pick for smaller kids or even dogs.
The Explorer has a 15 lb bigger capacity which makes it a decent passenger pick for smaller passengers.
Explorer Deck Pad
One of the areas where the explorer will differ from other Isle models is the fact that it has a two-texture deck pad.
It features smooth textured deck padding on the standing area and diamond-grooved deck padding towards the back. They do this to give you better traction for when you want to pivot the board around using advanced maneuvers like the pivot turn.
The deck pad takes up about 2/3rds of the board like other Isle boards. Its cutaway design that morphs into the diamond-grooved deck padding is a bit different but it’s a cool look.
I do like that there is a lot of room to move around on this deck padding. The only thing I would suggest Isle incorporates is a stomp pad at the back to make pivot maneuvers easier for the paddler.
Explorer D Rings
The Explorer features 17 D rings as well as 2 fabric lash points to hook up a kayak conversion seat.
- 6 D rings for the front bungees
- 4 D rings for the rear bungees
- 2 free D rings in the middle
- 2 free D rings at the front handle
- 2 Free D rings at the rear handle
- 1 D ring for the Ankle Leash
One of the other subtle differences between the Explorer and the Pioneer is the fact that you get an extra row of D rings near the standing area. This is ideal for kayak hybrid compatibility as some kayak hybrid systems have 4 clips instead of 2 clips.
You can buy a kayak conversion seat from isle but unfortunately, you can’t get a complete package similar to the Isle Switch.
Explorer Deck Bungees
The deck bungees feature 3 rows at the top and 2 rows of deck webbing at the rear. I personally like this setup as this allows you to put the bigger items that you use more often to the front. Items such as dry bags for dry clothes, wallet, keys cell phone, a cooler (SUP-Now Dry bag is an excellent accessory for this).
You can put things you don’t use as often in the rear of the board like speakers, sandals, and perhaps a small tent. As mentioned above make sure that you shift the load appropriately to make sure the nose or tail doesn’t drag while you paddle.
The Isle Explorer features 3 handles, one at the front, middle, and rear of the board. The middle center handle is the one that you will be using the most. Thankfully it’s the one that has the most padding on it. Although like the Pioneer we would like to see a neoprene cover over it to make carrying the board easier on the hands. Although at 24 lbs it’s not too bad to carry for a short distance to the shoreline.
The front and rear handles are simpler with nylon webbing which again, I do wish that they covered that area with neoprene to make it easier on the hands.
Isle Paddle Holder
One of the clever innovations that I give Isle credit for is its paddle holder which is located on the right-hand side of the board. It’s a great accessory to have when you want to place your paddle down and you don’t want it to inch off the board like they always seem to do!
This paddle holder is especially useful for SUP fishermen or even SUP yogis who want the deck pad to be clear of clutter like a paddle.
Isle Explorer Accessories Explained
Out of the accessories that come with the Isle Explorer. The one that stands out to me the most is the inclusion of the carbon hybrid paddle and the touring fin. Many inflatable SUP packages still include fiberglass or even worse, aluminum paddles as part of the package!
But we detail all below.
The Isle bag is pretty standard with what you see included with inflatable paddle board packages of this price range.
One of the biggest points ill give them is that the backpack is on the baggier spectrum. This is good because it’s not always easy to get the perfect fold, especially the first few times coming back from the water. When the bag is baggy it’s easier to get in, when the bag is tight you have to re-roll the board which takes more time!
The Explorer bag opens a bit like an oyster in that the main zipper starts 2/3rds down and zips all the way to the other side. This helps give the bag a wide enough opening to (hopefully!) fit everything inside that you need.
The bag also features a smaller front pocket in which you can put things like the center fin and any other smaller odds and ends you plan on bringing.
While the bag is overall pretty decent I do wish they took some inspiration from some other SUP companies and had some compartments like paddle loops and pockets inside the main area.
Isle Carbon Hybrid Paddle
I like both the design and the lighter weight design that the Isle Carbon hybrid paddle provides.
First off to make one thing clear, “Carbon Hybrid” does not mean full carbon. In this and many other ISUP packages, the carbon percentage is at about 30% while the rest of the paddle is made of fiberglass.
“Still, these paddles in my experience are some of the best in terms of blending weight, power, and durability of the paddle.
I also like how the Isle paddle blade is actually angled correctly. I’m actually kind of surprised that most SUP manufacturers do not put the same amount of angle in the paddles as some of the more specialist paddle board paddles.”– Editors Notes
The paddle adjusts from 67” to 83” so it should fit most paddlers’ heights for them to find their perfect stroke. The blade has a 92” surface area which is a good in-between for paddling cadence (how many times you pull your blade through the water) and power.
The Isle pump is compact and portable. This is good for putting the pump in and out of the bag relatively easily. But not the greatest option available when it comes to actually pumping up the board.
The Isle pump is a single-chamber dual-action hand pump with a clearly labeled PSI gauge. The dual action means that you can switch between two settings when pumping.
- Getting air pumped on the up-and-down stroke
- Getting the air pumped on the down stroke
When starting off you want the pump to get air pumped on the up and down stroke to fill the board up quickly with air. As it gets more difficult to pump and you are in the 5 PSI zone you want to switch to the down-stroke pumping setting.
“I personally don’t use manual pumps anymore. I actually kind of despise them. I now use electric pumps and honestly, if you are paddle boarding more than 8 times a year it’s well worth spending the extra $100 dollars on an electric pump.”– Editors Notes
Isle has a new model pump that they put out. I haven’t tested it yet but from the product description, the pump only inflates and does not deflate, which is a bit of a bummer.
Isle Center Fin
One of the things I do like about this package is the inclusion of a touring fin. In the Isle Explorers case, it makes sense as it is a more touring-oriented board.
Isle uses a US fin box which allows you to add just about any fin you want that has the same designation. The fin attaches with a screw to keep it attached while paddling.
“One of the things I’m not as big of a fan of is the small side bite side fins. In my experience, they do little, if anything to help the performance of your board in the water. As soon as you loose the center fin the board has extreme fishtailing (or oversteer for the car enthusiasts).
On top of that the side fins also get bent from rolling the board up. I personally think Isle should incorporate 5” side fins like Nixy does as it helps aid in both tracking and adds a bit of extra stability to the board.”– Editors Notes
The leash is 8’ and coiled and so comfortable to wear. Truthfully most leashes are designed like the ones that Ise now has with their packages. It has a dual swivel at the ankle and leash attachment area to avoid entanglement.
Isle Explorer On-Water Performance
The Isle Explorer is meant to be the “touring model” out of the Isle lineup. So how does it do in this respect?
The Isle Explorer won’t be the most stable SUP in the Isle stable but that doesn’t mean it lacks too much stability. SUPs that are 11’6” in my experience usually offer some more stability over a paddle board that is 10’6” or 11’ with the same width dimensions.
The nose and tail, while more tapered than the Pioneer 2.0 are not completely pointed which still gives the board a good amount of width at each end while keeping a slender hydrodynamic frame.
If you are a beginner you will probably be fine with this board although the learning process may take a bit longer compared to say the Sportsman or Pioneer due to their wider 34” widths.
The Explorer will be the best tracking board out of the whole Isle lineup. Thanks to the 11’6” length you get a board where you will get about 6-9 strokes per side before correcting.
The Explorer 2.0 is also further aided by the tracking fin that comes with the board. While it may look slightly different from a dolphin fin (rounded/ thinner fin that most SUPs come with now). It does provide the board with more of a straight line and also offers a bit better stability due to the wider surface area of the fin.
Tracking and Speed are the highlighted on-water features of this SUP compared to other Isle paddle boards. Although comparatively compared to other “All Around Touring Hybrid SUPs” it’s a bit on the average side. The board has a bit of a wider frame overall compared to your more typical skinny touring boards that are in the 28-30” width range.
Still, the speed differences between this board and other popular boards such as the iRocker All Around 11 or the Atoll 11 will be fairly minute unless you had a stopwatch handy.
This is an area where you would be better off getting the Pioneer 2.0 or another shorter SUP. Not to say that maneuverability is terrible on this board. But rather its longer width will make things such as sweep strokes a bit more of a challenge as you need to have more mindful strokes and do more of them.
Something that will help this board be a bit more maneuverable is the lack of 5” removable side fins. The side bite fins essentially do little or nothing for tracking which allows the board to be slightly easier to turn.
If you are a bigger paddler and want maneuverability to be more of a focus you can get a dolphin fin or even a smaller speed fin to help with that.
About Isle Surf and SUP
Isle has been in the paddle board game since 2004 and can be considered one of the first movers in the inflatable paddle board category. It was founded by two San Diego surfers, Dough Pate and Marc Miller.
Isle’s characteristics for its boards are that they are usually made to be a bit wider and tend to favor stability over outright performance. This makes them a great board to start off with if you are a beginner.
Warranty and Returns
The Isle Explorer features a 2-year warranty on this and all of their other inflatable paddle board lines. The return/money-back guarantee period is 60 days which is above average in the SUP industry.
Something I should mention though is that Isle charges a 20% restocking fee per item which is mentioned in the returns portion of their website. So just be wary of that.
What Customers Say
Below is what customers say about the Isle Explorer paddle board.
“This is my third Isle inflatable paddle board. That’s three of the six boards I currently own. They are well designed and constructed of extremely high quality materials. I’m confident using my boards in moderate surf, coastal and especially up to class III+ whitewater on downriver runs. On average I paddle three times a week, fifty-two weeks a year. In the past five years I’ve destroyed two foam boards, two glass boards and a kayak. I’ve yet to tear up one of your boards. Rocks, rapids, thorn brush portages, zero degrees with ice on the river or just lazy sunny days, they perform under all conditions.”– Paul N (Verified Isle Customer)
One reddit theres a discussion that compares the Isle Pioneer to the Explorer SUP.
“We bought both the Explorer and Pioneer for bay paddling. My wife is 5’2″ 120 lbs and the Explorer is not too long. The Pioneer is 2″ wider and it makes a difference in better stability but both are fine; neither of us have fallen in the water yet. In theory the Explorer is faster / tracks better but swapping between the two we don’t really notice any difference in speed / tracking so I’d say go with the cheaper Pioneer but you’ll be happy with either one.”– nsandiegoJoe (Reddit)
Where to Buy the Isle Explorer
You can purchase the Isle Explorer on the Isle Website. Take a look at end-of-season or July 1st sales as you can usually get some pretty good discounts at those times. Isle also has a clearance section that you can check out which often has previous years’ models.
From their website Isle ships to the USA, Canada, the UK, and Europe.
You can also buy an Isle board from Amazon as they have their own little Amazon storefront there.
Below are some comparable boards to the Isle Explorer SUP.
Atoll 11 Paddle Board
The Atoll 11 is 6” shorter than the Explorer but in my experience, it has great glide, tracking, and stability for a board of its dimensions. You do have more strapping options thats to its extra D rings along the back compared to the Explorer. This may make it a better candidate for multi-day paddling trips. The Atoll 11 can be found at a comparable price point to the Explorer.
The Nixy Monterey features the same length and width dimensions but has 100 lbs higher carrying capacity. The Monterey features a more tapered tail and nose compared to the Explorer and has more add-ons. My experience with this board is that it tracks supremely well and is very stable. It’s also one of the stiffest paddle boards you can get thanks to its double chamber construction which features 2 inflation points.