Living the van life is all about heading to new locations and exploring the world around you. There are so many amazing things to see and do as you drive across the world in your tiny home, seeking out adventure and thrills around every turn and trying your hand at new skills along the way. As our regular readers know, we love a good gadget or toy here at Van Clan, especially ones that you can fit inside your towable tiny house without having to re-arrange all of the furniture. Today, we’re leaving the road behind and focusing on a bit of kit that we’re sure you’ll be on-board with. We’re heading down to the lake to test out the newest bit of gear that’s making waves throughout the van life world; Bluefin paddleboards.
Bluefin makes the coolest SUPs (Stand Up Paddleboards) around, and I’m happy to say that they do it all from my home county of West Yorkshire! Instead of talking about a large, faceless conglomerate or getting down to the nitty-gritty of business with the head of a large sports firm, we’re focusing on products that are made by an approachable, family owned and operated company who love all things water sports. Designed, tested and used regularly by Bluefin’s staff and founders, Bluefin paddleboards are a great way of keeping fit on the go and getting even further off the beaten track in search of those stunning scenescapes of legend. They’re the perfect vanlife accessory for anyone who loves adventuring while living off grid, and here’s why.
Upgrade Your Vanlife Game With Bluefin Paddleboards!
Before I dive into all of the finer details, I thought it would be good to give you a little bit of information about how we received this massive parcel on the road (and when I say massive I mean massive!). The lady at the Spanish Post Office warned me that it was ‘muy grande’, and she wasn’t wrong, but after using broken Spanish and lots of help from my mate Google, we managed to acquire the package and head off back to the van. All Bluefin Paddleboards are carefully packaged to avoid any bumps, scrapes or tears on their journey to you, and we were very impressed with how safe and secure everything felt. The SUP itself was bookended with protective foam and secured inside two large cardboard boxes. All of you top eco campers out there will be glad to hear that we managed to recycle most of the packaging too!
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What’s In The Box?
Bluefin Paddleboards come with a variety of extras and add ons to help you enjoy your time on the water. We’re very lucky to be the first people to try out the Cruise Carbon SUP, possibly one of the most hi-tech paddleboards on the market today. Made with FRS Carbon composite rail and 1000 denier laminate & pro weave drop stitch, the Cruise Carbon is sturdier than Hagrid’s bed-frame and super easy to ride. The carbon fibre rovings in these Bluefin paddleboards help to keep them lightweight and sturdy at the same time. Rose and I carried our board a little way around the lake that we’ve been parked at to find somewhere quiet to try it out, and had no trouble carrying it. We’re both built like pipe-cleaners, so you should be fine!
For all of those people who aren’t up to date with the paddleboard lingo, FRS stands for Flex Reduction System. If like me, you want to try and stay on the water rather than in it, then you’re going to need something that feels rigid and supportive under your feet. Getting out on the lake with the Cruise Carbon was easy, even for a novice. That’s mainly down to the fact that unlike other paddleboards that you inflate willy-nilly, the Cruise Carbon has two different air chambers; one under the area where you stand and one for the rest of the board. You’ll find key information on the board itself to let you know the optimum PSI levels, and a nifty little gauge on the pump that comes with it so that you don’t over inflate.
As well as the SUP, Bluefin paddleboards also come with an adjustable paddle that can be moved up and down depending on your height. You’ll also find a kayak attachment for if you want to turn your paddleboard into a kayak, and a handy seat that clips on so that you have something to sit back against while you’re out on the water (keep reading to find out how we got on with these attachments!). The paddle and associated handles weigh 70% less than standard SUP paddles, making them really easy to use and not too tiring on the arms. They also float too, which is great when you fall into the drink!
Tell Us More About These Bluefin Paddleboards!
Bluefin paddleboards come with a large fin that you’ll need to add to the bottom of the board before usage. This was pretty easy to slot into place, although we couldn’t find any information in the instruction booklet about how to do it. If you’re a novice like us, then head over to their website where there’s plenty of information on how to put your board together or speak to someone on their social media channels. We’ve found all of the staff to be very friendly and approachable, and they travel a lot too so might even be able to recommend some nice places to try out your board!
The only other things left to mention are the backpack that everything comes in, the ankle strap that you need to wear to attach yourself to your SUP, a valve repair kit, a waterproof phone pouch, a GoPro mount to capture the action while out on the water, and the included instruction booklet. We’ll go into these in greater detail as we move through the article (try not to skip ahead; some good bits are coming up!)
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Why You Should Choose Inflatable Bluefin Paddleboards
If you’re living in a van or travelling in a van, then the chances are you won’t have tonnes of room for a surfboard or a kayak. It’s true that some people mount them on the sides of their vans or build false floors to store them under, but doing so either reduces the number of places that you can fit through or decreases the available space inside your affordable tiny homes. Bluefin paddleboards inflate and deflate incredibly quickly, meaning that you can store them in your van’s garage area or even underneath a seat with ease. Our board is 12 foot when inflated, but once deflated and packed away it becomes very compact and fits in the backpack provided. I know that some people think that our van has more magical space than this Harry Potter House, but it’s all down to clever packing and a lifelong addiction to Tetris.
Inflating any of the Bluefin paddleboards is simple thanks to the included pump and ingenious ‘push-twist’ valve system. It’s so simple that even a dog could do it; in fact, lots of Bluefin users take their four-legged friends out on the water with them when they go on adventures. If your pup has an over-active tail them get them on pumping duty the next time you hit the water. ANYWAY, we had no problem inflating the Cruise Carbon and had it ready to go in next to no time. The pump has three settings depending on how fast you want to inflate. If you follow a simple ‘1,2,3’ rule and use all three settings in turn as you blow up your board, then you’ll have no problem getting to that desired PSI level without breaking a sweat.
How Easy Are Bluefin Paddleboards To Use?
I honestly can’t use any more technical jargon or fancy words to make you understand how easy it is to use these boards. I know most of you will probably still be thinking that an inflatable board will have the strength and rigidity of a lilo, but you’d be mistaken. We picked the 12 foot Cruise model so that Rose and I could both go out together, and believe me, you wouldn’t think that it was inflatable when you’re out on the water. From jumping off the board to bouncing around as we switched positions, the SUP stayed steady and didn’t shoot out from underneath our feet. I had visions of us both floundering around like a couple of upside-down turtles for most of the voyage (that’s right, I’m already talking like a paddle boarder), but we paddled around for around four hours with only a couple of falls.
Let’s talk about some of the tech that goes into keeping you upright and safe while you’re out on choppy waters now. For starters, the Non-slip ‘croco-diamond deck pad’ did exactly what you would expect it to do (apart from being anywhere near as dangerous as a crocodile of course). Bluefin paddleboards are going to get wet (it’s in the nature of the activity after all), and the last thing that you want is to be slipping and sliding around when you’re trying to get some serious speed up. Our feet were wet, the pad was wet, but neither of us slipped or lost our footing. The same non-slip material runs up onto the kick pad too, designed to help you make quick turns when changing direction. I like to think that I got the hang of this, but I think in reality I just had my foot there because it looked cool.
All Bluefin paddleboards come with a safety strap that fastens neatly around your ankle. The velcro is designed to work even when wet, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t shoot off or tear open when I dove head first into the lake. If you buy a Bluefin SUP, and I strongly advise that you do, then make sure that you have your strap attached at all times. Not only does it mean that you won’t lose your board, but having a ‘muy grande’ flotation device next to you is pretty handy while you gain your bearings and get back onto your feet. These paddleboards also have a protective U.V coating to help reflect some of the suns rays too, keeping your board cool in hot temperatures so you don’t burn your hands or feet!
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What Are Bluefin Paddleboards Like In The Water?
After a couple of hours of practice, we both nailed using the paddle and honed our technique. I’ve watched other paddleboard users while we’ve been out on the water, and none of the other designs appear to be as streamlined as the Bluefin paddleboards range. The tip at the front of the board cuts through the water as though you were cruising along on the King Of Red Lions (shout out to all of the closet Zelda fans out there; this one’s for you), and we managed to pick up some serious speed even against the wind. I don’t want you thinking that Bluefin paddleboards are just for going fast or racing on though; they’re accessible for anyone at any level and of any age. We tried everything from leisurely paddling to racing back to shore to put the Cruise Carbon through its paces and had no trouble what-so-ever. It’s true that Rose chose to sit at the front of the board as though she was in a Duran Duran video for most of the journey back, but I won’t dwell too much on that now.
Being out on the water is so peaceful; being able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the campsite or your park up spot at a moments notice is pretty special, and the scenes that we saw from the middle of the lake were breathtaking. If van life can take you to places that you might not otherwise have visited, then these Bluefin Paddleboards can take you one step further.
With the kayak seat in place and the second paddle attached, you can start to cover some serious ground. We both found the seat to be comfortable and supportive, and it made a nice change to be sat down closer to the water for a while too. Again, we were both on the board and didn’t notice any dipping due to the extra weight. The larger Bluefin paddleboards are great if, like us, you do want to go out as a duo and see sights together. Bluefin SUP’s come in a whole range of sizes, including a mammoth 18-foot board that you can do group yoga sessions on. I tried a bit of yoga on ours too, just because I’m a fully fledged water warrior now.
Do The Bluefin Paddleboards Have Useful Accessories?
At the front and back of the board, you’ll find useful cargo sections that you can use to store your belongings while out on the water. You might be familiar with the Scrubba Wash Bag, and we used ours to keep our sandals and snacks dry while paddling around. It’s not what the bag was intended for, but it kept our stuff dry all the same. Nice one Scrubba! These cargo holds are also useful for sticking your extra paddle in if you want to quickly change from SUP to kayak mode without going back to the shore to swap them.
The Cruise Carbon has several D-rings down each side of the board that the Kayak seat attaches to, but they’re also useful for securing things into your cargo hold too. We used the rings at the front of the board to secure the seat while stored away to make sure that it didn’t fall into the lake, but you could also clip water bottles and other bits of clothing to them if you wanted to keep them secure while meditating or just floating around while soaking up the sun.
One of the best accessories was the waterproof phone pouch, something that we didn’t expect to receive when we opened up the box. This was mega useful when taking snaps out on the lake as it kept my phone splash free, and we also took some nice recordings through it without picking up any nasty wind noise. You can hear my voice clearly on every recording, and the picture quality is crystal clear. All of the shots that I took for this article were taken while my phone was inside the bag; pretty nifty right!
Packing Everything Away
All Bluefin paddleboards come with a sturdy, ice-hockey player style rucksack that you can store everything away in. We found it tough to roll back up in the same fashion as the board arrived at first, but that’s always the case with these things in my experience, and after a bit of practice we managed to fit everything including the pump and accessories into the bag. Deflating the board is just like deflating an air bed that you might use on camping trips. The simple push-valve deflation system is easy to use and deflates the board in minutes. If you have one of those air bed pumps that suck the air out as well as pump it in, then I would advise using one to make the folding process easier. You can also use an air bed pump to speed up the inflation process too if you have one, but don’t forget to swap to the foot pump to get that perfect PSI. As aforementioned, there is lots of information on the Bluefin website and representatives ready to help you out with any questions on social media.
If I’m being picky (it’s in my job description after all), it would be nice to see a backpack where the zip went all the way down both sides. The folded SUP is still a pretty sizeable object, and having the ability to open the backpack fully would make things easier when you’re stowing all of your accessories away. Still, the bag is super comfortable and easy to carry, and I won’t lose any sleep over this. I carried our board across Barcelona as we travelled on tubes and trains and had no problems; the added chest and waist straps make it feel more like one of those large travel backpacks that you might take camping or on a walking holiday, decreasing the strain on your shoulders and supporting you in the right places.
If you haven’t guessed that I love Bluefin paddleboards by now then maybe this summary will help. Apart from being the sturdiest boards on the planet and the most simple to use, they look and feel great out in the water and are incredibly fun! Too often we talk about the specific use of a product or how helpful it has been to the automotive world, and sometimes we forget to look at things that are designed just to give us enjoyment. I felt like a kid out on the water (albeit a super strong kid that had to paddle his girlfriend around all day), and had a lot of fun testing this paddle board out.
Would I recommend them to you? Absolutely, and I’m not just saying this because Bluefin has been very kind in giving us one of these board to try out. I’m not the sportiest person in the world and I’ve never been one for surfing, but paddleboarding is something that I will definitely be doing on a regular basis. I felt safe and secure on the Cruise Carbon, and I didn’t feel like a beginner at all once I was out on the water. These SUP’s do exactly what they say on the tin, and all of the added extras and accessories make them even more appealing. Check out the full range on the Bluefin Wesbsite for more information and to grab one for yourself. I promise you that you won’t be disappointed. With free shipping all over Europe, there’s no excuse not to give one a try!