Coastal Cruising on the Sea Eagle NN14 Inflatable Paddleboard
A review of the Sea Eagle NeedleNose 14’ inflatable paddleboard
Would you like to travel with your SUP, but dread the thought of lugging a hardboard around on your roof? Sure, you could use a set of KanuLocks to secure your board. Depending on where you are traveling, you still may want to consider moving it indoors overnight. Maybe an inflatable paddleboard is the way to go?
I recently picked up a Sea Eagle NeedleNose 14’ inflatable paddleboard for use as a travel board and those times when it isn’t feasible to have a hardboard at the ready. The NeedleNose was named for its patented molded plastic nose. The nose is not inflatable and essentially looks like a blue nose cone. Just like the nose cone on a rocket, the pointed nose on the board deflects and streamlines forward motion. This enables the paddleboard to glide through the water more effectively than a traditional inflatable SUP.
I’ve tested several inflatable paddleboards. The technology has improved significantly, but there is still a lot of low-end junk on the market due to the low-cost of overseas manufacturing. While Sea Eagle has been in the business of making long-lasting inflatable watercraft for generations, the brand has a low share of the inflatable paddleboard market. The color scheme on the NeedleNose isn’t the fanciest on the market, which may put off some buyers looking for a little flair. Nevertheless, in terms of flat water performance, the NN14 is the best inflatable paddleboard I’ve tested.
The Needle Nose displaces water and allows the board to glide compared to the pushing effect commonly associated with inflatables. In fact, based on my experience it works as well as some low-end hard boards – for a significantly more attractive price and with many benefits.
Inflation is easy with the electric pump!
The Sea Eagle NeedleNose 14 comes with a large backpack. If you’re familiar with the standard US Navy issue Seabag, imaging something slightly larger and you’ll have a good idea of the size of the payload. Like military issued equipment, the backpack serves the purpose for which it was intended without any bells and whistles. Think more toss into the back of your pickup or SUV than neatly compartmentalized on rollers for an airplane.
The Sea Eagle looks like you could bounce it across the rocks and still go paddle. I tested this theory at the Cali Paddler Retreat 1.0 where I did exactly that at the rocky southern end of the beach at Refugio St. Beach near Santa Barbara. Up the coast I met up with my friend Red Pedrick, founder of the Paddle Dojo in San Diego, who was also attending the retreat that weekend. Red had brought his OC-1 and mentioned the perilous section of the beach he launched from. I acknowledged the section was a bit sketchy, but smiled and patted the Sea Eagle with my paddle. “That’s why I brought an inflatable SUP!” I told him.
The NeedleNose inflatable paddleboard does not have any nose rocker, which makes it ideal for flat water. Even so, I paddle primarily in the ocean and only pass through flat water as I’m traversing the harbor. The board is ready to go straight out of the box. In fact, I took it directly to Marina del Rey, pumped it up, and paddled to the Venice Pier the day it arrived.
The paddleboard is 30 inches wide, which makes it plenty stable for beginners to advanced paddlers. There is a four point bungee system in front of the deck area which is great for securing a pack. There is also a “paddle pocket” for securing your paddle by inserting the blade. One great feature which I feel all inflatable paddleboards should adopt is a carry handle on the nose. The handle is great for pulling the board out of the water and can double as a tie down point. If you’re out paddling with someone and they get tired you can easily attach a leash to the handle and use it as a tow point. The NeedleNose currently comes with a swept back fin for shedding kelp and seaweed. The fin slides into the fin box and is secured with a plastic pin. Nothing fancy, but it works just fine for recreational paddling.
Sea Eagle will be upgrading the range with a US fin box in the future. They will also be adding a narrower (around 26 inches wide) model targeted at the paddleboard racing market. All in all, if you are looking for an inflatable paddleboard with solid performance, the Sea Eagle NeedleNose 14 is well worth your consideration.
To learn more, visit www.seaeagle.com