It’s easy to see why the Pioneer 2.0 is ISLE’s most popular SUP. This beginner-friendly inflatable board is suited to a variety of applications ranging from day touring to fishing, easy surfing and yoga, and has excellent stability making it a great platform to learn from. From that short description alone, I figured it would be an ideal paddleboard for my mom to add to her ever-growing collection of kayaks, canoes and sailboats at her waterfront home.
ISLE Pioneer 2.0: An all-around inflatable board that’s mom-approved
ISLE Pioneer 2.0 Specs
Volume: 326 L
Weight: 24 lbs
Capacity: 285 lbs
I chose a frosty morning in early May to introduce her to the Pioneer. It only took me a few moments to unpackage the board from its surprisingly-comfortable-to-carry, expedition-size backpack. The paddleboard, pump, three-piece paddle and accessory drybag containing a removable fin, leash, valve-tightening tool and spare parts all pack up tidily inside a pack that wouldn’t seem out of place alongside a commuter on a subway or city bus, let alone inside the trunk of a compact car.
I warmed up by using the double action hand pump to inflate the Pioneer to the recommended 15 PSI in about five minutes of effort. Tip: Unless you’re musclebound, start on the double action setting and move to single action when you reach about seven PSI to reduce the resistance and make it easier to finish inflating the board. As usual, I approached the board building task through trial and error. Meanwhile, Mom carefully read the instructions and helped me figure out how to tighten the high-pressure valve with the provided tool. This crucial step would’ve saved me the effort of inflating the board a second time after most of the air escaped during my first attempt at sealing the valve.
On the water performance
As expected, my first impression was the reassuring stability of the 34-inch-wide board when I launched onto the recently ice-free waters of Lake Huron’s North Channel. Drop stitch construction increases the stiffness and improves the efficiency of the all-around, 10-foot, six-inch board. The modest length of the ISLE means it can’t match the efficiency of a longer touring board—and the cruising speed of this general purpose inflatable SUP will never match that of a hard-shell. However, the Pioneer toured easily enough on a quick lap of the white pine clad, smoothrock islands adjacent to my mom’s place.
Two smaller built-in fins and a longer removal central fin contribute to excellent tracking; you can also choose to go without the central fin for greater maneuverability and control in waves. The broad width and beefy six-inch thickness allows you to transfer your weight to engage the edge to carve turns. There’s plenty of volume to accommodate an additional human or canine passenger on board.
Rigging and outfitting
The Pioneer is surprisingly well-equipped for a thrifty $795 kit. Fore and aft tie-down points provide convenient places to attach drybags full of day and fishing gear. The supplied paddle is reasonably light and stiff with a carbon shaft, and adjusts to fit a wide range of adult sizes, including enough length to accommodate my six-foot, three-inch height.
While I was paddling, I thought about how the Pioneer’s convenient take-down and highly mobile package would be perfect for riding glassy waves in the warm water on a vacation in some faraway place.
On this day, my mom was happy to stay cozy in her puffy jacket and take photos from the dock while I cruised the shoreline and pushed my luck with silly yoga poses while floating offshore. The cold water provided a good incentive to keep my core tight and senses finely tuned. I tend to gravitate to paddling canoes and sea kayaks; however, the Pioneer made me reconsider the simplicity of paddleboarding and the full body workout it provides, along with reminding me of the great vantage point standing affords. After years of sit-down paddling, I felt myself being drawn back to standing up.
The final verdict
A late May heatwave extending into June gave my mom ample opportunity to enjoy the Pioneer. “This board works for me for several reasons,” she told me. “First, it is very stable and since I’m not yet comfortable with my balance on the board, having a stable platform helps with my confidence and performance. The leash is comfortable and doesn’t get in the way of my movements.”
Mom also highlighted the Pioneer’s easy to manage 24-pound weight. “It is surprisingly light and easy to grip,” she said. “It’s far easier than moving my kayak to the water.”
Finally, she offered a simple plain-language summary capturing the Pioneer exactly: “If you’re just starting out, this board will work well for you.”
Where to buy
Inflatable paddleboard reviews
- Inflatable SUP Review: BOTE Rackham Aero 12’4”
- Inflatable Hybrid Review: TAHE Beach SUP-YAK
- Inflatable Paddleboard Review: Red Paddle Co 11’3” Sport
- Hobie Mirage i11S Inflatable Kayak-Paddleboard Hybrid Review
Conor Mihell’s first Rapid Media article appeared in the 2005 Buyer’s Guide issue of Canoeroots.
Morning lake tours just got better. | Feature photo: Dorothy O’Connor