FANATIC FLY AIR RAY 12’6″ TEST REVIEW
An impressive step forward from Fanatic’s well-regarded Touring model of last year. The more performance orientated outline and improved nose rocker give both better tracking and rough water handling. The new high pressure pump brings out the best in the stiff Premium construction; this is a high-volume board for load carrying and proper adventure.
Fanatic’s Fly Air Touring models over the last couple of years have made a good acquittal of themselves as good-looking boards with well thought out shapes. This new 12’6 version takes the concept forward with a narrower tail, more lift in the nose, a more comfortable handle, a sexier 20cm race fin and more aggressive graphics. It’s clearly a more purposeful looking and performing product. The supplied Power Pump both reduces inflate-time and makes hitting 20psi attainable. It’s also noticeably lighter than its forebear and we think stiffer (we have last year’s model here).
Touring, exploring and discovering is part of what makes Stand Up Paddling so fascinating. The Ray Air is the inflatable version of our Ray – a cruiser with immense glide to get you into new territories comfortably.With similar characteristics to its solid equivalent, the Ray Air has a maximized waterline that combines both stability and glide. Comes in 11’6 and 12’6.
So, the 2016 Ray Air confidently takes the baton and brings the range to the front of the inflatable touring pack again. The 12’6” is significantly faster than last years Fly Air Touring, thanks to a reduced tail width resulting in a cleaner flow of undisturbed paddle strokes, and the extra length cuts down on the row effect.
It performs better in broken up water. It’s stiffer so you don’t get that annoying inflato-jelly wobble and the nose is more able to lift over bumps rather than hitting them and vibrating the message back to your feet. It’s 32” wide so while stability under stress is a strong point, it’s not so wide that it stops being a sup and becomes a floating platform.
The standing area is vast and lovely to work with; Fanatic even seem to have incorporated a very slight concave to it and you’ll find this increases confidence in tough conditions when you’ve got a back stowed under the tie downs.
Is it all things to everyone then? It’s possibly a bit overkill for someone who wants a poke-n-float for occasional days in the local gravel pit, but for a paddler that wants to commit to some serious hours and days on the water in a broad range of environments, exploring tight coves and crossing wide bays, this is a board you can build a lasting relationship with. It will also easily double duty as a racer at your local club event. It brings the ultimate versatility of the 12’6 x 30(ish) template to those with real-world storage concerns.