Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board – Preview and Video


Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board

After a long wait, I finally got my Joe Blair 12′6″ SUP race board. It’s way different than any of the other racing stand up boards that I’ve ridden or even seen. Actually, the closest one to this would probably be the Jimmy Lewis 12′6″. But the Jimmy Lewis 12′6″ is much thicker, the rails are different and the outline is different. Some of the other ones almost have a kayak type look, or paddleboard type look and feel. But to me, this one to me has more of a surfboard feel.

Joe has an interesting background coming from making windsurfers and shaping for some of the big names like Dick Brewer. He also shaped windsurf slalom boards. So he added all of those ideas into this board.


Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board  Christmas comes early


Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board Now it needs to be unpacked

I’ve been waiting for this board for probably about 4 months. We’ve had a lot of delays but finally I got it. So once I unpacked it and got the race board out, I put it on to the lawn to take some pictures of it. It was really windy on the day that I got it and I think the gusts were probably upwards of 25-30 mph. I took pictures of it on the top and turned it upside down to take pictures of the bottom. Then the gust came under it and picked up the board probably about waist high, maybe 3 ft. or so, off the ground and it spun like 3 times and then hit the concrete and landed on a wall.

I thought, “This is gonna be really bad.” I thought it was gonna be broken but what ended up happening was there were only a few scratches, maybe the size of a quarter so there were no cracks in it. Good thing I didn’t put in the fin. That probably would have been broken. I’m pretty surprised that there were no dings and no major damage. The scratches can be easily taken out with some sand paper. For a custom board, Joe’s making a pretty solid product.


Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board The board has a square tail that has an interesting slope on it. I think that’s the resemblance of some of the windsurfers that Joe had shaped before.


Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board It has this diamond type nose. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but that nose is really cool.


Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board

In the picture above, you’ll see how much nose kick there is just on the very tip of this board but for the most part it’s pretty flat on the bottom, I mean the rocker is pretty flat. There’s also quite a bit of concave that runs through this nose which is different than a lot of the other race boards. A lot of the other race boards have this displacement type hull, almost like a boat hull in the front, so it’s way different. I’m not sure but I think this is one of the reasons it feels more like a surfboard to me.


Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board

The board is running a single fin. Joe initially put a fin box in there because he thought he wanted to run the fin further up but after testing it, realized that “maybe we should put it back” and then he installed the 2nd fin box. This gives us a lot of room to adjust fin placement since this is a prototype board.


Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board

Joe also sent me a small fin, about 6 inch or so. It was interesting because the fin looked way too small to do anything. But on this board, the fin actually works totally fine. I didn’t have any problem with it, with the board wanting to wander when I was paddling and there was a lot of side winds coming at me. It was not that hard to keep on track and keep going. And what Joe was telling me was that, he would take the fin off if he could, because going downwind and when you’re trying to go fast, the fin only creates drag. So you need it to a certain extent to keep going straight but it’s not like when you’re surfing on a wave and you need this big fin to hold your rail in the water, because you’re not really going to do those types of turns. I’ll try the 4.5″ fin once I get this board dialed in.

I didn’t get a chance to take it out on the first day I got it. But the second day I did and I was only able do to it on a short run just before I had a meeting. I figured, I’m gonna take this board out to Kahala, go around Black Point, then around Diamond Head and finish at Kaimana Beach. The last time I went out, I took the F-15 15′ sup and went from Wailupe, which I was told is 5 miles from Kaimana Beach and then Kahala is supposed to be 3 miles from Kaimana Beach. I can finally check that accuracy now that I got my new Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch but more on that later. The run took me an hour and 9 minutes to do in light winds and no waves. So I figured if I could do it from Kahala to Kaimana Beach in an hour, I’d be fine and I’d make it to my meeting on time.

Well, I was surprised because this is a 12′6″ board, in my mind, it shouldn’t be faster than a 15′ board but what I found out was that I could drop in little bumps way easier on this board for some reason than the others that I’ve ridden. I don’t know why. I think a lot of times when you paddle this strong and you get this really strong strokes you can stand further back on a lot of the boards on the plainning area and then drop into these bumps. But I just came back from a trip and I was kinda tired. I didn’t really want to do that. This one was different, I could step on the front of the board and then get the nose to dropping like you would on a regular surf board. So it was very comfortable, real familiar type feeling.

Well, to keep the long story short, the conditions that day were really, really good. The winds were blowing upwards of 20 mph for the most part and was straight at my back until about Diamond Head. There were small bumps and swells but not really that much. My time from Kahala to Kaimana Beach was 52 mins. that day. When I take my splits, which is usually from Black Point to Kaimana, the normal range for me is about half an hour to 35 minutes. From the blinker buoy in Hawaii Kai to Black Point it’s somewhere in the 50 minute range. Obviously, I’m not that fast right, I’m pretty slow. Normally my total time is about an hour and 35 minutes or so from where the blinker buoy is at all the way through. Anyways, if I took my normal time, it would have probably been about an hour and 10 minutes or so, taking into account that I was on a 12′6″ SUP, not a 15′ SUP. But with this board on that particular day I did it in 52 mins. So I know I cut off at least 10 minutes off my time but you got to take some things into consideration:

- The wind was blowing really well and at the right direction.
- I think the tide was also right, I wasn’t fighting that.
- I was fresh for that whole period, I wasn’t paddling the previous portions.

You can take all those things into consideration but my thought was: “How can a 12′6″ board be faster than a 15′ board right now?”. And what I really need to do was get more time on the water and then try it out in more conditions.

I was so intrigued with this board from the previous run that I took it out again on another day to go surf at Ala Moana even though there was a major jelly fish warning. The tide was still pretty high, the waves were really small, maybe coming in only waist high or so and at Ala Moana Court, which is normally crowded, there was nobody out there. So I paddled out to Ala Moana Courts and ended up catching a number of waves on this board. The board doesn’t surf like a regular board but it does catch everything in sight. I had a blast. And actually, if I changed the fin out and put the bigger fin inside, I think I could have probably surfed much better. But this board is fun, man! I got to get more time on the water with this thing but so far it’s really been impressive to me specially for a 12′6″. Also it’s really light weight. I don’t know how he did it because he put a quarter inch stringer in there as well as 1½ lb. foam. Joe’s got a winner with this one, that’s for sure.

I had to try this board on a full Hawaii Kai to Kaimana run and did so a few days later. The conditions were awesome. Wind was 20 mph+ at my back for most of the run and there was knee to waist high swell to catch. Another long story short…it took 1:17. What? I had my fastest downwind SUP run on a 12′6″ and by 12 minutes? Needless to say, I was pretty darn excited. These race SUP boards are getting faster, that’s for sure.


(click thumbnail to launch video)


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15 Responses to “Joe Blair 12-6 SUP Racing Board – Preview and Video”

  1. Ralph Keith 1Ralph Keith

    I thoroughly enjoy your site. Keep up the good work!! Unfortunately you’ve added to my dilemma. I’m a 200 pounder new to SUP. I live in Sacramento California. After extensive blog reading I’ve narrowed my search for a distance, occasional race board to something from Joe Bark, Infinity or the new Hobie 12′6″ boards. Your new Joe Blair board looks great too! I realize we all have our preferences etc., but how does it compare to the boards I’ve listed?

    Thanks so much. Ralph

  2. evan 2evan

    Thanks. I haven’t ridden the Bark yet but I want to. I’m waiting on the Surftech Bark 14′ model. I have not ridden Hobie yet. I rode the Infinity a bit. It’s ok but I like the Blair the best in this length. Are you racing?

  3. Ralph Keith 3Ralph Keith

    Hi Evan,

    Thanks for writing. How come you picked the Blair? And, if you don’t mind my asking, what’s the retail on his boards? What’s the width? That’s a great looking board.

    I think the Infinity has a similar v-bow as the Bark board. From your write-up, it seems you prefer the nose of the Blair?

    We just started doing this a few months ago. Unfortunately where we live there are currently few options to try boards. We have an aquatic center associated with Sac State University that offers SUP classes on a great small lake that virtually in my back yard. They use old windsurfs to teach on.

    The guy that teaches the classes sells a few boards basically out of his garage. He will be carrying the Hobie, but will not have a demo board???

    I hate to spend almost $2000 on something that I haven’t even tried. My knowledge thus far has been gained by reading various websites and the blogs.

    I hope to do the races held at Lake Tahoe (about 85 miles from us) including the 22 mile across the lake race. The Surftech Bark looks interesting. There’s a shop in Lake Tahoe that carries Bark. I’ll try it out in the spring.

  4. evan 4evan


    Blair and I have been discussing a race board for a few months now and his ideas are pretty different than other people so I wanted to give it a shot. Blair always tells me things that sound kinda out there but always seems to deliver so I don’t doubt him anymore. He’s in San Diego so it’s best to call him. He’s an interesting guy to talk to and you’ll learn a lot. Tell him I referred you and call him ‘tarter’. It’s his nickname I gave him.

    The Blair board nose allowed me to catch very small ocean swells and stay on them much better than the Infinity. That’s just my experience though. Other riders may prefer the Infinity.

    I tried a Dennis Pang 12′6″ which was made for Battle of the Paddle the other day and liked the displacement nose and rocker although that particular board was too tippy for me. I’m having one made by Dennis around 16′ and 28″ wide for more stability. It will also have a rudder.

    If you’re racing in flat water, I heard Bark is good and his boards look like they are made more for those conditions. Blair is going to make another race board around 15 or 16′ with a rudder specifically for flatter conditions although that will probably take a few months to concept and shape.

    Starboard has a very fast new 15′ race board that should be out in the spring. I tried the proto and really liked it. It’s also very different. 2009 should have very good product.

  5. Ralph Keith 5Ralph Keith

    Good morning,

    I’m envious of all the boards you have :)

    Because of my weight, I’ll be looking for something in between 29 – 30 inches. I don’t want to sacrifice stability for speed since I’ll be spending the vast majority of my time casually exploring various northern California lakes versus the occasional race.

    As a partner in a small business, I can appreciate making a profit. That said, I’m concerned about the prices being charged for the new 12′6″ boards. IMO ~ it’s going to be hard to appeal to the masses when a board and quality paddle will set you back $1500 – $2000.

    I’m interested to read other people’s take on that as well as any input on their experiences with the new boards out there. For now, I’m looking at a 12′6″ and will eventually add a 14′. That is unless I try the new Bark/Surftec and fall in love :)

    Take care,

  6. Evan Leong 6evan

    I think production boards may have lower pricing in the future although I don’t see custom shapes dropping much in price because they are very labor intensive and harder to shape.

  7. Colin 7Colin

    Hi I am interested in your ongoing review of the Blair 12′6″
    Are yiu still of the same opinion and have you trialed it against other similar
    sized downwind boards?

  8. evan 8evan

    Colin – I’ve spent at least 20 hours on the Blair 12′6″ and still really like it. Compared to other 12′6″ that I’ve tried, it is still faster. The only other one that comes close is the Dennis Pang 12′6″ that Candice rode in the Battle of the Paddle but that one was too tippy for me.

  9. Jeff 9Jeff

    Give Sunrise mountain sports in livermore, CA a call.
    They have last years rental boards on sale. you might get a laird 12/1 for real cheap. They rent kayaks at Lake Del Valle and i am not sure if they will keep doing the SUP rental’s B/C the lake gets real windy.

    At the end of the season all of the SUP gear was marked way down. New And used.

  10. Chris 10Chris


    What is your current thinking on these racers? I was considering the Naish 12′ Glide, the Starboard 12′6″ Pin, a custom Infinity 12′6″ or 14′. Do you still think the Joe Blair 12′6″ is the way to go?

  11. Evan Leong 11evan


    Out of all the boards on your list, I’ve only tried the Blair so far so I can’t give you a good opinion.

  12. Ray 12Ray

    Evan: Do you know any local JB retailers?

  13. Evan Leong 13evan

    Wet Feet Hawaii. I know they have the 12′6″ from this post in their store either for demo or sale bc I dropped it off there last month.

  14. Ray 14Ray


  15. Joe 15Joe

    I’ve been considering all the 12′ 6″ boards mentioned, including an Infinity, Bark, Starboard Pin, for occasional races and Lake Tahoe like conditions. Would like to throw in the Tahoe SUP Zephyr as a consideration and how that compares, if anyone on this thread has tried it.

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