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Lifetime Freestyle XL Paddleboard Review

Lifetime Freestyle Stand Up Paddle BoardAt the 2012 Summer Outdoor Retailer show there was something very different than, let's say, 2 years ago. 2 years ago you could go to any intersection of aisles, spin 360°, and see at least one vendor with a slackline across their floor space or advertisement with one hanging on their wall. This year? Take that same 360° turn and you will see at least one vendor with a stand-up-paddleboard or SUP, advertisement with one in it, or their gear somehow relating. Without having tried one out yet, we jumped at the chance to take one for a spin on our local waters.

With no prior experience on a SUP, I could only judge the Freestyle by me expectations. Anticipating a struggle to stand up and gain balance from in the water, I was pleasantly surprised when it was quite easy to get on top of the board and execute a surf-style pop up to get standing on the board. From there it is easy paddling. Remaining balanced while using powerful paddle strokes felt natural and the adjustable fins made tracking efficient. A reservoir with lots of motor boat activity highlighted the stability of the Freestyle XL as it steadily took wave after wave. While a lateral wave created a small pucker factor initially, I quickly got used to relaxing and flowing with the board and was able to retain proper balance easily. The adjustable adult paddle, which is included with board purchase, is comfortable to handle and light, making side to side transitions thoughtless.

With so many board manufacturers and designs on the market, I am surprised by current SUP prices; many boards range from $1200-$1800. Personally, I think this may be a major turn-off to many prospective buyers. This price range offers consumers several options for quality outdoor products, across a variety of activities, that may heavily rival a SUP. At $650 full retail, the Freestyle XL by Lifetime is clearly in a completely different price category. I have personally seen these boards marked at $450 locally, which will appeal to many more potential buyers. Lakeside rental shops, weekend cabins, young families, and organized youth groups will all be much more attracted to this price when given the type of use the board is likely to see.

While everything sounds great so far, there is room for improvement. High-Density Polyethylene construction is the scientific way of saying blow-molded. While this material and construction is absolutely bomber, it does make for a heavy board. My bathroom scale claims it is just shy of 46 pounds. The weight issue is really only burdensome for transportation which, unfortunately, is made more difficult due to the shallow handle that does not quite provide enough grip when carrying the board for any distance greater than 100 yards. A simple addition of some webbing to the handle would make a world of difference.

Overall, the Freestyle XL is a great bang for your buck. Confidence inspiring stability and predictable handling really make this board fun for calm waters or more mild moving water. Also, manageable pricing and indestructible design may inspire you to share your new passion with friends or family you might not have otherwise.

Genius Features: $650 full retail w/paddle. Very stable, beginner friendly. Bomb-proof construction.

Not so Genius Features: Not exactly a featherweight. We've seen better carry handle designs.

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