Blue Journey Prone Inflatable Paddleboard Review

by Bruckner Chase, Swimming & Ocean Sports Editor

ULI Board

Prone paddleboarding is less well known than its upright counterpart, but the sport that used to only be practiced by surfers and professional ocean lifeguards is perhaps the ideal activity for anyone hitting the open water as a swimmer or triathlete. You can read more about prone paddleboarding for endurance athletes in our article Mastering the Water from Above: Prone Paddleboarding for Triathletes and Open Water Swimmers. You can make the sport and training regimen part of your training at home, and on the road, with ULI Board’s new 12-foot Blue Journey Prone inflatable board.

As more and more triathletes head to the starting lines, the swim is often the biggest challenge. Open water swimming in particular remains one of the biggest hurdles to success, whether success is defined as just finishing, or qualifying for nationals. Even the most placid open water venues need to be respected with safety being the number one priority. Once you know a venue is safe, ULI’s 12-foot Blue Journey Prone inflatable board (MSRP $1,500) ‘opens up’ the open water virtually anywhere in the world. This allows you to build your strength, confidence and water knowledge without finding a pool and circle swimming.

Prone paddleboards come in a variety of lengths for different types of racing, and the 12-foot Blue Journey falls into the category commonly referred to as “Stock.” This length is designed for longer distance training and racing from a couple of miles to a 22-mile race around Atlantic City. ULI has been custom making the most advanced inflatable SUP and surf boards for years, and the Blue Journey incorporates all their advanced design and manufacturing technology in a board that has been tested and raced from South Jersey to Australia’s Gold Coast, with stops in American Samoa and Hawaii’s North Shore along the way.

The craftsmanship in this handcrafted board is unmatched and uses ULI’s NEU technology, which creates the world’s most portable high-performance board that rolls up into a remarkably tight and lightweight roll. Unlike typical inflatable boards that can flex and loose efficiency the Blue Journey incorporates advanced Kevlar stiffening technology that makes it as stiff as virtually any shape epoxy board. To counter the traditional rounded edges that compromise speed and performance in other inflatables the Blue Journey utilizes ULI’s exclusive WikiRail speed and stability system. Since endurance training from bikes to boards is also about comfort the Blue Journey has an Advanced Comfort EVA prone-specific deck pad covering it’s 20-inch wide surface that was shaped specifically for those more used to swimming over lane lines than surfing big waves.

All of the features above make for an impressive sounding board, but the bottom line is how does a board designed for travel and performance deliver in the air and on the water. Weighing in at around 16 pounds with a pump and fin, the board easily fits in a standard-sized checked bag with plenty of weight allowance left over for clothes and even a pair or two of running shoes. Once on the water’s edge the Blue Journey’s high-volume pump inflates the board in under five minutes, and once back on the beach the board can be deflated and rolled back up in seconds.
Once on the water the fact that the board was previously rolled up in a suitcase is all but forgotten. In one test paddle off the North Shore of Hawaii in chest high surf the board was fast enough to get out through wave sets, and stiff enough to easily punch through breaking surf. Once in the open water of the ocean or local lake the board really shows its superiority. From exploring the shoreline to completing an interval workout the board is fast and effective at gliding across calm waters and cutting through wind chop.

Coming back to shore through the surf the board catches swells easily and tracks well thanks to the WikiRails and the upgraded fin that comes with every Blue Journey board. For those whose outings involve the shores of Medford Lakes rather than Diamond Head, the Blue Journey offers a safer and far more enjoyable open water workout option than another circle swimming session at the pool. One of our favorite training sessions is sharing one board between two swimmers by alternating who is on the board and who is in the water. These “Paddle/Swim” workouts can create high quality training opportunities that are also safer and more social. You can see the board in action here

If you had already seen our article on prone paddleboarding or watched ocean lifeguards training off-shore, the ULI Blue Journey finally offers the chance to hit the water wherever you hear the water calling in a package the size of your transition bag, and at price point that will pay dividends on your future open water swim performance.

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Bruckner Chase is a triathlon and swim coach, ocean lifeguard trainer, endurance waterman and ocean advocate whose marine and community endeavors have taken him to waters around the world is places such as Australia, American Samoa, Denmark, Greece and Poland. He is a global ambassador for the Lifesaving World Championship 2018 organizing committee, and he is the Technical Director and Media Ambassador for the Red Bull Surf + Rescue Championships. Closer to his home in New Jersey he is a member of the Sea Girt Beach Patrol and the founder of the Ocean City Swim Club. He is a professional member of the US Lifeguard Association, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Swim Coaches Association.

Bruckner’s athletic career spans the most challenging events on water and land. He competed as a professional triathlete, and he continues to be an elite level competitor in every endurance sport he takes on. On the water Bruckner has completed multiple ultra-distance swims and paddles in some of the harshest conditions imaginable: a record setting no wetsuit swim in Alaska, a 22-mile swim of Lake Tahoe and historic swims between the islands of American Samoa. Bruckner competes in professional surf lifesaving sports across multiple aquatic disciplines. He is the fifth American in history to compete in the iconic Coolangatta Gold Surf Iron Man in Australia, and in 2016 he became the only American to finish the event three times and the first to earn a spot on the winner’s podium.

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