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NRS Thrive inflatable standup paddle board

The NRS Thrive on the Colorado River. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia


The Inertia

I have been standup paddling for a long time. In the early days of the sport, I wrote for a standup paddle magazine and through the job, I acquired a number of friends in the SUP community, and even got talked into doing a handful of races. I’ve paddled on the ocean, in lakes, and even surf with my SUP on occasion. So when my husband and I got invited on a 16-day river rafting trip down the Colorado River, we knew we wanted to bring a standup paddle board. After researching the best inflatable SUPs for rivers, we decided to check out the NRS Thrive, a great all around flat water and river board.

Pros Cons
Interchangeable fin system Doesn’t come with a paddle
Inflates to 20 PSI air pressure Needs more handles on the sides
Multiple D-ring attachment points and webbing Carry bag doesn’t have wheels
Durable double sidewall construction

NRS Thrive: First Impressions

Like many inflatable standup paddle boards, the NRS Thrive is sold as a kit. It includes a travel backpack, pump, pressure gauge, interchangeable fins, and a repair kit. The pump worked well but like most hand pumps, it took a fair amount of grunt work to get the board inflated.

Once we got it inflated and had our first real look at the board, I was excited to hit the water. The board comes in three different size options: We had the 10′ 8″ x 34″ x 6″. The board looked super stable and durable.

If you’ve never run a river on a SUP before, you’ll want a board that is stable and forgiving. Big sections of the Colorado River are completely calm and flat, so I wanted an all around board that would work well on whitewater sections as well as flat water sections. I only planned to run smaller rapids and the NRS Thrive looked like it would serve my purposes nicely.

NRS Thrive paddle board

The NRS Thrive worked well on both flat and whitewater sections. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia

Notable Features of the NRS Thrive

Available Sizes: 9′ 10″ | 10′ 3″ | 10′ 8″ | 11′
Size Tested: 10′ 8″ x 34″ x 6″
Construction: Double sidewall, PVC drop-stitch
Nose: Rounded
Weight: 29 lbs
Fin Configuration: 3 fin boxes, 4 interchangeable fins

One of my favorite features on the NRS Thrive is the interchangeable fin system. On surfboards, you’ll often see different fin setups with various configuration options, but it’s super rare on inflatable SUPs. The NRS Thrive features a tri-fin configuration, but it comes with three small fins and one large fin, allowing for a 2 + 1, thruster, or single fin configuration.

NRS Thrive paddle board

While having a durable board is always important, it’s especially critical when running a river as you’ll likely bump a rock or some form of river debris at one point. The NRS Thrive features durable double sidewall construction with reinforced rail seals. Translation: Your board isn’t going to break or puncture should you collide with a boulder. And if for some reason it does, you can break out your trusty repair kit (included with the board).

Another feature of the NRS Thrive that I love is its high-tenacity core. Where most inflatable SUPs only inflate to 15 PSI, the core construction of the Thrive allows you to inflate to 20 PSI air pressure. The result? A more rigid board that delivers a ride much more similar to the feel of a hard board as opposed to a traditional inflatable SUP.

The NRS Thrive has a center handle for carrying as well as two additional grab handles for use while riding. As I normally paddle in the ocean or on lakes, I hadn’t realized the importance of handles until running a river. The two front handles were nice for hanging onto when I had to drop to my knees or stomach on trickier rapids and were helpful for collecting and climbing back on my board when I fell.

Finally, I appreciated the fact that the NRS Thrive has a number of D-ring attachment points for hooking on water bottles, hats and other essentials. I also liked that NRS included webbing on the nose of the board for stashing a bag or anything else you’d wish to secure to your board.

Drawbacks

The NRS Thrive does not come with a paddle, which is both a pro and a con of the package. Typically, the paddles included in iSUP packages are cheap paddles and they aren’t awesome to use. But, paddles are also pretty pricey, so you’ll want to factor in an additional $100-$400 for a decent paddle. For our trip down the Colorado, I was using the Infinity Whiplash 3-Piece paddle, which packed down nicely for traveling but still performed well.

The fact that the Thrive has two additional handles is incredible, but I wish it had more. When you fall in the middle of a rapid, it’s a hectic experience and side handles would be helpful for collecting your board. Honestly, the more the better, but at minimum of two side handles would be nice. When you’re on flat water it doesn’t matter much, but when you’re running a river, handles are a game changer.

Finally, I wish the NRS Thrive travel bag included wheels. At 29 pounds, the board isn’t too heavy, but it’s heavy enough. When navigating the airport, wheels would have made the experience much more enjoyable.

NRS Thrive paddle board

Navigating the Grand Canyon section of the Colorado River. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia

Final Thoughts

Running a river on a standup paddle board is much more difficult than it looks, and despite the challenges the river posed, the NRS Thrive proved to be the perfect introductory board. It was incredibly stable, super durable, and performed well on both the flat and whitewater sections.

Our entire crew enjoyed having a go on it and it was easy to pack down to stow away on the boat when we hit the big rapids. The price is fairly steep, but the board came away from an intense 16-day trip with no flaws, so I have no doubt this board will be accompanying me on trips for years to come.

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Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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