Inflatable Paddleboard Review: BOTE Rackham AERO

Buyer’s Guide | Kayak Angler

My wife caught me in the middle of inflating BOTE’s new Rackham AERO inflatable standup paddleboard on the hottest day of the summer. “Nice boat,” Natasha said when she came outside to see why I was wheezing.

“Thanks,” I gasped. Based on aesthetics—probably the color alone—she claimed the board hers and asked when we were going paddling.

Fishing from a paddleboard

What do I love most about standup paddleboarding? It gets people excited to hit the water. While my wife was excited by the Rackham’s combination of bright turquoise accents and wood trim, I was stoked about the fishing features.

BOTE’s Rackham AERO Inflatable SUP

The Rackham AERO is BOTE’s full-size, fishing-focused inflatable. BOTE’s reputation as one of the masters of good-looking and well-built standup paddleboards gave me confidence this blow-up would stand up.

The first thing I noticed about the Rackham AERO is the quality of the construction and materials. Accessories fit tightly, the handles and tie-downs are reinforced, the pump and paddle are high-quality and the board does look really cool.

The Rackham is BOTE’s finest fishing platform with high sides and an aggressive entry, the hardboard version has a reputation for performance and stability. Bote continued the tradition with the inflatable Rackham AERO; a long and wide board with impressive performance.

Photo: Ric Burnley
The Rackham AERO kit includes travel bag, two-stage pump, patch kit, fins, three-piece paddle and the inflatable board. All components are top quality and good looking. This could be the only inflatable SUP you’ll ever need. Pretend we didn’t say that. | Photo: Ric Burnley

The AERO comes in a rip-resistant, water-resistant travel bag with wheels and straps. Inside, the board is folded and strapped along with a pump, paddle and repair kit. It’s like a loot bag for grownup standup anglers.

Stiffness is the most important design aspect on any inflatable

One of the unique features on the hardboard Rackham is a raised spray guard around the nose. BOTE replicated the feature on the AERO as a second air chamber to improve the board’s stiffness. Stiffness is the most important design aspect on any inflatable.

BOTE Rackham Aero Specs
Length: 12′
Width: 32″
Thickness: 7″
Avg. Weight: 48LBS
Max. Capacity: 350LBS

Every time the board bends or wobbles, it affects stability and speed. BOTE’s Rackham AERO is the stiffest inflatable I’ve ever tested. I had to jump up and down to get it to flex. BOTE pulled out all the stops, taking every opportunity to make this air board a hardboard.

InLike many inflatables, the Rackham AERO uses drop-stitch technology to provide internal support. Inside the board, connecting the top and bottom layers of PVC, are thousands of threads. As the board fills with air, it pulls the threads tight stretching them to provide structural stability.

At the ICAST sport fishing tradeshow last summer, BOTE marketing manager Laurie Fontenot showed us other details that keep AERO boards tight. “Drop-stitch has been around for years, but BOTE brought composite fibers and military-grade, puncture-resistant shell to the game,” she told us.

The AERO can be inflated to 15 pounds of pressure, on the high side of the inflatable scale, which further increases the board’s rigidity. More air means more pumping, but the two-stage pump makes it possible to reach high pressure.

Photo: Ric Burnley
The paddle sheath provides a convenient place to stick the paddle while hands are busy fishing. A raised spray guard keeps the deck dry and serves as a second air chamber making the Rackham AERO one of the stiffest boards we’ve ever tested. | Photo: Ric Burnley

BOTE’s SUP paddle

Once I had the board inflated, it took a few more seconds to clip together a three-piece travel paddle. I’m not usually one for paddle-included offers, but BOTE’s fiberglass shaft and injected plastic paddle is rock solid and reliable. And, of course, its color and pattern matched the boat, so it looks cool.

When I arrived to the launch ramp, an old lady crabbing on the end of the dock hollered over her gospel music, “Sure is a pretty board!” Wow, this thing is a chick magnet.

I couldn’t stop pressing the deck padding

Fontenot explained BOTE cooked up a unique process to print their logo and add deck padding to the AERO. Fontenot dared me to find another board with faux wood trim and a half-dozen different colors.

I couldn’t stop pressing the deck padding. Unlike regular EVA foam, BOTE’s proprietary material is micro textured and heat sealed to shed water. Fontenot told me to look closer. The texture consists of tiny Bs in the foam. Like I said, an eye for detail.

BOTE offers five boards with the AERO technology, including the new Rover AERO, an inflatable version of the hardboard Rover miniskiff.

To make the Rackham AERO a full-fledge fishing machine, my friendly, neighborhood BOTE dealer, East Coast Paddlesports, helped me add a BOTE Tackle Rac and KULA bucket-style cooler. The Tackle Rac holds two rods with rail space for other accessories. Without taking up a lot of deck, the round Kula provided cold and dry storage and an elevated casting platform when I was brave enough to climb on top.

The Rackham’s AERO 38-inch width translates to incredible stability and a capacity up to 400 pounds—more than many kayaks we tested. The flat bottom sticks to the water with a raised nose slicing through waves.

Layering the air chambers sets the deck seven inches off the water. While the construction improves stiffness, it does catch the wind and barge through waves. At the same time, the splash guard kept the deck drier.

True to the company’s flats fishing roots, BOTE makes it possible to rig the Rackham AERO with a push pole or even Power-Pole Micro anchor

Despite the size, the board handles easily. A single large fin and two smaller fins in the tail kept the board tracking straight. Remove the center fit to take the board super shallow or insert it to improve tracking on a longer haul. Removing the fin also helps with transport and storage; one less thing to get in the way.

The deck of the AERO is peppered with attachment points and tie-downs. Deck straps on each side of center line were convenient for storing the paddle and rods on the way to the water. Square, plastic mounting bases accept a wide variety of rod holders and accessories plus serve as attachments for the Tackle Rac.

True to the company’s flats fishing roots, BOTE makes it possible to rig the Rackham AERO with a push pole or even Power-Pole Micro anchor.

Photo: Ric Burnley
Bungees and tie downs allow me to customize the board to my needs. The Tackle Rac holds rods so I don’t have to bend over between casting and paddling. BOTE’s Kula cooler holds gear or ice without robbing deck space. |Photo: Ric Burnley

Best of all, the accessories and Tackle Rac fit into the travel bag. I could see packing the Rackham to an exotic backcountry fishing hole, but I’ll mostly fish the board close to home. It’s a perfect companion on family trips where I can sneak away for a few minutes of fishing.

When I returned home from my maiden voyage on the Rackham AREO, my neighbor stopped at her mailbox to wave and say, “Nice board!” She’s seen me drag every make and model of board and boat across my driveway for years, but this BOTE board is the first time she’s come over to take a look. Before I could get the board into the yard, the recently retired teacher asked to borrow it. “I’d like to get into SUP fishing,” she said.