The best in show from the inaugural Paddlesports Retailer convention
Words and photos by Aaron Black-Schmidt
The first annual Paddlesports Retailer trade show has just concluded in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. After a week spent talking with industry leaders and learning about the newest designs our industry has to offer, we’re pretty excited about the future. Here’s our roundup of the newest and most exciting boards we found on the water.
Every now and then a SUP company comes out with a design or technology that leaves us saying, “Yes! It’s about time!” That’s the way I felt about the new HD (hull displacement) Gatorshell board from BOTE. They figured out the correct-and top-secret-formula for adding an ABS plastic shell over standard epoxy layups.
It looks and feels just like epoxy, but the word is that the shell is six times more durable than standard boards. If you’re into fishing or other heavy board use (and abuse), then you need to check out the Gatorshell. These armored sleds weigh in at 35 pounds for the 10’6″ and 40 pounds for the 12-foot. Here’s the kicker-they are the same price point as epoxy.
Over the years this venerable Idaho-based river supply company has been carving out a respectable lineup of inflatables. We dig the new colors and designs but beneath the paint is an impressive array of features that anybody who spends time on the river can appreciate. Things like well-placed grab loops, D-rings and river specific fins.
We paddled the 9’2″ Quiver, their do-it-all downriver design. It comes as a twin fin, with both two- and four-inch fins included. This is the board that can tackle the class-3 wave train, peel into the eddy and slide into that standing wave. It looks like a confidence-boosting design to us-wide and stable with an upturned nose for bouncing out of holes. It also comes in a shorter length. For those looking for a more park and play shreddy surf design can check out the Whip models.
The bane of all inflatables has always been the sacrifice of rigidness for the ability to roll up the board. Hala has come up with a solution to this issue by adding a carbon fiber weave stringer on all of their new boards. We dig it; the design really gives the board a rigid structure.
It (almost) feels like you’re not even paddling an inflatable and we can’t wait to see how they fair in the whitewater. The only concern for some folks is this makes the boards heavier and a bit more expensive. Overall, a very good design feature.
Red Paddle Co.
Not to be outdone, Red Paddle Co. is also coming up with some innovative solutions to improve rigidity in their iSUPs. This is exemplified with their forward flex control system on the Elite 12’6″ and 14-foot models that focus less on river running and more towards flat water racing. It utilizes a carbon rod that mounts from the nose to the mid-point on the deck.
It does a great job of adding stiffness to the board and is fully adjustable and breakdown compatible. This is the next iteration of their Rail Stabilization System, which employs carbon rods inserted into sleeves along the rails. The RSS now comes standard on all Red Paddle Co. boards.
Starboard has long held a reputation for making fast raceboards and progressive surf designs. Now they have taken these popular design features and inserted them into their new Takini lineup.
These boards are marketed towards entry-level paddlers looking for a fun board to grow into. This is accomplished through the v-hull design which adds speed potential without sacrificing any stability. The Takini comes in three color layups and also features a built-in carry strap.
I felt it did paddle faster than a more normal longboard design. However, the word is still out on the surf ability-the v-hull leaves me wondering.
The Pono from C4 is a great option for multiple open water speed disciplines. It’s really stable and has a low center of gravity, due in part to the minor recessed hull and dugout design.
While it might not be your first choice for winning races, it’s a great board for training and general fitness. We also see lots of downwind potential here with its moderate rocker. Our only gripe is that due to the recessed deck, water tends to pool at your feet.
With Boardworks’ recent licensing acquisition of Rogue, we can continue to expect a series of elite boards from Rogue. Newest to the scene is the All-in, a 14-foot dugout open ocean race board.
The All-in prototype seen here was raced by Boardworks ambassador Andrew Mencinsky in the 2017 M2O. The Rogue production model will feature additional scuppers and minor hull refinements.
“Having never paddled a dugout style race board before, it was eye-opening,” Mencinsky said. “I really feel the style will have a larger place in all conditions, from choppy windy waves to flat water. It’s a very cool advancement and performs well against more regular boards. ”