ANOTHER GREAT INFLATABLE STAND UP PADDLE BOARD (SUP)
BY CKS SUP SQUAD MEMBER ANDY O’BRIEN
Being a paddler mainly dedicated to non-inflatable/rigid stand up paddle boards, I was a bit hesitant starting out my first paddle on the ATCHA by HALA. This rig stands out right off the bat due to its unique shape and dimensions. It’s 9’x35”x6”, with very little rocker in the nose and a short, steep rocker in the tail. Also the nose is blunt and the tail is a swallow shape. It’s offered as a whitewater/surfer, so the lack of nose rocker and pintail seems out of place for this application. Once on this board though, I was VERY pleasantly surprised.
I first used it on the Yampa River in class II rapids running through natural and built play holes/waves. What you instantly feel with this shape is stability. Personally, at 5’10” 170lbs, 4” thick inflatables have never excited me. They are too noodley. The ATCHA’s 6” is the opposite of that. With that stability you also get a variety of stance options. I would also attribute this to the blunt nose and swallowtail. When standing hard left or right, you feel ability to ‘ride the rails’, or a secondary balance. What this translates to, is an increased ability to catch eddies; even at speed. For tougher water this is an absolute must. With stability though, most assume lack of maneuverability, not so. This is where the tail rocker comes into play. The steep rise and built-in stomp pad make pivot turning this board a dream. This suits my style of paddling that I’m used to with rigid boards. Here’s the breakdown;
- FIRST AND FOREMOST…STABILITY. It’s 35” width is several inches wider that most whitewater designs and much wider than surfers. A blunt nose narrowing back to a pintail adds an outer balancing range. Catching eddies, in control, has never been more straightforward.
- EXTREMELY TIGHT TURN RADIUS. The widest point in the front with a narrower tail makes for super effective pivot turns. When standing on the stomp pad, the width of the nose is out of the water creating way less resistance. The result is crazy quick 180 or 360 turns.
- SMALL SIZE LENGTHWISE. Due to this, the river gets less torque on the board. That means less ‘bucking’ of the paddler. Ups and downs of wave trains are a blast instead of being taxing.
- D RINGS EVERYWHERE! Strapping gear, leashes, or hauling to get unpinned is super casual with the sheer amount of places you can clip or tie into this bad boy. There are also two true handles on the front and back, just like you’d find on a raft. – a rad added bonus when hauling it into odd/difficult places.
- UNBREAKABLE QUAD FINS. Straight up, these fins will not break.
- The fins aren’t removable. For most, this is a moot point. For those of you running shallow water and running drops, this becomes a problem. However, unbreakable doesn’t mean uncuttable though.
- If pure surfing is what you’re after, you would like a bit more nose rocker. With the way some river waves form steep, a bit more clearance up front would fight pearling.
All and all, I’ve been super impressed with the design of the HALA ATCHA. Personally, my only wish would be removable fins. That being said, I’ve yet to see that system dialed. Many other manufactures offer the option, only to have those fin ‘boxes’ explode many times while running sans fin. Separate boards with cutoff fins still are king for that specific use. At the end of the day I’ve never been this stoked on an inflatable board. With the current trends of whitewater SUPing, HALA and their designs are on top of the game. The manufacture used the analogy “it’s a play boat in a world of creek boats.” For us non-boaters, “it’s a park ski in a world of big mountain riding.”