Inflatables blow up: Less weight and bulk attract new customers to SUP

A recap of new SUPs we encountered at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

If it was “plastics” in the movie “The Graduate,” in today’s SUP world the future appears to be in inflatables, spurring a slew of new designs for inland use.

“There’s a definite trend now in paddleboards inland from the coastal areas,” said Corran Addison of Corran SUP. “This means we’re seeing boards finally move away from surf shapes and all-around shapes to displacement hulls that are more effective on flatwater.” Women, he added, continue to represent the fastest-growing demographic in the sport, resulting in lightweight, easy-to-use boards in the $1,400 range, where weight, aesthetics and comfort (i.e, non-chafing deck pads) trump price.

Hala enters its second year on the inflatable SUP front with the 26.5-pound Hala Atcha (MSRP $1,249), a 9-foot-long, 6-inch-wide offering that prioritizes stability. Billed as combining the stability of a creek boat with the agility of a play boat, Hala included a swallowtail for maneuverability, 35 inches of beam stability through the bow and unbreakable quad fins for control.

SUP_Hala_Atcha

Also joining the inflatable and women’s-specific SUP craze is NRS, which rolls out three new inflatable SUPs this year. The 9-foot, 6-inch Valencia (MSRP $1,100) is a women’s-specific, all-around board measuring 32 inches wide and 4 inches thick. The new Myra (MSRP $1,100) measures 10 feet, 6 inches with the same width and thickness for touring and yoga applications. It also unveils the Jester (MSRP $899) for kids and smaller paddlers, measuring 9-feet-by-30 inches-by-3 inches.

Longtime inflatable kayak and raft manufacturer Aire hops on the bandwagon with the CruzAire (MSRP $1,399), a 10-foot, 4-inch

SUP_OrangeCruz_Aire

inflatable SUP employing the company’s I-beam Airecell system instead of traditional drop-stitch technology. With a urethane-coated nylon bladder sized larger than the pocket, the result is a board that gets stiff with just 8 PSI versus the standard 13 PSI for drop-stitch boards.

Tahoe SUP enters the inflatable segment with its 22-pound, 11-foot-long, 31-inch-wide Alpine Explorer (MSRP $1,199), featuring its UNIsup technology — a center chamber — for rigidity and a dual 10-inch fin box for tracking. It all fits into an included pack with pump for flying or driving.

C4 Waterman, one of the originators of the inflatable trend, further solidifies its presence in the pump-up SUP realm with the FeatherCore Crossover (MSRP $1,299), a 10-foot, 10-inch semi-displacement hull offering with a stable 29.75-inch beam and 4.75-inch thickness for touring, small chop, downwinders, surfing and paddling upwind. Also new is the Rigid AirCore 12-foot, 6-inch iTrekker (MSRP $1,399) to go with all those other “i” prefaces bandied about today. Its 31-inch width and 6-inch thickness combine to form a beefy 290-liter platform with lots of flotation for hauling gear across a lake or down a river.

SUP_C4Waterman_FeatherCoreCrossover

Eschewing inflatable technology for hardshell construction, Corran Boards addresses versatility with its Infiltrator and Seal offerings. The 8-foot, 6-inch-by-28-inch Seal was designed for performance surf and nestles into the mothership Infiltrator, a 12-foot, 6-inch displacement board, allowing the user to paddle the coastline or out to reefs, and then anchor the board and surf the high-performance Seal. The Infiltrator, which accommodates a cooler, can be used as a stand-alone fishing or diving platform. For the river market, the company also debuts the 38-pound plastic Street Fighter (MSRP $789), a 9-foot, 3-inch river-specific board designed for creek paddling. “When it comes to river SUPing we’re all intermediates at best, so what’s more stable — a playboat or a creek boat?” said Addison, whose SUP comes with a built-in quick release harness and flip-rudder that won’t catch on rocks.

SUP_Corran_Infiltrator

--Eugene Buchanan 

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