About 71 percent of the world is covered with water. Here’s a great way to get out and explore it! SUPs are fun, efficient, and easy to use, but buying a paddle board can be complicated. There are so many choices. There are inflatable boards, river boards, race boards, surf boards and everything in between. I’ve tried dozens of boards, and found the Boardworks Kraken to be everything I need and more.
Carlsbad, CA-based Boardworks started out as a windsurfing brand in the early 1990s and quickly gained fame for its excellent construction and unbeatable durability. By the millennium, the company started focusing on surf, and eventually segued into Stand Up Paddle Boards. The quality construction hasn’t changed—I’ve paddled the Kraken for more than 100 miles of lake and rivers, and except for the occasional ding from accidentally bumping into submerged rocks (one that grabbed the rudder and propelled me headfirst into an unexpected nosedive), the board can take a beating.
You’ll immediately notice the Kraken’s weight—or lack of it. While most rigid paddle boards (this one is made of a dual-density EPS core that’s sandwiched between layers of epoxy) of this length are too heavy for me to single-handedly lift onto the roof of my SUV, the Kraken’s 28 pounds is quite manageable. I can tote it from the car to the river, and carry it around dicey portages without complaint. Sometimes I balance it on my head, Hawaiian surfer style, but it’s easy enough to pick up with one hand and cradle it next to my hip for support. There’s a nifty carry handle on the deck that doubles as a secure attachment point for locking up your board when you leave it on your car or by the river.
The Kraken is one of the most versatile boards I’ve ever paddled. It’s ideal for downwinders on the mighty Columbia River, or for paddling the Deschutes (OR). I’ve explored dozens of lakes with the board and no matter how fast I’m going, or how silly I’m being messing around my dog, the Kraken provides an unfailing platform for exploration and fitness. So far, after a spring and summer of intensive testing, I haven’t found a situation where the board doesn’t exceed my performance expectations.
Stability is surprisingly good for a board this narrow. The wide point of the board is moved back to increase stability. The sleek design at first seemed like it would be tippy in unpredictable currents and waves, but the only time I lost my balance was playing on tricky surf on the Oregon coast. The board is long and narrow (only 29.5-inches wide)–a bit wider than many racing SUPs–but the pointy tip and square tail let it cut through the water like a knife through butter.
The Kraken handled beautifully on glassy lakes as well as in small rapids and rolling swells. The extra length lets it glide easier than a shorter board—and turns are surprisingly quick. One of my favorite spots on my local river is under a long set of rapids. I can head upstream to the choppy water, execute quick turns, and shoot downstream with the current. Maneuverability is not an issue—the board turns on a dime and the rails let you move from side to side to adjust your balance to the conditions. The fit is more forward than some of the other boards I’ve ridden—it makes for faster buoy (pivot) turns. A single fin keeps the board tracking straight without reducing speed. My husband, who is also an avid paddler, has two speeds—stop and go. I’m able to keep up due to the Kraken’s sleek profile, cleverly designed displacement hull and relatively thick rails (the deck is slightly recessed) that deflect rough water.
The first thing I noticed was the excellent speed and maneuverability. Being relatively small (5’ 6”) I liked the narrow cut—my strokes were efficient and I didn’t have to lean out or twist unnaturally like on wider boards. It’s not quite as fast as some of the race-specific SUP’s, but plenty speedy for recreational races, fitness paddles (where you go all-out for an hour or so), and downwinders. The low profile keeps it from blowing around in gusty conditions that would send inflatable boards spinning like dandelion seeds.
In addition to the excellent stability, speed and easy handling, the board has plenty of features that really make a difference when you’re out on the water. The deck is has a textured EVA pad that is soft, comfortable and grippy. There’s also a leash attachment point in the stern drain plug so you can stay connected to the board in stiff current and choppy water. The bungee-cord tie-down points on the nose come in handy when you’re bringing along a pair of sandals or picnic lunch. I just pack a small rucksack and stuff it under the bungie cords—in sketchy conditions I bring along a carabiner for extra security.
Hands down the board is a top-performer, but you’re probably wondering how it looks. Beautiful is the only word that comes to mind. The deck is an eye-catching wood veneer with wave-like graphics. Don’t worry about where you’ll store this board—you’ll want to hang it on your wall as artwork when you’re not out paddling.
The Boardworks Kraken stand up paddle board retails for $1200-$1350 depending on length and is available now.