By Grant Johnson
Peter Hall and his dog, Riva, gave the Hala Nass a test paddle on Fetcher Pond as soon as the new design arrived in Steamboat this spring. Photo by Jennie Lay.
By Jennie Lay
Steamboat Springs, CO - Gearing up for a casual paddle at Fetcher Pond, Peter Hall reveals that he spent six months surfing Australia before he moved to Steamboat Springs. Despite all that hang time, his first experience on a stand-up paddleboard, a.k.a. SUP, was on the Yampa River. A surfer turned river rat, Hall was hooked instantly.
But he quickly realized that existing SUPs lacked the stability or durability for optimal river exploration. His contemplation about better gear took on a distinctly Rocky Mountain perspective – SUPs and paddles for people who want to stand-up paddle, then sit and fish; surf whitewater; cruise rivers and even practice yoga on the water.
He began by re-imagining the SUP paddle. Instead of a standard single blade with a handle at the opposite end, he added a second fiberglass blade with a T-grip handle on its face. The carbon fiber shaft is fully adjustable. He calls it the Butterknife. “It’s for smoothing things out,” he laughs.
Then came the six-inch-thick inflatable SUPs. Being inflatable was key – better for travel (it rolls up into a backpack) and access to rivers, lightweight (26 pounds), impenetrable to rocks. He added virtually unbreakable fins and the option of a detachable kayak seat and foot bar to transform the SUP into a sit-on-top kayak. Minding the essentials, he designed a clip-on bag for the seat back that holds a five-pack and a sandwich.
Tall and charming with a shaggy chestnut mane and a Spanish degree from Middlebury College, Hall, 30, has learned a lot between SUP river trips. Since starting Hala Gear last year, he has learned to prototype, hire and fire manufacturers, market, wholesale and make a business plan. “It has been a crash course in business. I look at my notes from a year ago and I laugh. Now, it’s not so daunting,” he says.
It doesn’t hurt that he has a fine sense of humor and a name that lends itself to fun. He’s making four SUPs that satisfy almost everyone’s situation. The Hala Straight Up is his buoyant and stable, all-around SUP with full length traction (the ideal SUP yoga board). The Hala Big Time adds some girth to the Straight Up with 6” of extra length and 4” of width – and it works great with a wheelchair. The Hala Nass is for speed. The Hala Atcha is for whitewater with its swallow tail, wide nose and quad fin for speed, agility and tracking.
“These are all inland designs,” Hall says. “Most designs are surf shapes that they are bringing inland. We’re starting from what works here, on the rivers. There’s no duck diving these boards.”
New to SUP? Hall says stand on the board and rock it. Feel the level of stability and how it wants to get back to balance. Flat water is a good place to start. Paddle. Steamboat Paddleboard Adventures is now leading guided trips in Steamboat and Backdoor Sports rents them. Rent them on the Colorado River at Ranch del Rio.