Hala Carbon Straight Up Review
Cons: Expensive, doesn't include a paddle
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hala Carbon Straight Up is a 10-foot, 6-inch long x 36-inch wide x 6-inch thick paddle board with a carbon stringer running along both the top and bottom of the board. This unique construction provides excellent rigidity and feels surprisingly similar to a traditional rigid SUP model. As a previous Editors' Choice Award winner, this is an excellent all-around performer, but it gets beat out after some recent design updates have slightly shrunk its dimensions, making it less stable in rougher water than other models that we tested.
While the Carbon Straight Up is certainly stable in most conditions with its carbon-reinforced construction, squared-off tail, and three rear fins, we found that it struggles in rough and choppy water. Recent design changes have slightly narrowed some of its sidecut dimensions, and as one of the smallest and lightest boards in our lineup, it tends to get tossed around quite a bit when the wind picks up and the water gets choppy. While the board's enhanced rigidity allows for its impressive glide and maneuverability in calmer conditions, it also reduces its ability to absorb the choppy bumps and waves that many paddlers encounter. Other boards that are larger and a bit more flexible seem to absorb these impacts better.
With its smaller overall size and streamlined dimensions, this board is likely better suited for smaller and lighter paddlers, or more advanced paddlers who can keep control of the board in less than ideal conditions.
This metric is all about the distance that the board can cover per stroke of the paddle, and this model certainly excels in most conditions. The carbon-fiber stringers on both the top and bottom of the board give this model incredible rigidity and glide efficiency, meaning that very little paddling energy is lost to the board flexing or vibrating. Its pointed and slightly rockered front end glides through the water nicely in all but the roughest conditions. As the wind picks up and the water gets choppier, the board can get tossed around a bit, reducing paddling efficiency and making it difficult to keep tracking in a straight line.
Another key component that impacts glide performance that is not included with the Carbon Straight Up is a paddle. Most inflatable SUPs in our lineup include a paddle as part of the package at varying levels of quality. For such a rigid board, it would make sense to purchase a similarly rigid carbon fiber paddle, which could easily add another $200-$300 to your SUP package price.
Hala does a remarkable job of leveraging key design concepts to create a board that is highly agile. With a lightweight design with narrow shoulder angles and carbon fiber stringers that add to its rigidity, the Carbon Straight Up outperforms its competitors in its ability to turn with both forward or backward strokes. Each of the three fins is removable for versatility and customization.
While this is one of the most rigid inflatable boards that we've tested, keep in mind that it is designed as an all-around board and is not specifically meant for ocean or river surfing. Although most of the products in our lineup could be used for surfing, they won't perform as well as a traditional surfboard. The Hala does come with a built-in stomp pad for extra leverage and maneuverability.
Ease of Transport
For a board that performs in the water like a hardboard, the ease of transporting this model is remarkable. When rolled up, the board measures 32 inches tall x 18 inches x 12 inches deep, and fits snuggly into its pack, which has similar dimensions. The backpack has padded waist and chest straps that come in handy when moving across rugged terrain. If you were going to take this board as luggage on an airplane, the straps and waist belt can be tucked away, and there are additional grab handles and wheels for easy transport through an airport or parking lot.
All three of the Straight Up's fins detach and slip neatly into a pocket in the accompanying backpack. The two smaller side fins require a small included tool to tighten and loosen them, which is a bit inconvenient and adds an extra trinket that can easily get lost. Many other boards we tested have either permanently affixed side fins or quick-release tabs that click into place.
Ease of inflation
This product receives an above-average score in this metric thanks to its smaller overall volume. The included hand pump is nearly the exact same model as several other pumps in our lineup. Unique to the Carbon Straight Up, the inflation valve is all the way at the front of the board, while most other boards place it in the rear. This makes it easy to push all the air out of the board when deflating and stowing it away.
This is one of the most expensive models in our lineup and one of the more expensive inflatable SUPs on the market. While it definitely is constructed with high-quality materials, including the carbon-fiber stringers, it also noticeable comes without a paddle. Adding the extra $200-$300 to the package for a high-quality paddle, and this board isn't a very good value for most general users. Advanced paddlers who already have a paddle or are looking for one of the most rigid inflatable boards on the market will find this a better value. Hala also includes a 3-year warranty.
As one of the most rigid inflatable SUP boards out there, we were impressed with the glide performance and maneuverability of the Hala Carbon Straight Up. A high-performing board that would be best suited for smaller and lighter users or more advanced paddlers, this board's rigid and lightweight design allows it to get bounced around in choppy water more than bigger and heavier models. This model paddles well in most conditions but also comes with a pretty steep price tag.
— Nick Bruckbauer