Hands-on Gear Review

Boardworks Raven Review

2018 Boardworks Raven
Price:  $1,500 List | $1,199.16 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Fast, glides very well
Cons:  Hard to move, very unstable
Bottom line:  This SUP is a great choice for experienced users that want to race or travel far and fast.
Editors' Rating:   
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Measured Weight:  28 lbs 14 oz
Board Volume:  269 L
Weight Capacity:  275 lbs
Manufacturer:   Boardworks

Our Verdict

This exceptionally fast board is great for touring and racing — a favorite of experienced paddlers. While it isn't the most stable or beginner friendly board out there, it's fast, tracks and glides well, and is reasonably agile. However, it's not for everyone and comes at a premium price. Those looking for a board for a casual day out would be better served by other models. Anyone wanting a high-performance model, look no further than the Raven.

2018 Product Update
Boardworks took the Raven and ran with it in 2018, see the updates below.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUPs) of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Marissa Fox

Last Updated:
Saturday
June 23, 2018

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2018 Raven Updates


The 2018 Raven, at left, and the 2017 version we tested, at right, are both single-fin, touring-oriented boards, and they are stunning. That's where the similarities end. The newer version is thinner and narrower with less volume.

2018 Boardworks Raven
Boardworks Raven 11' 6"

Boardworks advertises this new shape as faster than the 2017 board we tested. It's certainly a racier template, so we wouldn't be surprised. These changes also make an already tippy board even less stable. For this reason, the 2018 version is even less appropriate for beginners or casual paddlers than the version we tested. Experienced paddlers looking to optimize glide over all else may be stoked on the new Raven, which we link to in the Price box up top. See the spec changes below:

2017 | 2018
Width: 30 3/16" | 29 1/2"
Thickness: 6 15/16" | 6 1/2"

Volume: 290 L | 286 L

2017 Performance Comparison


The Boardworks Raven is an excellent, high-performing board that is ideal for touring and racing. While it isn't very stable and is far from a leisure craft, this is the perfect board for going far and fast.

Boardworks designed the Raven with touring in mind.
Boardworks designed the Raven with touring in mind.

To rank these products and award the winners, we devised five weighted testing metrics — Durability, Ease of Transport, Maneuverability, Stability, and Glide Performance — each with a handful of tests. Final scores ranged from 0-100, with the following sections elaborating on what the Raven did well and where it fell a little short.

The Raven glides well  but isn't the best at turning.
The Raven glides well, but isn't the best at turning.

Glide Performance


The most important metric of our test — Glide Performance — accounted for 35% of the final score for each board overall. We compared the speed and efficiency of each model through a time trial and a glide per paddle test, in both smooth and rough water conditions, with the Raven tying for the top score overall. You can see how this compared to the other boards in the group in the chart below.


In our flat water time trial test, the Raven received an average time of 66.88 seconds — just narrowly being upstaged by the Saber's 65.37 seconds. Both of these boards are exceptionally fast, earning the top score for this test. The same pattern continued when we repeated the time trial on choppy water, with the Raven's average time of 108.21 seconds — once again upstaged by the Saber by less than a second.

Continuing its remarkable performance in this metric, the Raven tied for the top spot with the Saber in our distance per paddle stroke test on flat water. The Raven took an average of 37.5 paddle strokes to cross our course, just one more than the Surftech Saber. However, both of these boards got upstaged in the rough water version of the test by the BIC. The BIC beat the Raven by about 2.5 paddle strokes on average, dropping the Raven to third place for this assessment. All in all, the Raven is a fast board that has excellent glide performance.

A few of our testers ended up in the water after discovering the Raven's lack of stability in waves.
A few of our testers ended up in the water after discovering the Raven's lack of stability in waves.

Stability


Moving on to our stability metric, the Raven didn't do particularly well. To evaluate this, we compared how each board did in rough water conditions, how it did at transporting cargo or additional passengers, and the opinion of novice paddlers when using this board.


The Raven handled well in rougher water when moving, but its stability drastically decreased when stationary — some of our more experienced paddlers learned this the hard way, taking an unexpected dip when a rogue wake came. This board is also narrower than many other boards, making it somewhat unsuitable for transporting additional passengers or significant cargo. In addition, this board wasn't the first choice for new paddlers, who much preferred boards like the Isle or BIC.

The Raven is above-average in terms of maneuverability -- a bit surprising for a touring board.
The Raven is above-average in terms of maneuverability -- a bit surprising for a touring board.

Maneuverability


To assess the maneuverability of each board, we conducted a time trial through a slalom obstacle course and measured the turning radius for each board when doing a U-turn. This set of tests comprised 15% of the overall score, with the Raven doing an overall above average job, earning a 6 out of 10.


The Raven did exceptionally well in our slalom course, putting up the fastest time of the entire group with 81.13 seconds. This offset the Raven's mediocre performance in the U-turn test. We attempted to complete a U-turn without back paddling in one of the small lakes that we tested in. While most other boards completed this task without too much difficulty, while the Raven only made half of this turn before running aground and forcing us to abort the test.

A second set of hands is usually necessary to load this board carefully enough to prevent damage to it.
A second set of hands is usually necessary to load this board carefully enough to prevent damage to it.

Ease of Transport


Next, we moved on to assessing the Ease of Transport of each board, which made up 10% of the total score. We based the scores for this metric on the ease of carrying and loading each board on a car, the ergonomics of the handle, and its weight. The Raven earned a 5 out of 10 for its ease of transport out of water, putting it right in the middle of the group, as shown below.


This model is relatively easy to carry, only proving slightly unwieldy due to its length.

The large size of the Raven made it cumbersome to carry.
The large size of the Raven made it cumbersome to carry.

This model has a pop-out handle — a nice addition, making it a little easier to maneuver and giving you some more flexibility when carrying compared to the standard, recessed pocket found on most boards. The Raven weighed in at 28 lbs, 14 oz. in our test, about average in our tests, as shown in the chart below.


This model was a little tricky to load on a car, primarily due to its length, and usually needed a second set of hands to be done easily.

The Raven did dent slightly when we strapped it down with insufficient padding.
The Raven did dent slightly when we strapped it down with insufficient padding.

Durability


For the fifth and final metric, we evaluated the durability of each board. This metric — accounting for the residual 10% of the final score — consisted of looking at user reviews for common issues and examining each product for damage sustained in the course of testing. The Raven scored a 6 out of 10 in this metric.


Combing through online comments, we didn't find any common issues or widespread problems. However, we found some pressure dents and deformation on the board when we conducted a survey, appearing to be from the crossbars when transporting the board. We padded the bars, so it would seem that the Raven is a little on the more delicate side.

Value


The Raven is a performance board at a premium price — not exactly a bargain pick.

Conclusion


The Boardworks Raven is long, fast, and glides well, making it a great option for experienced paddlers — especially those that are going to go race or tour. This board isn't terribly stable, making it a poor choice for beginners. However, for those that want excellent performance on a stand up paddle board, the Raven is a solid bet.

Marissa Fox

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Most recent review: June 23, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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