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Surftech/prAna Catalyst Tuflite VT Review

If you are looking for the best of the best when it comes to stand up paddle boards, it’s hard to go wrong with the Catalyst
Surftech/prAna Catalyst Tuflite VT
Photo: Surftech
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $1,430 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Fast, stylish, stable
Cons:  Pricey, felt a little more fragile than other models
Manufacturer:   Surftech
By Marissa Fox ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 6, 2019
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 8
  • Glide Performance - 35% 8
  • Stability - 25% 7
  • Maneuverability - 15% 8
  • Ease of Transport - 15% 5
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

Meriting one of the top scores we have seen to date, the Surftech/prAna Catalyst easily claimed the title of Best Overall SUP and earned an Editors' Choice Award. This board by Surftech offers almost unmatched glide performance and is highly maneuverable, all while being solidly stable — even in relatively rough and wavy conditions. It's got a superb aesthetic and just looks cool, but we did find this board to be a bit cumbersome to transport and we found it a bit prone to accumulating scratches and scuffs. All in all, it still is one of our absolute favorite boards that we have tested to date and we highly recommend it.

New Graphics
Since our test period, the Catalyst Tuflite VT was graced with some updated graphics, which are pictured above.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $1,430 List
Check Price at REI
$995 List$1,650 List
Check Price at REI
$1,649 List$437 List
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Pros Fast, stylish, stableRelatively inexpensive, lightweight, paddle includedStable, tons of capacity, glides fairly wellExcellent glide, several comfortable handles, stable for its shape, dual chamber pumpInexpensive, durable, stable
Cons Pricey, felt a little more fragile than other modelsSo-so maneuverability, could glide betterHeavy, maneuvers like a boatExpensive, not maneuverable, unstable for beginnersMediocre glide performance, extremely slow in choppy water
Bottom Line If you are looking for the best of the best when it comes to stand up paddle boards, it’s hard to go wrong with the CatalystIf you are shopping on a budget for an all-around SUP, we think the Versa is a very good choiceIf you want a stable platform for fishing or carrying cargo, this board is hard to beatA lightweight, high-performance design that is one of the fastest inflatable boards availableIf you are searching for a soild SUP on a skinny budget, then this board is a good choice
Rating Categories Surftech/prAna Cata... Isle Versa Rigid Pau Hana Endurance XL Red Paddle Co Voyag... Sun Dolphin Seaques...
Glide Performance (35%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
2.0
Stability (25%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
10.0
Maneuverability (15%)
8.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
5.0
Ease Of Transport (15%)
5.0
6.0
4.0
8.0
2.0
Durability (10%)
5.0
6.0
5.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Surftech/prAna Cata... Isle Versa Rigid Pau Hana Endurance XL Red Paddle Co Voyag... Sun Dolphin Seaques...
Measured Weight (pounds) 27 lbs 26 lbs 31.5 lbs 25 lbs 46 lbs
Board Volume (liters) 203 L 175 L 260 L 360 L Not listed
Weight Capacity 215 lbs 215 lbs Beg: 237 lbs, Int: 327 lbs, Adv: 417 lbs 330 lbs 250 lbs
Width (inches) 32.5 in 32 in 30 in 30 in 33 in
Length (feet) 11 ft, 2 in 10 ft, 5 in 12 ft 13 ft, 2 in 10 ft
Thickness (inches) 4.8 in 4.5 in 6.5 in 6.0 in 6.0 in
Fin Configuration Single Single Single Single Single
Bungee Cargo System Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

Surftech designed this SUP in conjunction with legendary board designer Joe Bark and prAna. It's great for cruising and touring on flat water, as well as surfing, according to Surftech. We also liked that Surftech has made this SUP in a more eco-friendly way, partnering with Sustainable Surf's Ecoboard initiative and using bio-based resins and foam to reduce the use of petrochemical-based products. Additionally, the collaboration with prAna also means that this board matches their swimwear collection, so you can be totally stylish while you SUP.

Performance Comparison


The Catalyst has tons of glide, making paddling feel effortless...
The Catalyst has tons of glide, making paddling feel effortless compared to many of the other boards in the group.
Photo: David Wise

Glide Performance


The most important set of tests for each board in our review dealt with how well each stand up paddle board glides and how fast they are. To assess this, we looked at both how fast the board is in flat and choppy conditions, as well as how much it glides per paddle stroke. These tests account for 35% of the final score for each SUP, with the Surftech Catalyst standing out with its phenomenal gliding ability.


The Catalyst feels exceptionally light on the water and is supremely speedy. It accelerates quickly and has tons of pickup, allowing you to reach top speed from a standstill without a ton of work. This board easily outpaced other boards in direct side-by-side tests with very little effort exerted by the paddler.

The Catalyst might not be able to match a dedicated race board in...
The Catalyst might not be able to match a dedicated race board in terms of speed, but it is far faster than its length would suggest.
Photo: David Wise

This board also fares quite well even if the water is a little on the wavy side. It easily slices through waves when it hits them head-on and you can tell that it wants to surf when the waves are behind you, but we did find that a broadside wave can pretty effectively kill your speed as the Catalyst rocks considerably.

This board gets a ton of distance per paddle stroke and makes you feel extremely efficient while paddling. We also found that it was less fatiguing to paddle this board from Surftech around and we were more than happy to grab this one for endurance paddling sessions.

Stability


Following the glide performance of the Surftech Catalyst, we moved on to rating and ranking its stability. To do this, we paddled the Catalyst in the worst conditions we could, getting hit with wind, waves, and boat wakes in the process — and a few unexpected swims as well. We also had relatively novice paddlers try out each board to get their opinions and loaded them up with cargo to see how they handled the extra load. In total, these evaluations account for 25% of the overall score for the Catalyst.


This board handles choppy water surprisingly well, almost matching the performance of much larger and wider boards, but not quite. It can get a little dicey in larger waves or if you aren't moving. This is especially noticeable if you are just floating and catch a boat wake or wave broadside, which can definitely end with you in the water if you aren't paying attention — something we can attest to.

You definitely notice a drop in stability when you aren't paddling...
You definitely notice a drop in stability when you aren't paddling the Catalyst.
Photo: David Wise

While intermediate and advanced beginners found the Catalyst to be rock solid, novice paddlers did find it a bit shakier than some of the larger boards, especially when standing up or adjusting their foot position. We also found the Catalyst rocked and moved a bit more in waves than the flatter expedition or beginner boards, so it does test a beginner's balance just a bit more than other models.

This board has a cargo net in the fore section but only has a weight capacity of around 215 pounds, so you can't really load it up with gear compared to other products. However, we did find it to still be plenty stable with a small soft cooler or dry bag strapped to the front.

This is about the maximum amount of cargo we could put on the...
This is about the maximum amount of cargo we could put on the Catalyst before we noticed an impact on its stability.
Photo: David Wise

We also wouldn't recommend the Catalyst if you are looking for a board with the hope of bringing your dog along, as their claws will most likely scratch up the surface and may even push you over the board's weight limit.

Maneuverability


Next, we rated and compared how agile and maneuverable each stand up paddleboard is, which constitutes 15% of its final score. In this metric, we looked at how quickly and easily you can turn each board to avoid an obstacle and the total amount of time and space it took to execute a complete U-turn. The Surftech Catalyst continued its dominating performance.


The Catalyst relies on a single fin configuration and is overall one of the more maneuverable boards that we have seen so far. It turns very quickly, allowing you to nimbly steer this stand up paddle board around obstacles without hitting them.

This board also has a relatively small turning radius for its length, allowing you to negotiate narrower channels or marinas with ease, where other boards would have you doing plenty of three-point turns in the same area if you needed to turn around.

The Catalyst is exceptionally nimble and light on the water, with a...
The Catalyst is exceptionally nimble and light on the water, with a fairly small turning radius.
Photo: David Wise

Ease of Transport


Following our trip of in-water testing metrics, we moved on to rating and scoring how easy it is to transport the Catalyst to and from the water. In this metric, we compared how balanced the board felt to carry, the handle type and its comfort, its weight, and the difficulty involved to load it on a car. These combine to constitute 15% of the Surftech's overall score.


This SUP has an internal recessed handle in the center of the board, as well as a padded soft handle at the back of the board. It feels surprisingly light for its length, weighing in at 27 pounds — which is about average for the boards in our review.


The Catalyst felt fairly easy to carry across short stretches by yourself; it is very well balanced and isn't overly cumbersome or fatiguing to hold.

This board is balanced well and reasonably easy to carry around...
This board is balanced well and reasonably easy to carry around without assistance.
Photo: David Wise

However, we did usually want a second person around for some help loading it on the roof racks on a car. It wouldn't be too difficult to do it solo but it is a lot easier to keep the board from getting scratched or scuffed with a second person around.

Durability


This leads us to our final metric — durability — which accounts for the residual 10% of the Catalyst's score. While it is difficult to comment on the overall durability of the Surftech Catalyst as we only reviewed a single board, we did compare the number of scratches and scrapes it sustained in our testing process against other boards to determine scores. The Catalyst was about average.


This board didn't have any major damages but there were definitely scratches and scuffs evident anytime we were careless with this board.

Unfortunately, the Catalyst seems to be a little more delicate than...
Unfortunately, the Catalyst seems to be a little more delicate than some of the other boards and accumulates scratches and scuffs easily.
Photo: David Wise

Value


The Catalyst is one of the best SUPs you can get but it does come at a premium price, so it isn't the best value option.

Conclusion


Overall, we would highly recommend the Surftech/prAna Catalyst to almost anyone. It is a great board for anyone who truly wants the best. It did well across the entirety of our tests but its price tag might prevent some beginners from purchasing it. Advanced paddlers will enjoy its speed and maneuverability while beginners will benefit from its solid stability and paddling efficiency. It's a great board that is one of our all-time favorites and shouldn't disappoint.

Marissa Fox