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.
The Catalyst is absolutely one of the best stand up paddle boards you can buy.
To pick which SUPs truly stand out from the rest, we spent a ton of time comparing all the most compelling and interesting boards currently on the market, then bought all the best to try out for ourselves. We subjected each SUP to a battery of tests grouped into five weighted testing categories, with the Catalyst's results in each outlined below.
The Catalyst has tons of glide, making paddling feel effortless compared to many of the other boards in the group.
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 earning an 8 out of 10 for 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 terms of speed, but it is far faster than its length would suggest.
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.
The Catalyst is plenty stable even for relatively inexperienced paddlers.
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, which earned a 7 out of 10 for its supreme stability.
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 the Catalyst.
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 lbs., 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 Catalyst before we noticed an impact on its stability.
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.
The Catalyst is exceptionally nimble and light on the water, with a fairly small turning radius.
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, earning an 8 out of 10.
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.
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, which earned a 5 out of 10.
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 lbs. — 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 without assistance.
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.
Unfortunately, the Catalyst seems to be a little more delicate than some of the other boards and accumulates scratches and scuffs easily.
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, meriting a 5 out of 10.
This board didn't have any major damages but there were definitely scratches and scuffs evident anytime we were careless with this board.
The Surftech/Prana Catalyst 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. This SUP is best for the paddling enthusiast — someone who is going to treat the Catalyst gently and use it on a regular enough basis to justify its price tag. It's great for long tours and casual paddles and did well in all sorts of conditions.
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.
Overall, we would highly recommend the Surftech/prAna Catalyst
to almost anyone. 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.