Gear Review: Hala Rado Inflatable SUP

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Hala Rado, PaddleXaminer, Blue River

Back in late August, PaddleXaminer met up with Jeremiah from Hala to paddle the Blue River for the first time. The Blue, as the locals call it, runs right through Breckenridge and Silverthorne, Colorado as it cuts it way north before flowing into the Colorado river near Kremmling. The sections through town are generally not paddled by paddleboarders. The best section of The Blue to paddleboard is just after Green Mountain Reservoir which the American Whitewater Association rates class III and just is around four miles long. It cuts through a tall canyon for a couple miles which is a gorgeous setting for a paddle.

As we approached the put-in location, there were two paddlers prepping their gear. When we got closer Jeremiah recognized one of them as Jack who also works at Hala. He was on his day off and came down to paddle, so we formed a posse of four going down the Blue!

I topped off the air in my Hala Rado and we made our way down the hill to the put-in. Getting to the put-in was a bit tricky because it’s a steep hill (no boat access), but Jack had a tip to follow the fence line then use the stairs. This way you get an extra quarter mile on the river versus what we were initially thinking. Once on the river I couldn’t help but look around at the towering canyon walls jutting skyward for several stories on either side of the river.

The four of us set off with me in the rear because this was my first run on the Blue;  I wanted to let the more experienced paddlers go first. I kept looking up at the canyon walls saying out loud, “man I wish I had brought my Go-Pro”, bam! I bumped into a rock and fell in the water. Time to focus on paddling.

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Hala Rado, PaddleXaminer, Blue River
Map showing the route of the Blue River in Colorado.

The Hala Rado performed well on the Blue. The flow was around 880 CFS which is not the best flow for the river but definitely runnable. You had to be extra vigilant about picking your line with the lower flow. Multiple times I felt the fin pop up into the Stompboxtm, my favorite feature of the Rado! 

Our posse continued on down the river picking our lines carefully. I was feeling confident on my Rado, punching through the waves and letting the river rocker do the work. It was a lot of fun.

Somehow I ended up in the lead, continuing to pick my lines, with a few tips from Jeremiah. Suddenly I heard a loud whistle, I glanced back and Jeremiah was motioning for me to pull off to the side. When he caught up, he let me know “The Wall” is coming up around the corner and it would probably be best if he took the lead so I could follow his line. Makes sense to me!

I let Jeremiah take the lead with me a safe distance behind him. As we turned the corner the name is very apt, high canyon walls, more noise and big rapids; by far the biggest we’d seen that day. You can always tell a big section is coming up because you typically hear it before you see it. I followed Jeremiah’s line and charged forward, riding the waves and punching through the holes. The water was moving fast so you had to act quickly. Twice I was pushed forward but caught myself on my board. I quickly got back up in my stance and kept paddling. Man what a rush!

After the paddle, we hung out for a while before parting ways, such a fun run!

All of Hala’s board come in a backcountry rolling backpack. The bag is handy for storing your board, especially if you don’t have a lot of storage space. The backpack the Rado comes in is a bit small in my opinion. Perhaps the board will fit better after I’ve broken it in more; but currently it takes some work to get the board to fit in the bag and zip it up. The backpack my new Rado came in has been redesigned compared to the bag included with the Hala Nass I purchased two years ago. The older design opened from the bottom and zipped up all the way around the outer edges of the bag. The newer design opens up more like a suitcase with the top of the bag flipping open. At first I liked the new design and how it opened up, but functionally I prefer the old design because it’s easier to get the board in and out of the bag.

[Update: November 7, 2019] Hala realized the bags do not quite fit the 2019 Rado. If you have one that doesn’t quite work out, send them a friendly note to request a new bag with a better fit and they will kindly send one out.

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