With a unique cut, the Gator is the stand-up paddle equivalent of a ‘57 Chevy, a boat with a lot of float that also inspires second looks. Attracted by the classic design and loads of extras, many of my friends and neighbors graciously offered to test it.
On windy, choppy days, the board sliced through the slop with enough ease that testers felt the need to brag about it to anyone behind them—read: me. “I’m almost putting it on plane,” my friend Chris yelled back after we took off from his dock for an afternoon paddle through James Island’s tidal creeks. If there’s a gripe, it doesn’t surf as easy as flat-bottomed touring boards, but that’s because it’s made for long, fast training runs.
The plumb bow and a pronounced waterline under the front third of the board cut through rougher conditions that moved other flat-bottomed boards around, allowing paddlers to stroke harder and keep a straight line. At 30 inches across and six inches deep, it can carry a big paddler and plenty of gear—up to 250 lbs. Bigger passengers might nitpick, as the side rails of the sunken swale cut off room that might otherwise be available for a wider stance. (YOLO said those side rails will be gone in next year’s model.)
The epoxy and carbon craft has plenty of bells—six leash plugs, a GoPro mount up front, and a GORETex self-breathing valve, and a LiftSUP retractable handle that makes carrying the 25-lb. plank easy. The real beauty of the board, though, shows in the water, where it can cut a line and leave little more than exclamations in its wake.