Review: 2019 Atcha 96

I enjoy standup paddling down rivers on my Hala Straight-Up. I’ve done mostly Class II, some Class III rapids, and it’s a lot of fun. I bought the Straight-Up four years ago because it’s a good all around board which would be a good starting point for novice paddlers such as myself. Now that I’ve gained more experience and confidence, I begun looking to upgrade to a board specifically designed for whitewater to step-up my whitewater skills. I’ve always admired Hala’s gear as they continue to innovate and feel good about supporting a local Colorado brand. I recently had an opportunity to demo their River Series Hala Atcha 96 (also available in 8’6”) and see how my developing skills translated to a more technical SUP.

My first run on the Atcha 96 was in Hala’s backyard on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The flow was running over 1700 cfs which is a good flow for the Yampa. I was doing the City Run which is just over three miles putting in at Fetcher Park. The first thing I noticed about the Atcha 96 was how maneuverable it was compared to my Straight-Up. The Atcha has a pronounced nose rocker which is ideal for whitewater because it allows the paddler to more easily handle the rapids by keeping the nose up out of the water as you go through the wavetrain.  It’s wide base of 36” (91cm) is also advantageous for whitewater because it allows the paddler to maintain stability when taking on the bigger, gnarlier waves.

With the flow over 1700 cfs, fin strikes were not a concern. Later in the season when flows are low, fin strikes can be an issue, however. The Atcha combats the latter phenomenon with its Stompbox retractable fin, which is fully integrated into the SUP’s fin box. When the fin hits a rock or other debris in the water, it simply pops back up into the fin box. This is the type of innovative feature we’ve come to expect from Hala as they continue to be on the cutting edge of inflatable paddleboard design.

As I moved downriver, I played around with the board to see what it could do. Getting into the small eddies was smooth and with the wide base made surfing the eddies playful! I navigated A-hole and B-hole no sweat; then I came up to C-hole and got to test the side handles on the Atcha! These handles are placed roughly 12 inches (30cm) in front of the center handle along the sides of the board for easy access if one were to fall off their board and need to grab it. After eating it on C-hole I reach out for the board and used the side handles to pull the board toward me so I could jump back on and tackle D-hole!

The board comes in a well designed suitcase/backpack which contains the board and pump. The backpack has a couple pockets to store fins and other essentials. The pack has wheels so you can easily roll it to where you need to go. For the more adventurous types, use the backpack straps so you can hike up to an alpine lake, and paddle in the beautiful landscape. The Atcha River series is made with Core Constructiontm  (double layer drop-stitch) so it’s ready to take a beating and keep on ticking!

Specs for Hala Atacha 96

  • 9’6” long x 36” wide x 6” thick (290cm x 91cm x 15cm)
  • 335L volume
  • Patent pending Stompboxtm retractable fin built in
  • Four removable gummy fins
  • Rolling backpack
  • Diamond groove deckpad
  • Multiple rigging points
  • Two cloth side handles
  • Full Rocker nose

Best Use: Hala Atcha 96

The Hala Atcha 96 is a great whitewater board because it’s specifically designed for the river with its generous rocker and wide 36” base. For the casual paddler who’s thinking of trying whitewater, or if you’re looking to step-up your whitewater skills, Hala has you covered with the Hala Atcha 96!

Review published by Paddle Xaminer. 

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