We’re stoked to kick-off our stand up paddleboard reviews with the inflatable Sevylor Willow Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP). As it turns out, paddleboarding is a great way to get in shape for ski touring season. It’s an excellent balance and upper body work-out. And it’s a great way to travel on water.
Sevylor is one of the Coleman family of companies so you know they’ve been around the block. What they may lack in cutting-edge paddleboard design, they easily make up for in knowledge of inflatables. In fact, not only does Sevylor make SUPs, they also sell: kayaks, canoes, lake floats, boats, towables and more. And all of them are inflatable.
The Sevylor Willow board is listed as an all-around/multi-purpose model. In other words, it’s suitable for touring and fitness but it’d also do the trick on small waves, and mild white water. Heck, if you’re keen, you could even do yoga on the thing. For the summer 2015 season, Sevylor featured nine other boards—from the super sexy Cimarron Signature in the touring/racing category, to the aptly named, basic “SUP” model. There are more Sevylor models coming out all the time—like a couple new, river-specific boards—so be sure to poke around if you are ready to buy.
There are a couple fundamental questions you need to ask yourself before getting into the sport (yes, I am an admitted newbie). All of Sevylor SUPs are inflatable so, guess what your first question should be: do I want an inflatable SUP? There are advantages and disadvantages to these blow-up version. I can only speak for the Willow because I have yet to try other inflatables. I’d say that inflatables, like the Willow, offer two key benefits over their rigid brethren. They’re portable and they’re bombproof. It sounds unlikely that you can actually roll this thing up, put it in the included bag and go on your merry way—but you can; just look at the video below. It’s big enough that I wouldn’t recommend a massive hike with it on, but you can easily carry it on your back for an hour or so. No probs. People around here in the Kootenays are starting to run SUP trips linking up alpine lakes with some “portages” in between. You can also roll it up and chuck it in your car (if you have one).
And now, let’s look at some pictures of particulars: The Willow comes with various essential accessories that many other manufacturer make you pay for. The high pressure pump, the leash and the pack all come with. Some companies offer these as add-ons that can total up to 100$ and more.
The valve on the front of the board accommodates the hose pump with a locking motion. Cool.
A bungee strap and eyelets on the board’s bow are great for bringing along a bag for a towel, snack or whatever. For one of my more ambitious sessions, I loaded up all my gear for an overnight camp and paddled across our local lake.
Three-skeg design on the Willow. The biggest, middle one comes off to allow for a simpler roll up and packing of the board.
Here’s the D-ring on the stern for the leash—handy in fast moving water.
Here’s the robust carrying handle. Check out the EVA grip pad that runs the length of most of the board. It makes for a good grip that also provides some cushioning.
Here’s a shot of the full board. 10’6” of fun.
- Reinforced drop-stitch technology
- EVA footpad
- High pressure single-interface valve
- 2-plus-1 skeg arrangement
- D-rings with storage bungee
- Carry handle
- Board leash attachment D-ring
- Carry bag, hand pump, pressure gauge and board leash all included
Like for so many things, a fair judgement has to include an appreciation for a product’s intended usage. The Sevylor Willow paddleboard is a “multi-purpose” board so it works well in a number of different conditions. Because I am relatively new to paddleboarding, the Willow is perfect for me. I imagine, though, as I get more and more comfortable with it, I’ll consider looking for something a little longer, and perhaps with a displacement hull that’ll cut through the water a little better. I found the Willow was great for beating around Kootenay Lake—especially for someone just starting out with the sport. I’ve taken it out for short hour-long paddles, extended, multi-hour sessions, a trip on the Pacific and even a fishing trip.
The inflatable aspect is a bonus for travel, certainly. It’s also great if you want to poke into a creek mouth or beach the board. No worries about scratching any carbon fibre hotrod. The downside is that it is less rigid than a rigid board. I pumped it up to the recommended 12 lbs PSI and, even with the drop stitch technology, the SUP still “bowed” a bit underfoot. As you can see in some of the pictures, there’s a bit of a dip under where I am standing, causing the bow and stern to be slightly elevated. This isn’t a big factor for short recreational missions but for longer days, it’d probably be a factor. You’re not taking advantage of the board design if it’s flexing and not flat-bottomed where it should be.
From what I can gather, paddleboarding in virtually any kind of heavy weather is a challenge. I did a lake crossing recently with whitecaps and didn’t have any trouble. In sailing terms, I was on a reach. From my experience, paddling directly into the wind seemed the trickiest on the Willow. As far as tracking goes, I find that if I get into a steady rhythm of three or-so strokes a side, I can keep the board heading pretty straight. Some paddle boarders apparently use a J stroke but I had little-to-no success with my attempts.
I got a paddle (also from Sevylor) with the Willow. I’m thinking it must be for wave riding (it’s called the Maui) because the blade is super big. The paddle was a little heavy too so I splurged and picked up an Accent Octane adjustable. Paddleboarding, at first, looked a little silly to me—then I tried it. I have literally been out on my board for four of the last seven days. The Sevylor Willow has provided me with an excellent intro to paddleboarding. I highly recommend it.
Here I am heading across the lake for an overnight camping session.
Price: $1099 CAN
Size: 10’6” x 32” x 4”
Weight: 9.5kg / 21lbs
Volume: 198 L
Max Load: 93kg / 205lbs
Rocker: 5.8cm / 2.3”
Quality / Price 2/2
Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in below and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.