The New River Gorge SUP Race has become the epicenter of whitewater paddleboard racing in the Eastern US, but not because of a cash purse (there isn’t one!) or fantastical prizes. Instead, this race has ingrained itself in the hearts of a community that it has helped to grow since its inception in 2011. The setting itself could be attributed to the race’s popularity. The New River Gorge and Fayetteville, the adjoining mountain town, is a quintessential hub for adventure and natural beauty. Still, the underlying values and genuine love that race founder, Melanie Hames, puts into this event is the defining ingredient. The West Virginia SUP scene is filled with passionate people like her, and this event has drawn competitors from around the world that all want a piece of it.
The best craftsmanship isn’t always revealed at first glance. Like the guts of a fine watch or the engine of a Ferrari, it is hidden – unveiled only to those with an eye for beauty, a feel for refinement, and an appreciation for quality. True craftsmanship is an incentive for the inquisitive and the forged respect between builder and user…between craft and art.
ULI Boards is dedicated to handcrafting the best inflatable standup paddleboards and surfboards in the world. Our legacy extends back to the invention of the inflatable board and the persistent art of refining the process. There are no other boards on the planet like an ULI. “You can feel the difference as soon as you get on the boards,” is something we hear a lot. But what is behind the hidden craftsmanship that makes an ULI and ULI, and defines the “ULI Feel?” This article describes the science behind making the world’s finest inflatable standup paddleboards and surfboards.
To begin, ULI Boards are the only inflatable SUP boards that are made in the United States. Each board is crafted by hand in Vista, California, just north of San Diego. This positions ULI to stand alone in their ability to produce custom shapes and designs on demand. In this way, ULI perpetuates the legacy of traditional surfboard shaping through local sourcing and production, making it an option for inflatable boards. You can call ULI with a concept or visit the shop to create your own template. Your board will then be custom fabricated from scratch. In the same way, each of the refined shapes that have been designed by the ULI team are produced by hand once your order is placed.
Tech and Components
TriSeal Tech Rail Construction: TriSeal Tech Construction is our unique process that gives our boards superior strength and rigidity. By overlapping four layers of material, our seams have three one inch glue joints. This process enables an ULI to easily withstand 20-PSI while in turn increasing our durability, overall quality, and most importantly, the feel and experience ULI riders get on the water. An independent finite element analysis shows that an ULI board is up to 47% stiffer than our competitors.
Kevlar Tech Performance (KTP): Every ULI features a wide Kevlar strip to both the top and bottom of the board. KTP allows ULI Boards to create a ‘stringer’ for inflatables that locks in the board’s overall shape and rocker. The response, stability, power, and rigidity is noticeable as soon as you step foot on the board, and even more pronounced in the rigorous environments of surf, whitewater, or SUP Racing. These performance upgrades that KTP adds to every board is a vital piece of what makes an ULI an ULI.
Inflation and Pump Quality: Another aspect that defines ULI’s superior construction is the premium valve used in each board. The valves are rated far beyond the maximum inflation giving users confidence in this crucial component. The ULI valves combined with their premium drop-stitch and Tri-Seal Seams enable ULI Boards to be confidently and reliably inflated to the recommended 20 PSI.
Just as important as handling the 20PSI, however, is getting it there. ULI not only crafts their boards by hand in the USA, but also the hand-pumps that are included with every board. These pumps have been refined for years and are built to be incredibly reliable, durable, and capable of the high inflation capacity that make ULI’s performance possible.
Wiki Rails: ULI’s patented Wiki Rail system creates a hard-edge through the stern section of the board that reduces drag and increases stability. The result is a faster board that is substantially more maneuverable. Whether you are negotiating rapids, riding waves, or racing your board in flat water, the WikiRail will greatly enhance your experience and performance.
The WikiRail has been attributed as one of the defining advantages in ULI’s championship wins including the Payette River Games, Colorado SUP Championships, the GoPro Games, the New River Gorge Whitewater Race, and others. ULI Boards with Wiki Rails are some of the fastest and highest performing standup paddleboards on the planet.
Lastly, ULI Boards has been making SUP Boards for longer than anyone. ULI founder, Jim Weir, invented the inflatable surfboard in 2003 and started making SUP Boards shortly after. ULI is completely focused and dedicated to the highest quality inflatable boards. We do not make anything in the San Diego manufacturing facility except inflatable SUP and surf boards. These reasons ensure that ULI Boards is on the cutting-edge of inflatable technology and craftsmanship and continues to produce the world’s finest inflatable standup paddleboards and surfboards.
Adding SUP events to the roster at whitewater festivals has been like putting the hawk-eye line challenge to use at Wimbledon. The sport is steeped in tradition and can prove stubborn to fuse modern relevancy with classic elements. Fibark, however, which dubs itself as “America’s Oldest and Boldest Whitewater Festival,” has managed this challenge with exceptional grace in its 68th year of existence. With the debut of the “Colorado SUP Championships” in 2016, Fibark has cemented paddleboarding as an integral component to the classic events that make the festival an icon of Colorado whitewater culture.
This year, athletes from around the world added the Colorado SUP Championships in Salida, Colorado to their whitewater race schedule. The event took place on the weekend after the internationally attended Go Pro Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. Just a 2-hour drive from Vail, Fibark was a natural addition to most competitors’ itinerary, especially since many had driven thousands of miles or flown in from countries as distant as Japan. The back-to-back events enabled travelers to string together two races with world-class competition in less than two-weeks.
ULI paddlers, Eric and Rebecca Giddens, were among those that migrated to both competitions from their hometown of Kernville, California – a 2000-mile round-trip. After impressive performances at the Payette River Games in 2015, the Kern River
Festival, and Go Pro Games in 2016, the Giddens were likely whale-sized blips on the radar of the Colorado locals and international athletes at Fibark.
Rebecca’s reign of 1rst place overall titles was challenged by serious competition in the women’s division. Cami Swan, who had edged out Giddens for individual victories at the Go Pro Games, was in attendance along with reputable paddlers such as Natali Zollinger and Nadia Almuti. If Rebecca was feeling any pressure though, she left it on dry land. She kept her string of overall titles alive with 1rst place victories in the SUP Cross and Downriver Events. Natali Zollinger and Nadia Almuti filled in the podium behind her.
Eric Giddens had a score to settle after his experiences at the Go Pro Mountain Games. Eric and Luke Hopkins were involved in the most controversial and contested moment of the event while battling for the final podium position of the SUP Cross. Hopkins was given the nod. At the Colorado SUP Championships, however, Luke was not in attendance and the rematch potential ensues. By taking 1st place in the SUP Cross and 4th in the downriver events, however, Eric was able to claim the podium position he was denied the week before at the Go Pro Games. His performance earned him 3rd overall with whitewater veteran Mike Tavares taking first, and Colorado local, Spencer Lacey, earning second.
Eric and Rebecca were both paddling the same 11-foot ULI Zettian Multisport inflatables that they’ve used in previous events.
Article by Ian Michal Smith.
A huge thanks to Deb Stipa of @debsactionphoto for providing amazing photography!
I exit the terminal of San Francisco airport frothing worse than a rabid raccoon, racing to get to the rental car station as quick as possible. In tow are my luggage, board bag, and cousin Adam who is straining to maintain my crazed pace. A work trip has brought us here, and ultimately to Half Moon Bay, and I convinced him to take the first flight out of Pittsburgh so that we (ok, I) can get a session in before dark. About 8-hours of flights and connections later it looks like it is going to happen. (more…)
In the advent of the Payette River Game’s, Colorado has stolen the focus of the whitewater SUP competitive domain – specifically, the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. The event attracts some of the top whitewater paddlers, as well as crossover athletes from ocean disciplines, from around the world. ULI Rider and 2015 PRG Champion, Rebecca Giddens, along with PRG podium finisher Eric Giddens were among the competitors that migrated to Vail this spring.
In the opening event of the competition, Rebecca’s reign over the women’s field continued. She placed first using her magic board, an 11-foot Zettian Multisport that she used to win both the 2015 PRG Championship (which commanded the largest cash purse in SUP history at the time) and the Kern River Festival Event earlier this year. In the subsequent events, Rebecca found competition with Camille Swan who took the victory in the SUP Cross. Rebecca’s Second Place, however, was enough to award her the 2016 GoPro Mountain Games Overall Women’s Title. (more…)
ZETTIAN JOURNAL: THE NEW RIVER DRIES
Surfing the New River Dries reminds me of a grueling gym workout – and it’s leg day. Fighting eddy fences, boils, a raging current and a bucking wave is just the beginning. After your inevitably spectacular dismount from the undulating mid-river squat machine, you are rifled downstream through haystacking wave trains and face a military march on your spent legs back to the launch spot for your next set. Regardless of the physical toll these fabled waves demand, catching an endless ride here can be life changing. Apparently MC Hammer once tried to take his jet ski through the waves in an attempt as climactic as his career.
Creating the best and most rugged whitewater boards demands inhospitable testing sites. This video follows ULI’s Zettian Whitewater Team and SUP the MAG to Maryland’s Swallow Falls.
ULI ZETTIAN SWEEPS THE FIRST AND SECOND PLACE POSITIONS IN ALL THREE SUP DISCIPLINES FOR MEN’S AND FIRST PLACE FOR WOMEN’S
The ULI Boards Zettian MultiSport continued its whitewater racing dominance at the Kern River Festival this weekend. In all three events including; downriver, slalom, and boarder cross, ULI riders swept the first and second place positions in Men’s Elite and first place in Women’s Elite divisions. Defending champion and former Olympian, Eric Giddens, faced off against fellow ULI Team Rider, Ian Smith, in a cutthroat battle in the downriver event. After several dramatic lead changes through rapids such as Big Daddy, Giddens edged ahead to take the win in the final stretch of the 3-mile race.
Great video of the Payette River Games Check out Team ULI athlete Eric Gidden’s buoy turn at 1:45.
Standup For The Cure is an excellent opportunity for families, friends and breast cancer survivors to raise funds to help save lives; it’s also a fun way to learn how to standup paddleboard, a water sport that originated in Hawaii. The purpose is to have a blast standup paddling (SUP) around Newport Beach, CA while […]