Norm Hann Reviews the Great Bear SUP by Boardworks

BOARDWORKS GREAT BEAR EXPEDITION SUP
Posted 07-24-15

 

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NORM’S REVIEW

“MAYBE THE BEST OCEAN TOURING BOARD ON THE MARKET”

One of my all time favourite ocean touring boards has been the Boardworks 12’6″ Raven so I was excited when I had the opportunity to work with Boardworks GM and designer Phil Rainey, to help design a new 14′ Great Bear Expedition board based off a similar platform as the award winning Raven. The Great Bear is the flagship touring board in the Boardworks Surf line up and it’s name sake is a place I have worked hard to try to protect and bring awareness to. I was honoured that Boardworks wanted collaborate on such a cool project that not only would result in a beautiful and competent ocean board but would also support my Standup4Greatbear Society and protection of our coastline.

West Coast Enbridge Trip- Bella Coola and Kitimat

Looking at the Raven platform our first goal was to make the Great Bear in a 12’6″ model and a 14′ model. My ultimate goal was to create a multi day touring board that I could carry all of my gear on for extended periods of time and one that I could safely use to tour on almost any water condition experienced on our coastline. I have always enjoyed big crossings and long days exploring the ocean and this board had to be able to handle itself in such environments.

Boardworks Team Captain Mike T with his Great Bear on Powell Lake

With the Raven as our template Phil and I discussed sleeking out the displacement hull while keeping it’s rocker profile. We adjusted the front attachment points and added attachments to the rear of the board to make it a legitimate touring board capable of carrying everything you need for an unsupported week on the water. We discussed a flat water shedding 3/4 deck and a slightly wider tail that would support additional weight. Graphic designer Gretchen Gamble, used coastal First Nation’s inspired artwork with a Tec V bamboo inlay to create an absolute masterpiece. With Phil’s design tweaks, Gretchen’s creativity and a few of my goals the Great Bear Expedition board was created.

Explorer and River Protector Gabriel Gray with his customized camo Great Bear
Testing
Howe Sound, B.C
I first had a chance to test this board on the stunning coastal waters of Howe Sound, right here in Squamish, B.C. I felt like a proud father when I first got the board and I was moved by how stunning the board looked in person. This is a big board with a lot of volume capable of carrying almost any paddler with loads of gear. It is heavier than your average 14′ board which speaks to its durable construction and ability to carry weight. The board is very stable in flatwater and for having a rocker profile built for the ocean it tracks well. There are other boards on the market that will track better and be faster in flatwater conditions but will find their limits on more challenging ocean conditions. I spend a lot of time downwinding in Howe Sound and the board was really stable catching waves. This stability is great for people who are just learning to downwind and are new to this aspect of the sport. In these conditions and due to the weight, the 14′ requires a stronger paddler to accelerate into the smaller, shorter wavelengths of the sound. The shorter and lighter 12’6″ Great Bear may be a better board for these types of conditions and for smaller paddlers. A new Sea to Sky Marine trail, the only marine trail as part of the Trans Canada trail, has recently opened with a number of designated campsites. I am excited spend a couple of nights checking out these new areas with the Great Bear and my son Kiel.
Overnighter with Kiel on Howe Sound

Dot loves her Great Bear! Howe Sound, B.C. pc: Chad Guenter

Nanaimo2Vancouver
Last year I had the opportunity to raise funds Rueben’s Shoes and to do a paddle with a great group of guys. Crossing from Nanaimo to Vancouver across the Straight of Georgia was a paddle that I had wanted to do for some time. It was a long crossing at 65 kms and it took us 12 hrs but I used the Great Bear which again provided great stability and decent efficiency for the crossing. Conditions did become challenging with strong headwinds and swell and I was happy to have the rock solid feel of the Great Bear under my feet. We had a support boat so I did not need to carry any gear which was nice.

Mid way through the Nanaimo to Vancouver crossing. pc: Eric Becks

West Coast Trail by SUP

The remote West Coast trail
This was the real test for the Great Bear that I had been waiting for. This was a goal that I had looked at in the last couple of seasons and I was excited by the opportunity to paddle this historic 75km life saving route with my partner Jen Segger. This section of coastline, known as the graveyard of the pacific, provided legitimate board testing along its rugged, exposed length. We paddled it unsupported so it meant carrying all of our own gear, a test the Great Bear had not been through yet but was built for. I came away from that expediton loving the Great Bear more than I had before. The board easily carried three days worth of gear and food and could have easily carried seven to ten days worth. We packed pretty light for the trip and had mostly freeze dried MEC meals but I would have no problem carrying a soft or hard cooler on the back of the board in waters that were not as potentially challenging as the west coast. Aside from easily carrying our gear the ocean performance of the board shone through once the strong westerlies picked up the afternoon. With the gear tied down nice and tight the board performed beautifully in the downwind conditions. Jen was not as comfortable in the waist high swell but found really good stability on her 12’6″ and was able to effectively move forward and use the wind. The solid construction of the boards held up on the rough coastline.
Down winding the West Coast trail

Cruising down the coast! pc: Jen Segger

Low Down
As an ocean touring and multi day expedition board, the Great Bear is incredible with its stability, capacity to carry a lot of gear and its efficiency in challenging conditions and downwind swell while fully loaded. It maybe a bit heavy for smaller paddlers or flatwater conditons but the feedback I have received from people who have purchased the board has been great. It is a beautiful looking board and one that people will be proud to paddle. People really seem to enjoy their Great Bears!!

First night's campsite on the West Coast trail after 42 km's
STANDUP4GREATBEAR SOCIETY
A big thanks goes to Boardworks Surf for donating $20 from the purchase of each board to my Standup4Greatbear Society. The society works to educate and bring awareness to the incredible marine and terrestrial ecosystems found in the Great Bear Rainforest. And thanks goes to everyone who has purchased a Great Bear Expedition board for their contribution to the Standup4Greatbear Society and helping to protect our coastline.
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Stunning Lake shot! pc: sorry I can't remember??

Features:

* Evolved from the Raven platform, the Great Bear is thinner throughout the hull and wider in the tail for extra stability
* The nose shape and rocker have been refined for downwind paddling and cutting through heavy chop
* More gear tie downs added in the back as well as the front for maximum storage
* Filled in the cock pit for watershed

Inspired by Norm’s conservation efforts, Boardworks has pledged $20 of the sale of each Great Bear board to be donated to StandUp4GreatBear, a non-profit organization that promotes awareness and encourages the protection of Great Bear Rainforest through “expeditions, partnerships and action.”

THE ISSUE: Enbridge Inc, a Calgary-based oil and gas company has proposed the construction of a 1,170 km pipeline running from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat on British Columbia’s west coast. From here, crude oil would be loaded into super tankers bound for Asia. Before reaching the open ocean, these tankers would first need to pass through some of the most dangerous navigable waters in the world, -the narrow inlets of the Great Bear Rainforest. If this happens, a devastating oil spill is inevitable that would wipe out one of the most pristine marine environments on the planet.

Our hope is not only to help protect the Great Bear Rainforest but to inspire people all over the world to take action to protect the waters that they paddle and love.

SPECS
DIMENSIONS VOLUME (L) FINS TECH SIZE & ABILITY
12’6″x30 1/4″x6 5/8″ 304 Single TEC-V Novice: up to 260lbs
Intermediate: up to 285lbs
Advanced: up to 310lbs

14’0″x30″x6 3/4″ 342 Single TEC-V Novice: up to 290lbs
Intermediate: up to 315lbs
Advanced: up to 330lbs