I packed a whole change of clothing in anticipation of going in the drink while attempting to walk on water, when I tested the Hobie Mirage Eclipse. This crazy collision of a stair-stepping exercise machine and a stand up paddleboard (SUP) can only be described as a stand up pedal board.
Hobie has been shaping the watersports culture for nearly seven decades and the company is no stranger to out-of-the box thinking. From the humble beginnings of wooden and polyurethane surfboards built in a Southern California garage, to their trademark multihull sailboats, to high-tech fishing kayaks like the Outback Mirage Pro Angler, Hobie has always had a bead on innovation.
It’s no wonder, then, that their latest effort looks a bit odd but is a completely groundbreaking way to get out on the water—and even get a bit of serious exercise that will put musty gym Stairmasters to shame. Because it is such a radical departure from anything on the water, Hobie toyed with the idea for two years, not wanting to introduce anything that would just be considered weird. The result is a composite epoxy board with a sharp bow, handlebars, pedals, and a rudder. The package is fast, easy to manage and surprisingly steady. And it doesn’t look (that) weird.
The MirageDrive pedal propulsion system that Hobie developed several years ago for their kayaks was modified to allow vertical installation so instead of sitting, you now stand to activate it. The underwater fins let you power the craft with the strong muscles of your legs to move quickly so you can go farther, faster and with much less fatigue by paddling with your arms. The drive snaps into the board below the foam-topped pedals and can be removed (even underway) in case you want to use the optional paddle and switch to work your upper body in a more traditional form of locomotion. The snap-in aluminum alloy handlebars are height-adjustable (36” to 43” to accommodate riders of various sizes) and they do more than just provide a leaning post. They also have rudder control.
I met Hobie’s marketing rep, Ingried Niehaus, at the dock in Newport Harbor, California. Two boards were already in the water – 10’ and 12’ models. I first stepped on the larger board, which is rated for up to 275 pounds of capacity. The board was steady as I stair-stepped out onto the water and within a minute, I was able to quickly accelerate. Holding the bars for stability, I got up to speeds much faster than I would have been able to achieve with a traditional paddle. But because the board is so large, it’s heavier and a little hard to turn. I returned to try out the smaller board, which was a bit more exciting. This board is rated for 225 pounds of capacity and because it’s shorter, two inches narrower, and five pounds lighter, I could maneuver it more easily, especially in turns. It was a bit squirrely at first but within a minute, I adjusted my movements to remain steady and get around faster.
Initially, it popped in my head that the calipers on the handlebars must work like bicycle brakes, which is ridiculous when you think about it. There is no way to throw the MirageDrive into reverse and in fact, there is no way to stop, so coming into a dock hot will result in audience-worthy landings.
The “brakes” are instead the controls for the kick-up rudder. Squeeze right, go right. Squeeze left, go left. The faster you step, the sharper the turn. A word of advice: do not lean–really, don’t lean. Not only will it not facilitate the turn, it could result in a very large splash, which I just barely avoided.
Docking is easier if you come in at a sharp angle and then turn at the last moment, executing a Captain Ron landing that just kisses the slip. This may take a few tries to perfect. Beach landings are possible too. By keeping one foot up and one down on the pedals, I was able to snug the fins up against the bottom of the board, allowing it to glide up onto the sand. I then stepped off into water below my knees. To get started again, I simply turned the board around, nudged it into deeper water, got on and started stepping.
The removable rudder kicks up in shallow water or can be locked in the upright position via a cord at the base of the handles. With it up, you can switch to using the board as a normal SUP. Just stand on the pedals that lie flat when the drive is removed.
For transport, everything is removable. Unclip the drive and the handlebars, take off the rudder, and store everything flat in a garage or on top of a car. It may take two people to lift the board onto a car roof-rack but that will most likely be your biggest challenge of the day. The rubbery EVA deckpad provides soft non-skid footing on the pedals as well as on the aft end of the board, in case you want to take your pooch for a ride and want to give him a secure and cushy place to sit.
Hobie says they’re targeting clubs and resorts for their first sales. It makes sense in order to expose the concept to a variety of people who may be hesitant to try it. I expect it will catch on quickly, and heck, you may even want to get two so you can race your partner.
Pricing and Extras
The boards are available in blue or yellow and pricing starts at $2,499 for the short board and $2,599 for the larger one. There’s a bungee cord tie-down behind the pedals to secure items you want to take along like a water bottle, snorkeling gear, or lunch. A neoprene handle on the back makes for easy lifting but it would also help to have one on the front so two people can carry the board simultaneously. The boards are light (54 and 59 pounds for the two models fully rigged) but that still may be a challenge for smaller riders to lift overhead.
Accessories abound. Besides a traditional paddle, you can also get a cart to wheel the board to the water. You choose between light duty wheels or sand tires. Hobie’s H-crate (think plastic milk crate with four fishing rod holders and tackle storage ) can be attached aft via the bungee to hold extra gear and the handlebars have optional mounts for a cup holder or a smartphone.
The Eclipse board is great for lakes or the ocean, as it can take a bit of wind and maybe up to two-foot waves and still keep a rider upright. It can be used in multiple ways and will make a great add-on water-toy aboard a large power or sailboat.
In the end I had no need for a change of clothes. I didn’t even get my pant hems wet. I contemplated testing how difficult it would be to get back aboard if I did fall off but decided against it. This may be Southern California but the current still comes down from Alaska and there’s a reason people surf with wetsuits in our chilly waters. My completely dry morning run was a testament to how easy it is get the hang of the Hobie Mirage Eclipse and if I had more time, my exercise regiment for the day would have been complete without even noticing I was getting a workout. Who knew walking on water could be so easy, for us mere mortals?
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