Last November, during Thanksgiving holiday, my fiance Chuck and I traveled to his hometown
for some early Steamboat skiing. I knew there was a interesting boardmaker located in
Steamboat, Hala, I had seen their colorfully and curiously designed boards only a couple of
times on the Potomac River. “Mind if we visit the Hala headquarters?” I asked Chuck. That’d be
We arrived on a Tuesday and went straight to Hala headquarters from the airport.The lovely
Pavla Mertlik, in charge of Industrial Design and Sales, greeted us and I could not wait to see
their boards. Right there were the Atcha, Peno and Daze, and then the one I spied on Instagram
for a hot second, the Luya. For the previous few months, Chuck and I had been talking about
running bigger rivers, bigger waves, and bigger whitewater, but we weren’t certain which board I
would use. I love my boards they are my babies and prior to purchase I had studied every
one of them for at least six months to a year to make sure that was the one I needed to advance
my skill and my passion. But to go bigger, all posed concerns for me for various reasons.
Yet there it was. One of the wackiest boards I had ever seen. The Hala staff spent lots of time
with me that afternoon, going over the Luya in detail, discussing my goals and how they fit with
the board’s performance characteristics, and talking about our favorite rivers. After nonstop
discussion with Chuck, I sent Pavla an email: May I please get the board with wings? It wasn’t
even available until January, three months out, replied Pavla. Not a problem, I wrote back, I
knew the river would still be there.
When the Hala Luya arrived, it was loaded. The board came with a wheeled travel bag, an
automatic pump, D rings, bungee cord, and a second set of four super bendy fins. A flood was
predicted on the Potomac River so the timing could not have been more perfect.
And talk about perfect: The day was just right for the Hala to make her first run down the gorge.
The river level was high enough, the waves were big and whitecapped, the water was filled with
boils and eddies, and the weather was cool and cloudy enough so that Chuck and I had the
entire river to ourselves. Awesome. So Chuck hooked on the GoPro and down we went. First
thing I noticed was that no matter what line I took, the board forged ahead. She cut a perfect
line. I charged whitewater head on, sideways; I charged waves though the tongue, not through
the tongue; I hunted waves, and the Luya plowed through them all. This thing is a Weeble
Wobble, I said to Chuck. It’s a beast, he replied, and it’s true: every time I hit a wave, the ride
was smooth and I was smiling the whole time.
In fact, I was super giddy.
As soon as we got to the take out, I email Hala. “Your board is freaking awesome. Just ran the
gorge at flood level and wow. We’ll download the GoPro tonight and I hope the video is as
ridiculously fun as my ride!” Both Pavla and Peter Hall (Hala CEO & Founder) were stoked to
see the run and Chuck quickly downloaded the video as soon as he returned home only to
discover, horror of horrors, the GoPro lens was covered with drops of water. I’m a loser, I wrote
to Hala. Oh no, just lick the lens, they responded. But we had licked, there was just a lot of
rowdy water out there.
It has been such a pleasure discovering this crazy new board. It does everything I could ever
imagine for river running and then an even added bonus: the beast surfs. No giant cutbacks or
ollies or spins, but she will catch a wave you see on the way down and hang out for as long as
you like. Even better, Hala has been such a thoughtful and generous company. The folks are
responsive, encouraging and stoked. With other board companies, I feel like once the sale is
completed, there is radio silence. Not here, not with Hala. When Chuck and I were finally able to
capture and email photos revealing the ease of the Luya through some pretty feisty Potomac
River waves (which is not easy to do when both of us want to charge everything at the same
time) Peter wrote one of the kindest comments I have ever received from a board company:
“That photo shows perfectly how to stand and paddle the Luya!” I could not have been more
And regarding my personal goals, the Hala Luya is going to be the perfect toy with which to step
up my game. I cannot wait to get out on some of the more challenging rivers in western
Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Stay tuned to my Instagram account
@potomacsurfer to follow these upcoming adventures.
By Julie Lang
March 22, 2016