“I’m just disappointed in John Deere.”
Garrin scratched his head beneath his cowboy hat and looked puzzled at the board that had withstood it all.
We showed up to Whispering Willows Ranch in Steamboat Springs to see if our cowboy friends were up for a good challenge: Could they pop one of our Hala Gear Inflatable SUPs?
They laughed and said, “Absolutely,” continuing on with their front porch happy hour. I asked again, and they said, “It wouldn’t even be a contest.” It was only after I bet them a case of beer that they begrudgingly obliged.
“Alright, fine. Let me see that thing.” Garrin grabbed the board and ran his hand along the PVC, laughing at how light it was.
“Yeah, this shouldn’t take long!” He turned to his ranch tractor - a John Deere 6155m.
He looked back and, with a charming, cocky smile, announced, “Coors. Banquet. 30 rack.” Then he mockingly tipped his hat at me as he fired up the engine.
It was on!
For the first round, I asked Garrin to go one wheel at a time and only down the middle of the board. I laid the board, a Hala Gear Straight Up, perpendicular to the towering tractor tires, hoping to give the SUP a fighting chance. I know Hala Gear is durable, but with the tractor looming towards me, the back tire eye level with my 6’1’’ frame, I was starting to get nervous.
“Ah, come on!” Garrin protested. “I thought you wanted me to pop it!”
“You can. You can; I just want at least one good shot before y’all destroy it.”
“Alright…fine! Let’s roll!” Garrin put the tractor into gear and approached the board. I recoiled back, preparing for an explosion as the 18,000lb machine steamrolled our Hala Straight Up. I know our boards are durable, well-constructed, and all of the above… but I wasn’t sure if this would work out.
The first smaller tire, about waist-high, ran over the board with little issues. I sighed and then winced as the larger tire approached the board. The grin on Garrin’s face widened, confident he would be drinking a cold Coors soon enough.
I looked on as the board wrinkled and folded under the enormous tire—the crunch of the heavy-duty PVC against the gravel ground into my ears. And then, as if out of a cartoon, the board sprung back into its original shape as though nothing had happened to it. It survived! I threw both my hands in the air, triumphant.
Back it Up
Garrin looked at his buddies, Chase and Krit, who motioned for him to back it up. Garrin nodded and began backing up the tractor. This time, he lined the hulking machine so that all four wheels would run over the board that sat unphased on the dirt road.
We all held our breath, wondering if the board could handle the full load of the tractor. The beep, beep, beep of the backup alarm counted down the fate of the Straight Up SUP. The tires rolled onto the board as it screeched against the gravel and bent underneath the weight, but again … “boing!” as if springloaded, reconfigured right back into its perfect shape.
I giggled with Jaime, our videographer, and Ali, our photographer, as we watched the Cowboys do it again. And again. And again. They turned the board parallel to the tires, put the tractor in park on it, and ran over it at every possible angle.
Each time, the board persisted and triumphantly sprung back into its rigid form.
Finally, with great annoyance (and supper getting cold), Chase pointed to the heavens with one final idea. “GET THE SWATHER!” They grinned and looked at me as if I didn’t know what was coming. (To be fair, I didn’t). Krit rubbed the palms of his hands together, and Garrin stood, arms crossed, determined to see this through.
From behind the barn, I heard a sound resembling a small wind turbine. I slowly backed away when, from around the corner, the sun gleamed off the John-Deere-green of what I now understand is a swather. A row of spinning cutter heads at the front created a whoosh of dust, making it hard to see Chase’s devilish grin.
He lined up with the board and ran over it perpendicularly right down the middle. Then parallel with one tire, then with two. At each execution attempt, the board remained strong and sturdy. Exasperated, Chase used the agility of the harvesting equipment to do a 360-degree tire turn on the center of the board, digging the thick tread onto the inflatable. The clutch burned and gravel sprayed, but the Hala Straight Up stayed rigid.
I knew our boards were durable, but honestly, I didn’t realize they were that tough, tough enough to withstand heavy farm equipment...ranch tough!
Ali, Jaime, and I celebrated our victory and proudly held the Hala Straight Up. Its beautiful deckpad was a bit dirty; there were tread marks across the top, but it remained fully inflated.
“Well, Garrin, I’ll get you the beer anyway’,” I said.
He smiled and said, “Oh, it’s not over yet. We can try a few other ways to get that thing to pop.”
The cowboys huddled together to draw up their next plan.
Could they pop a Hala inflatable SUP? Only time will tell.