I want to offer our customers a quick review of an outstanding kayak that I paddled this year. The Diablo Paddlesports Chupacabra, or “Chupa” as it is commonly referred to. I had previously paddled it at our 2014 Demo Days but the true test came in early June of this year when my father and I paddled a nine mile stretch of the Medina River here in Texas. In early May, south Texas received record rainfall, filling up and replenishing lakes and waterways throughout the area. A couple weeks after the flood waters subsided the Medina River was in prime form, welcoming us with crystal clear water and a swift, steady flow. While I have enjoyed time on other high seat kayaks that allow you to stand, this was my first time running a river on a Diablo and I was determined to put the boat through its paces.
Like all three boats from Diablo Paddlesports, the Chupacabra has a wide body, low profile design that offers paddlers the maneuverability of a sit-on-top kayak and the stability of a stand-up paddle board. The open layout of the deck and wide, flat gunwales provide what is essentially a “blank canvas” that allows anglers to rig their boat with rod holders and accessories however they want, wherever they want. While you can use a traditional strap in seat to sit on the deck of the kayak, the Chupa also offers elevated seating and standing options such as the Cooler Seat and the Cooler Deck.
On this day, I opted to use the Larry Chair which sits 10 inches off the deck and has an aluminum frame with mesh seating. This seat is collapsible for portability and storage and I found it to be very comfortable throughout the day. When I stood up for the first time it was apparent that the stability of this boat is in a class of it’s own. I took a step forward, then a step back, and then turned 360 degrees at which time I was confident that I could move about and do whatever I needed to do on the deck of this kayak. It should be noted that standing up on a kayak is not for everyone and caution should be used at all times, especially for those new to the practice. However, the traction padding on the deck along with the pull up strap and stable design makes standing up a breeze!
The Chupa is relatively short at 10’6” which is exactly why I wanted to test this boat on this particular river. The Medina River has several tight and fairly technical turns along with wider, tree lined stretches that can abruptly narrow into shallow rapid chutes. In this situation, having a shorter kayak provided the advantage of clearing the turns easier than a longer boat that may hang up on exposed tree roots or even the riverbank. In effort to be prepared for anything on this trip I brought along an estimated 60 pounds of gear and tackle. With the majority of this weight distributed to the rear tankwell. I was pleased to find that the stern only spun out slightly on the two sharpest, quickest turns I encountered. As a whole, the Chupacabra exceeded my expectations for maneuverability as I was able to use aggressive paddle strokes to manage the choppy water and correct my course with ease even after spinning out. For a short boat it tracked surprisingly straight and tracks even better when using the Chupacabra Skeg.
As the afternoon progressed and the river widened out again, it was not long before I realized that I had become completely addicted to stand-up paddling! Whether we were in a deep, slow stretch or skimming through four inches of swift current I felt inclined to stand as opposed to sit. The view of the water ahead is mesmerizing from the elevated vantage you have while standing on the front hatch. With the river being so clear that day I could see the finest detail of every leaf and pebble as they passed underneath the Chupa. While my father and I traded kayaks throughout the afternoon, I will never forget seeing him experience the thrills of standing up on a kayak for the first time and later catching his first fish from a kayak.
Eventually, I caught my first fish from a kayak; I got started with a sunfish, then a small bass, and later I stared down into eight feet of water as a sizable and savvy Largemouth ran straight under a log with my lure before he broke me off. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to fishing but it was evident that being able to see and cast to a specific fish provides a distinct advantage. As the run came to a close, the field testing concluded and Dad and I both agreed that the Chupacabra is a top performer on the river.
The Diablo Chupacabra is an extremely stable and user-friendly platform that can be paddled and enjoyed by just about anyone. It offers a combination of superior stability along with surprising maneuverability and can be outfitted in numerous configurations. For me, it is a complete and total game changer. After years of paddling a much narrower yak with a strap in seat, there is simply no going back. The capabilities of this kayak allowed my father and I to experience nature in a way that was truly magical and provided us an adventure that we will both treasure for the rest of our days.