Idaho-based Hydrus Launches Kickstarter Campaign Aimed At Expansion

Hydrus is the Greek word for water serpent, which is a perfect name for a stand up paddling brand. Based out of Idaho, this made-in-America brand has distinguished itself with a line of durable boards unlike anything I have seen before. I spoke with Jason Zawadzki, founder of Hydrus, while he was driving from Idaho to Washington during a record-breaking snowstorm! Despite the weather and tricky road conditions, he was spilling over with enthusiasm about his company.

The company started because when the Zawadzki’s, a family of SUPers, moved from Orange County, CA to Idaho. They wanted to keep paddling despite the lack of an ocean. In Idaho, they fell in love with the vast rivers of the state and the challenge of whitewater, stand up river running. Given that traditional paddleboards get torn apart in rough rivers and the lack of durable, high-performance board options in the market, they decided to start making their own. They had some obstacles. Unlike in California, there were no local manufacturers of materials, so they had to bring in bulk quantities. The other was how to make a lightweight board durable enough to survive the punishment. Out of this became a company.  

Hydrus wanted to develop boards that could take the same level of abuse a whitewater kayak could take. To make that happen, they tried several different types of composites such as Kevlar, Innegra, Spectra, and thickly layered fiberglass all blended with epoxy resins. Unfortunately, none of these options fit the bill. So eventually, they created their very own process named Armalight.  

Bomb Proof Boards

Inspired by materials used to construct portable military bomb shelters, Armalight became the best material to build durable boards while keeping the whole process sourced in America. Unlike resin, which is brittle by nature, Armalight boards are designed to endure multiple impacts without shattering or cracking. As of 2017, Hydrus builds their entire hardboard line using their proprietary Armalight Construction.  From the smallest Surf SUPs, like the SCUD, to their hardcore river runner dubbed the King DUB, to their fourteen-foot race hull, the Mad Max.  This variety and range have made Hydrus the only SUP manufacturer to have a full range of hard boards built from highly durable materials and made here in the USA.

Hydrus Board Tech, hydrus, jason zawadzki, durable boardsIn just the last few days, the company has announced a brand new material which they’ll be using for the core of their boards. (When was the last time you heard of a replacement to plain old foam?) They’re calling this material DuraBloc. It has the same flotation as standard foam, but without the water-absorption and heat issues typical of the EPS foam you and I grew up knowing. DuraBloc will provide an extra layer of protection to the Armalite board, stiffening it and preventing any possible damage to the shell (extremely hard to do with Armalight already) from getting even worse.

One model Jason is extremely proud of is a shape many experienced paddlers might overlook, the 11’ Pocket Rocket. That size falls into the all-around class for most people, but this is also a durable river-runner and sized for the eleven-foot whitewater class. Because of the displacement hull, the Pocket Rocket is also a good cruiser and even downwinder, perhaps a perfect board for someone wanting a small flat water cruiser that won’t dent with every impact. Hydrus also has several other planing hulls for inland as well as ocean riders, especially those who love having fun on rivers.

While durable river-runners and all-around shapes make sense, what about race boards? But wait, isn’t this where carbon rules? Aren’t these boards supposed to be as light as possible? Turns out there’s a market for that too, a good one. Not every racer wants or can afford a high-end, fragile hulled, featherweight race board. Hydrus’ first bespoke commission was from someone looking for a racing board that could perform in event after event without repairs. It got enough attention that they now sport two lines of race boards in their catalog, both in 12’6” and 14’ sizes.  The boards, the aforementioned Mad Max and the Elysium might weigh in a little heavier than a 100% carbon whip, but they are by far the lightest, extreme durability boards on the market.  There’s even a youth version of the Mad Max race board and all around FunShui model. Now the rough and rugged racer has a ride they can take over the bumps without worrying about perforating it!

Jason’s passion for making his company’s boards was apparent, as well as his pride in manufacturing his boards in America. Hydrus can do that while still maintaining a competitive price because they’re still a small, family company. No outside investors. No capital issues. And not much overhead. They have grown slowly and carefully, making sure they distinguish themselves with their products instead of spending on glitzy marketing campaigns. Which is why many people outside of the whitewater community haven’t heard of them. Right now these boards are only in a few stores, which Jason wants to change only slowly. “We want our boards to be in the right stores, the ones that demo boards and take good care of their customers,” he told me.

One way Hydrus is trying to raise some money and offer deals to their fans is through a Kickstarter campaign. Their goal is to help expand their market from their base in the Northwest to a nationwide brand. If you’re interested in backing them, Hydrus is offering some excellent bargains not only on their Armalight boards, but also on iSUPs, surfboards, Crossboards, paddles, and apparel. There are pledge levels for every level of an investor, so if this interests you, check out their page now. The Kickstarter campaign is ending on January 10, 2017!

As a paddler who cares very much about durable boards (this is the fifth article in my durable boards series), Hydrus looks like a company very much worth following. With a targeted range of models from inland river-runners, family lake paddlers and downwind racers to river surfboards and SUP surfers like the Skud.  It will be fascinating to see this company expand, especially towards the coasts. These tough rides may be just what I’ve been looking for to explore the rocky coast and creeks of the Hudson Valley.

Learn more about Hydrus at: 

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Ian Berger

Ian Berger grew up in love with the ocean, so discovering stand up paddling was a bit of revelation. Once he bought his first paddleboard, he realized this was the sport for him. Ian Berger lives in Peekskill, NY with his wife Kirsten and three children. He teaches middle school English and drama, and also has a passion for writing, which he shares with his students. Every morning Ian wakes up to write — sometimes science fiction or comic Young Adult novels, sometimes plays, but very often about stand up paddling. The Hudson River is his home turf, and you can usually find him there when the weather is good.