Pedal Power

Pedalboards are fast, allows users to peddle across the water, and can be steered from a standing position with handlebars
Hobie Pedalboard
Photography courtesy of Hobie

Bruce Johnson and his wife were shopping for traditional stand-up paddleboards for their Marquette condo on Lake Superior. Then they heard about a new board from Hobie, the innovative California manufacturer known since the 1950s for its influence on the world of surfing, skateboards, sailing and kayaking. The board is fast, allows them to peddle across the water instead of paddle and is steered from a standing position with handlebars.

Wider and more stable than most SUPs, the new Hobie Mirage Eclipse is catching on.

“I tried an SUP without any instruction, and it seemed like a lot of work,” said Johnson, owner of Spartan Distributors in Sparta. “Then I read an article about them and called Gull Lake Marine and found they had a demo unit. There’s no learning curve, and it scoots faster than anyone I’ve seen on a stand-up paddleboard and feels more stable.”

Johnson bought two. “It’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “We thought we’d just use them on our protected bay, but they are small enough that they can be transported to inland lakes.”

Hobie introduced its patented Mirage Drive in 1997. The pedal-driven flippers were incorporated into the company’s innovative Outback fishing kayak in 2001. The hands-free propulsion system allowed anglers to “peddle instead of paddle.” That was the beginning of a new era in kayaks, and boom followed. Hobie’s Mirage Eclipse was introduced in the latter half of 2016. It, too, is changing the waterscape.

There’s no learning curve, and it scoots faster than anyone I’ve seen on a stand-up paddleboard and feels more stable.
— Bruce Johnson

Greg Dorow, in charge of Hobie sales at Coopersville’s Gull Lake Marine (gulllake, says the pedal-powered board appeals largely to fitness-oriented people, often to women as well as men.

“We’ve sold out of our inventory several times,” Dorow said. “The response has been incredible. Women really like it and their husbands do, too. They’re used to ellipticals at the health club, and this is a way to have fun while they exercise.”

Johnson contends that pedaling one is more like a stair climber than an elliptical. The handlebars, he adds, give him confidence. It doesn’t turn on a dime but the board is plenty stable. The Mirage Eclipse comes in 10.5-foot and 12-foot lengths, which sell for $2,500 and $2,600, respectively. They can be equipped with a deck bag for gear, a cup holder and/or storage bags. They weigh 54 pounds and 58 pounds and travel from 5 to 7 miles per hour.

“It’s a different animal from a stand-up paddleboard,” Dorow explains. “Instead of using your upper body, this is a lower body and core workout. And you can go two or three times faster.”

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