I recently purchased a Naish Mana 10′ soft top from the good folks down at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe and I couldn’t be happier with the board.
First you’ll notice is the bright yellow color which contrasts sharply against the black foam rubber nose and tail caps and painted waves which run down the sides of the board. The rails are completely wrapped with a cool looking prismatic skin fabric to prevent your paddle from dinging up the sides of the board, an issue which plagued early soft top designs. The skin of the board has held up very well so far to all of the abuse I have thrown at the board. The deck itself is a squishy foam material like a dense yoga mat and is very comfortable to stand and kneel on, even awkward falls onto the board are not painfull. The bottom of the board is a slick and very durable plastic, a plus to those of us prone to offering up our boards as sacrifice to the volcano goddess Pele from time to time. I have parked the board on lava rocks several times and there is barely a scratch in the hull material. Though the bottom skin will dent from sharp pressure, the dents seem to puff back out after the board has been in the sun a while. Lastly the fins are a super durable somewhat flexible molded urethane with nylon retaining screws which tighten down with either a quarter or the provided multitool from the top through a special puka which goes all the way through the board, a bomber setup. This brings us to my only real complaint about the fit and finish of the board which is that the center fin would not tighten down all the way without shortening the front screw. Because I paddle often in whitewater I wanted to add a grabloop which I made from a short piece of nylon webbing with a hole burned into each end. Used as a washer, it allowed the retaining screw to tighten up the fin without having to resort to cutting down the screw.
What about performance? The Mana 10′ is fairly wide at a full 32″ and thick enough to support 200+ pound paddlers. I find it extremely stable and easy for novices to stand up on thier first time on the water without fear of falling off. While the board is thick in the center, the rails are definitely designed for the surf as opposed to the chunky rail shapes found on some other soft tops and inflatable boards. The 10′ Mana glides decently for its length, thought it is certainly not the fastest due to an abundance of tail rocker. The long progressive tail rocker makes the board turn easily up and down the wave for a board of this width, but also makes the Mana slow in the pocket and not the easiest board to paddle into the waves. The extra tail rocker really shines in the river where it allows the board to surface predictably when it is swamped with water and allows the rider to trim the board on short steep river waves so that the nose doesn’t get caught under the oncoming rush of current. For me, the Mana has opened up several river waves which were simply too fast and tricky on other boards. Paddling downstream, the Mana punches through small hydraulics with ease and rides up and over big waves with confidence, it catches eddies without getting sucked under on the eddylines and ferries across tricky current with complete predictability. I guess that a person could always wish for even more volume and width for charging big whitewater, but the Mana is very stable and definitely a higher performance board than some of the big logs on the market.
In short, I find the Naish 10′ Mana to be a great beginners board with high quality materials and bombproof construction. It is the type of board that anybody can have fun paddling and which will serve you well for years whether you interest is paddling lakes, rivers or smaller surf. The Mana 10′ doesn’t do any one thing brilliantly, rather it blends all around performance and carefree fun into a good looking design which is one of the most versatile and durable boards available today.