A Close Look at the Yakima SUPDawg
When Yakima came out with their new paddle board carrier last summer, I got excited. I was hoping that this new, beefed up board carrier would be a viable alternative to Thule’s SUP Taxi. We’ve all heard horror stories from folks who lost board or damaged vehicles or both because of failure of Thule’s locking cams on the SUP Taxi. Mine started slipping so much, even when locked (and you should ALWAYS lock your SUP Taxi) that I started throwing an extra tie down strap around my boards just in case.
SUP carriers are appealing because they provide semi-permanent padding for our boards that does slip or move around. They make loading boards quicker because the integrated straps are “always on” – in other words you do not have to set and remove and then set again tie-down straps around your bars each time you load up, and they provide a certain level of security for the boards, since the straps are made with reinforced cable and can be locked closed. So, the main reasons to use a sup carrier is convenience and theft deterrence. (NOTE: Anyone with bolt cutter can probably cut through the strap on any sup carrier, but the harder you make it for the thieves, the more likely they will leave your board alone and look for the easier lift.)
Here’s what I like about the Yakima SUPDawg:
The attachment mechanism on the Yakima SUPDawg is a bit easier to tighten when installed onto car rack crossbars. It was easier to tighten down and it stays in place better than the Thule carrier – especially on aerobars, the wider, more aerodynamic cross bars that are becoming more popular these days.
On the SUPDawg, the cradle, or part of the carrier that holds the boards is essentially a flat, cushioned bar, unlike Thule’s SUP Taxi which has a curved cradle, that can sometimes make it difficult to accommodate certain shapes of boards. The lack of curvature in the Yakima bars means it can carry a wide surf shape board or a narrow race board. The Thule carrier is difficult to adjust for width, as the cradle itself has to be moved and adjusted into place. On the Yakima carrier, the straps slide back and forth in a track to conform to the size of the board and snug the straps around it.
I like the way Yakima’s straps feed through into the locking mechanism – all you do is tightened down the strap, and them lock it. On the Thule product, there is a lever-like bar that you have to close and press into place before you can lock it. If the board(s) are not in the right position, getting that mechanism to engage and lock can be problematic. On the Yakima carrier, to release the straps for unloading, you unlock the carrier, and press a large red button on the end of the bars. And you have to press HARD.
When I first saw the rollers on the end of the SUPDawg bars, I thought they might be superfluous. However, they can come in which handy with heavier boards. The roller adds a little assist in getting the board on and off the rack. Use a light touch, though, especially with more fragile carbon boards.
Strap Feed and Tuck-Away Storage
It’s much easier to feed the strap ends into the locking mechanism and tuck the excess ends away for travel on the Yakima unit. One reason for that is the strap end themselves are not re-enforced with any sort of coating. That’s a minus – already those strap ends are starting to fray, and the ease of use will soon be negated because of that.
Now, what I don’t like:
The Cam Locking Mechanism Itself
I am referring the the inner spring mechanism that tightens the straps down and holds it in place, keeping your boards secure.
Several times now, I have loaded my board, driven it just a few short miles, or left it for just a few minutes only to come back and find the strap totally loose. The first time it happened, I considered that perhaps someone might have messed with it. But it’s happened too many times now. I have checked and rechecked instructions to make sure I am not missing anything. And I am not. And this has happened with the big 30 inch-plus wide sup surfboard, as well as my 24.5 inch wide race boards.
And this is disappointing.
Therefore, acknowledging that I am not an engineer, I have come to the conclusion that slippage is just going to occur with any board carrier that uses this type of strap tightening design. And, since you never know when that might happen, I am going to continue to thrown an extra, conventional tie-down strap around my boards – running it through the car – to guard against catastrophe should any part of my rack system fail. But especially in the event those straps come loose. And experience indicates that they will.
So, between the Thule SUP Taxi and the SUPDawg, the Yakima SUPDawg might have a slight edge over the competitor when it comes to carrying boards of multiple styles and shapes, but it’s no more secure that the SUPTaxi. To ensure your boards are safe:
- Always make sure they are loaded on the carrier according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- ALWAYS lock the locking mechanism on the carrier
- Always do a wiggle check, both on the tail and the nose to make sure the boards are secure
- Always use an extra tie-down strap as a safety strap.