Aloha Express Becomes First SUP Vessel

Aloha Express 1
Photo: Modus Photography

Aloha Express Becomes First SUP Vessel

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and YOLO Boarding are certainly no strangers to South Walton waters, but now there’s a new way for SUP fans to find and explore hard-to-reach areas.

A passion for the fast-growing sport and a lifelong love of boats inspired Pensacola businessman and waterman Tom Pace to create the Aloha Express, a custom vessel built to transport paddlers and their gear. Along with Flat Island Boatworks founder Mike Bredesen, Pace designed the 30-foot power catamaran to provide a comfortable, smooth-riding platform that could accommodate up to 5-7 paddlers, boards and gear, and improvements to the prototype are already in place for a similar model that can handle 10-15 paddlers.

“From personal experience, I realized that there were no existing watercraft that made transporting standup paddleboards an easy and enjoyable experience without risking damage to either the boards or the boat,” said Pace. “Boards don’t easily fit the lines and curves of most boats, and are easily damaged from being tied down or being tossed in rough conditions. I set out to create a vessel that would make launching, retrieving and stowing SUPs a simple process while also offering ample, shaded seating and a smooth ride.”

Over the course of a year-long labor of challenge and discovery, Pace, Bredesen and his crew at Flat Island Boatworks built the Aloha Express on the body of a 32 year-old sailing catamaran – a design that offered the unique characteristics that were desired: hulls that sliced the water swiftly, effortlessly and with minimal resistance, a light and strong body, and dimensions that were long enough, wide enough, stable enough and efficient enough to haul a lot of gear where there was no access by car. They then converted the design into a modern power cat that offers a safe, accommodating ride and multiple features to enhance the SUP experience as well as other watersport pursuits.

The Aloha Express is 30’ long with a 13’3” beam, 18” draft, and 230 mile range weighing in at less than 6,000lbs with fuel and water. The craft can run up to 25 miles per hour and offers shaded seating and a specially designed roof rack to haul multiple boards safely. Accessing the water from a SUP is simple from both the forward and rear trampoline decks, eliminating the difficulty of climbing over the rail of a boat to get on or off a board.

“My passion is crafting a customer’s vision, then designing and building it to make it a reality,” said Bredesen. “Creating the Aloha Express was inspirational for me on a personal level because of my experience with SUP. Tom knew what he wanted to do, presented the idea to me, and we took off with it. Building a boat specifically designed for the sport was certainly satisfying, along with all the testing stages prior to the finished project.”

Enhancements both structurally and aesthetically were incorporated to ensure its safety, function and ease of maintenance. Elements such as plastic honeycomb core material reinforce the decks and hull, synthetic teak decking is both cooler on bare feet and practically maintenance-free, and the trampolines are constructed of a fine mesh that breathes and is cool to the touch, even in 95-degree temperatures. Further, there are two freshwater showers and 50 gallons of on-board water for post paddle rinses. The Aloha Express features cutting edge electronics including a touch screen GPS for day and night navigation, a state-of-the-art handheld VHF radio, LED running lights and an XM satellite radio with link to IPOD/IPAD music files.

“I wanted to build the Aloha Express to make a killer SUP support vessel,” said Pace. “However, now that she’s complete, the boat not only fulfills that goal but also is adaptable for a wide range of purposes: anything from hosting paddling and sailing events and instruction to use as a photo platform for water-based activities to accessing surfing outer breaks that may be too far to paddle to, or as a platform for inshore/nearshore fishing and fly fishing.”

The Aloha Express was a true collaboration with many contributing to the whole, notably Mark’s Mobile Marine Service, Blue Coral Sport Fishing Towers, Inc., Naval architect Bill Preston, Zern Rigging, Coastal Canvas of Pensacola, Inc., Graphic Artist Steve Glover and See Level Graphics.

A production model of the Aloha Express is currently under design and should be available in 2013. To learn more, check out

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