A Beginner PlayboatOf all the hard goods, things that help me float are my favorite. Maybe it's how the represent man's interaction with the foreign surface of water. Or, perhaps it's the happy memories I have surrounding paddle sports. Regardless of the reason behind the passion Outdoor Retailer is the best space in the country to geek out on things that float. Here are my favorites:
Playboating is another discipline with an extremely sharp learning curve. Wavesport built their new play boat, the Mobius, with the beginner in mind—while still trying to keep high performance playboaters happy. The Mobius is one of the shortest play boats I have seen, and it looks nicely balanced from bow to stern—making it stable despite its short stature. The carbon version (pictured) will not be available for sale in 2014, but man is it sexy. Available September 2013 ($1149)
A More Friendly Surf SkiSurf skis are incredibly fast and equally tippy—creating a very sharp learning curve. Current Designs' new Surf Ski, the Ignite, marries the composite material and seat of a surf ski to a hull design based on the company's Solstice GT touring kayak. Their goal was to maintain a level of surf ski performance while lowering the discipline's learning curve and making a boat that was fun for a larger audience than elite athletes. Available Spring 2014 ($2599)
A Surf and Touring Ready SUPCorran Addison came up with the idea of marrying a surf and touring specific SUP when he went to surf Camp Pendleton, a break he only had access to by paddling a long distance. He was faced with the dilemma of either having a heinous five mile paddle with a surf-specific SUP that performed well when he got there, or an easy paddle to the break only to surf on a monster SUP built for touring. "Originally I wanted to tow a board behind, then I realized I needed a board within a board," says Addison. His answer: the 8'6', surf specific, Seal ($1600) that slides seamlessly into the 12'6' Infiltrator ($2200)—giving you the best of both worlds. The boards are sold separately and can be used completely autonomously of each other. Available Now ($3800)
An Affordable Pack RaftI tested Alpackraft's Yukon Yak ($850) for Outside's last Summer Buyer's Guide and loved it. Pack rafts allow you to get across streams, access better fishing holes, and go downriver to move more efficiently in the backcountry. While versatile, good pack rafts are expensive. Advanced Elements released its Packlite Raft this OR and is charging $300 for a four pound raft that rolls up to the size of a small purse. It blows up to a 7'10" by 35" craft—certainly better than trying to ford a river with your sleeping pad. Available January 2014 ($300)
A Much Better PaddleAdventure Technology unveiled a new material technology that they claim will revolutionize whitewater paddle durability. Their new duraweave technology allows straight shaft paddles to withstand 590 pounds of pressure before failing, and, here's the kicker: The shaft will maintain its integrity after breaking once and withstand 450 pounds of pressure before breaking again. I tried to re-break an already cracked shaft of one of these paddles—and failed. If you break your paddle in the middle of a rapid, the shaft won't completely snap, allowing you to potentially paddle out of a dangerous situation. I am excited to seriously stress test the Hercules this winter. Available November 2013 ($300)
A Class V Ready BoatThe AIRE Saber Tooth 12 is the boat that I'm most excited to test this fall. This frameless cataraft reminds me of the Shredder—a hardcore whitewater paddle raft of legend. The high bow rocker coupled with smart whitewater design details like a knee pad over the mesh floor (so boaters who prefer to straddle a thwart don't smash their knees on rocks) looks to make the Saber Tooth perform extremely well in Class V. Available September 2013 ($2934)
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