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The Best Stand-Up Paddleboards of 2016

The Best Stand-Up Paddleboards of 2016

Paddleboarding is flourishing. Though the initial sales boom has slowed, innovation continues. The newest boards are better made and more smartly tailored to specific pursuits like surfing, fishing, and whitewater adventures. Meanwhile, prices for many categories keep coming down, thanks to all the competition and increased efficiencies in production. Our picks highlight a variety of boards designed to excel at focused activities and a couple that are good at pretty much everything. Honestly, though, with all the new options out there, we’re finding it hard not to want a garageful. 

  Photo: Boardworks

Boardworks Kraken 10'3" 

Gear of the Year 

There’s much to like about a board that’s fun to ride in all conditions. The Kraken is stable and quick whether you’re paddling over glassy water, churning through wind chop, or riding waves. Carlsbad, California, company Boardworks offers it in a shorter, surf-specific 9'3" version and a longer, touring-minded 11-footer, but the 10'3" threads the needle in terms of versatile performance. It glides surprisingly well for such a steady 34-inch-wide platform, and with thinner rails and slight rocker in the nose and tail, it can hold a line in punchy beach breaks. A bamboo layer adds durability and supports the clean and classy look. 

Price $1,299

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  Photo: Surftech

Surftech Saber Blacktip 11'6" 

Best For: Worry-free cruising.

The Test: Surftech’s Blacktip boards offer the comfort, traction, and safety of a soft foam-top deck matched with the glide of a fiberglass bottom. They’re also built to endure the bangs and paddle sideswipes that come with regular adventuring. Make no mistake, the 29-inch-wide Saber is leagues ahead of the cheap soft-tops you’ll find at big-box stores. It paddles smoothly and has impressive glide—last year’s hardtop version won Gear of the Year—that will please experienced touring SUPers. Testers lauded the sunken deck, which keeps the rider’s center of gravity lower to the water. 

The Verdict: A fun, utilitarian cruiser at a great price.

Price $999

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  Photo: NSP

NSP Cocomat 11' Cruise 

Best For: Venturing into the lineup.

The Test: If you paddle primarily for fitness but want to start surfing mellow waves, this is your new toy. The 31-inch-wide platform is supremely stable, but thanks to double-concave bottom contours and a three-fin setup, the big board pivots effortlessly, making it ideal for new waveriders. At nearly 200 liters, there’s plenty of volume for those just looking to cut around on flatwater. Bonus: the Cocomat’s topsheet is constructed from coconut-husk fibers sandwiched between layers of fiberglass, slightly reducing environmental impact. 

The Verdict: A versatile player with a strong hankering to drop in.

Price $1,399

Buy Now

  Photo: Riviera

Riviera Voyager Classic 12'6" 

Best For: Touring in style.

The Test: Think of the Voyager Classic as the wood-paneled Cadillac of SUP touring. The displacement hull tracks like a racing board, but this fiberglass single-fin with an eye-catching wood-veneer deck is otherwise built for mellow cruising. At 32 inches wide, it’s an easy balancing act for developing paddlers exploring flatwater lakes and mellow ocean swells. When the wind kicks up, the turned-down nose slices through chop, and plenty of tie-downs hold gear securely. The Voyager Classic is built with Riviera’s new Eco Molded Blank, a stronger and less wasteful base material. Kevlar rails protect against dings from minor bumps, and a newly designed neoprene handle helps you heft the 28-pound weight. 

The Verdict: A beginner-friendly board with old-school aesthetics. 

Price $1,500

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  Photo: C4 Waterman

C4 Waterman SUPsquatch 18' 

Best For: Making friends.

The Test: Last year we gushed over C4 Waterman’s giant Raptor. This year the company doubled down on the size—and fun—with the SUPsquatch, which is four feet longer and reaches 6.7 feet wide at the middle. This beast easily fits eight adult paddlers or a dozen youngsters. It’s a uniquely entertaining party boat on a lazy river or a shockingly capable team-surfing machine on overhead ocean waves. The heavy-duty PVC and rubber body stands up to all kinds of abuse, but there is a weight penalty: the SUP-squatch tips the scales at 60 pounds. You’ll want a compressor to inflate the monster board and at least two people to carry it down to the beach. 

The Verdict: Go super big or go home. 

Price $3,995

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  Photo: Hobie

Hobie 10'9" Sportsman 

Best For: Landing lunkers.

The Test: People have been fishing from SUPs for years, but there are few purpose-made boards. Hobie launched the inflatable Sportsman in 2014 and has continued to refine it. With a catamaran-like design, 38 inches of width, and nearly 300 liters of total volume, this board lets you comfortably fight and land that 20-pound striper. Multiple D-ring tie-downs can be used to secure a cooler (for fish, people!) and just about everything else you might need. Accessories like rod holders can be added using Ram Mount’s Bond-a-Base mounting pads. Drop-stitch heavy-duty PVC construction and skid plates under the two outer chambers allow for worry-free landings on the beach. Comes with a three-piece paddle. 

The Verdict: Cast away without falling in. 

Price $1,399

Buy Now

  Photo: Sevylor

Sevylor Andy Signature 9'6" 

Best For: Whitewater.

The Test: This board takes its name from pro skier Andy Mahre, who paddles challenging rivers in his off-season. When inflated to its maximum  15 psi—about 12 minutes with the included pump—the Andy Signature gives you a rigid whitewater SUP with a few inches of rocker in the nose to get you through the rapids. (Newbies looking to stay upright should consider the ten-footer in the line.) It also plays well in small surf, but don’t expect to make any hard bottom turns. At 21 pounds, it’s an easy haul when folded into the included backpack. 

The Verdict: A solid first step into SUP river running. 

Price $1,250

Buy Now


The Best Water Shoes of 2016

Protect your piggies in the wet.   Photo: Inga Hendrickson Sperry Shock Light Boat  Best for: Doing It All  With a slipper-like fit, the Shock Light happily squeezes into the bow of a whitewater boat, while the grippy, nonmarking sole won’t scuff the teak deck on your buddy’s yacht. The shock-cord lacing keeps it snug should you fall into the drink, and it dries in less than half an hour. Price $85 Buy Now   Photo: Chaco Chaco Z/Cloud  Best for: Raft Trips How to improve an iconic, river-guide-trusted sandal? Very carefully. Chaco’s upgrades on the new Z/Cloud are minimal and smart: a soft antimicrobial topsheet

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The Fly-Fishing Essentials of 2016

Cast away with these choice tools for the discerning angler.   Photo: Fishpond Fishpond Nomad Mid-Length Net  With a carbon-fiberglass frame and a massive lunker-ready rubber basket, the Nomad almost makes landing the big ones easy.  Price $160 Buy Now   Photo: Meow Meow Tweet Meow Meow Tweet Herbal Bug Repellent  Bottled by a boutique skin-care company in New York’s Hudson Valley and made from organic lavender and apple cider vinegar, this elixir smells a helluva lot better than deet. Price $18 Buy Now   Photo: Nautilus Nautilus XM Reel   Nautilus builds reliable saltwater reels designed for catching fast, powerful fish. The XM brings that same

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The Best Boats of 2016

For the most part, boat manufacturers are in a careful tinkering phase, making smart refinements to tried-and-true designs. Notably, the trend in shorter (sub-15 feet) touring boats has matured: many brands are now producing these more playful kayaks, which are a bit slower than their longer forebearers but also more versatile. Regardless of what type you’re after, try to test a few models in the water before making a purchase. And while online homework is helpful, it can’t replace talking through options with a knowledgeable specialty retailer. Finally, remember to ask yourself a couple less exciting questions before pulling out

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The Women’s SUP Essentials of 2016

Get wet. Go long. Have fun.   Photo: Mi Ola Mi Ola X Back Bikini Top and Cya Full Double-String Bottom  With a crossback design on top and grippy waistband elastic below, this bikini stays put even when you tumble on a wave.  Price $95 and $85 Buy Now   Photo: Mountain Hardwear Mountain Hardwear River Gorge Long-Sleeve Shirt  Stay out all day in this half-zip with UPF 50 protection. The quick-drying fabric is silky, not clingy, and a side pocket is big enough for cash, keys, and lip balm.  Price $50 Buy Now   Photo: Bureo Bureo Kayu Sunglasses  These shades pair frames made from recycled plastic

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The Best Women’s Swimsuits of 2016

Performance can look good.   Photo: Lululemon Lululemon Tidal Flow One-Piece  Best For: Understated Elegance The Tidal Flow is the Audrey Hepburn of sporty swimsuits. It’s classy yet playful—simple, clean lines with an overlapping stringy back are paired with a band of transparent mesh running across the torso. Think of it as a little black dress that does everything—from sunning to swimming—well.     Price $118 Buy Now   Photo: Patagonia Patagonia Nanogrip Top and Nanogrip Side Tie Bottom  Best For: Surfing Bikinis this cute tend to fall off during your first wipeout. Not so the Nanogrip. With a sticky liner that clings like a gecko, this

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