At some point in the past 20 years, boating got way too serious. Every new model was designed for charging hard in gnarly conditions. Sure, surf kayaks built for aerial maneuvers and creekboats with hulls that plow over waterfalls helped push the sport. But most boaters were left behind. This year we’re giddy to report that the pendulum has swung back to accessibility. Most of the boats we tested had playful designs suitable for intermediate conditions, from Class III whitewater to forgiving beach breaks.

outside buyers guide
Liquidlogic Mullet. (Liquidlogic)

Liquidlogic Mullet ($949)

The biggest story right now is river play—boats with larger bows and low-volume sterns that are maneuverable in eddy lines and ideal for rock splats. This year’s standout is the Liquidlogic Mullet, which boasts the largest front-to-back difference in volume. It made even simple seams on Washington’s White Salmon River more fun, thanks to an endless ability to sink into the current for tricks.

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outside buyers guide
Jackson Kayaks Antix. (Jackson Kayaks)

Jackson Kayaks Antix ($1,199)

If you’re into surfing glassy water and ripping snappy turns, the Jackson Kayaks Antix is your craft. While it has high volume, a maneuverable bow, and a small, sliceable tail, its flat-planing hull felt fast and nimble when skipping along waves.

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outside buyers guide
Dagger Kaos 10.2. (Dagger)

Dagger Kaos 10.2 ($749)

Unique in their own right, both boats take cues from the bestselling whitewater craft of all time, Dagger Kayaks’ RPM. The Greenville, South Carolina, company is still in the game with the RPM’s modern cousin, the seafaring Kaos 10.2. Its sit-on-top construction frees paddlers from having to lock into a spray skirt, and hearty thigh braces allowed us to use our body weight to rail into turns. Though less sprightly than the other kayaks on this page, the Kaos isn’t reserved for beginners (or the wealthy, at that price). The three-fin setup and aggressively rockered bow may not be built to handle tricks, but they give experienced boaters the capability to pump down the line and work up some serious speed.

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Travel

The Best Women's Swimwear of 2017

Suits of all styles for lounging, surfing, and playing.  Roxy Boheme Life Crop Top (Courtesy Roxy) Roxy Boheme Life Crop Top ($48) and Drop Diamond Mini Bottom ($40) We liked the extra coverage of this halter racerback, which stayed on no matter what we put it through. The knit fabric is comfortable and the style is on-trend, whether you’re bodysurfing or chilling in the hot tub. Buy Top Now Buy Bottoms Now Cynthia Rowley Blue China Print Wetsuit (Courtesy Cynthia Rowley) Cynthia Rowley Blue China Print Wetsuit ($295) It can

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Travel

The Best Surfboards of 2017

We don’t all surf like John John Florence. Most of us need board shapes that are forgiving—more volume here, less rocker there. But you still want one that won’t bog through turns or pearl on takeoff. To that end, these three models nail the delicate blend of performance and usability.  Channel Islands Mini 5'5" (Courtesy Channel Islands) Channel Islands Mini 5'5" ($805) Hands down, the Channel Islands Mini 5'5" was our favorite of the test. It has the speed and drive of a full-bodied fish combined with the rocker and outline of a performance shortboard. That

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Travel

The Best Surfing Accessories of 2017

Effortlessly cool accessories for a day on the water.  Raen Wiley Rectangular Sunglasses (Courtesy Raen) Raen Wiley Sunglasses ($135) A classic wide silhouette with 100 percent UV protection means you won’t be blinded during a late-afternoon surf check. Buy Now ​ Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax (Courtesy Mr. Zog’s) Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax ($2) Funny name. But good, sticky results. Buy Now ​ FCS Premium Leash (Courtesy FCS) FCS Premium Leash ($27) Surfing at a warm beach sans leash is one of summer’s great pleasures. But if you must tether your

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Travel

The Best Stand-Up Paddleboards of 2017

Just add water. And, in some cases, air. Red Paddle Sport 11’3”. (Red Paddle) Red Paddle Sport 11'3" ($1,529) Gear of the Year The paddleboard industry continues to boom, thanks largely to inflatables. Blow-up boards allow those space-challenged adventurers among us to reach places rarely touched by a paddle, and are no longer too floppy or too bulky to be considered unworthy alternatives. Take Red’s 11-foot-3-inch Sport. Lightweight at 22 pounds, it can handle everything from alpine lakes to open-ocean jaunts. Included battens make it amazingly rigid, more so than any other inflatable we’ve tested. And

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Travel

The Best Fly-Fishing Tools of 2017

Snag that monster brown you’ve been chasing.  Orvis Battenkill III Disc reel. (Orvis) Orvis Battenkill III Disc Reel ($169) You could blow a mortgage payment on a high-end reel, or you could get the Battenkill. This updated classic has a drag that can haul big rainbows from the Rio Grande. Buy Now Voormi River Run hoodie. (Voormi) Voormi River Run Hoodie ($129) Weather changes fast on the water, so you need versatile apparel. Voormi’s American wool is so breathable, we wore the River Run with the hood up and sleeves down

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