Surftech x Prana Catalyst Tuflite V-Tech 11'2" ($1,399)
The Catalyst may not be the flashiest board, but its versatile shape, simple features, and low weight add up to a SUP that glides well on flatwater and is capable and responsive on small waves and in variable ocean conditions. The board absolutely cruised in the calm of California’s Monterey Bay. In four-foot waves, the length and moderately rockered nose made the drops easy—it felt like a shorter, nimbler longboard. The long single fin, meant for tracking straight, won’t allow you to carve hard, but it’s great for trimming in small surf. The Catalyst has the same environmentally friendly bamboo, carbon, and plant-based epoxy construction as Surftech’s Aleka, which won Gear of the Year in 2018. What’s new? A wider tail and midsection, and about 20 percent more volume, all of which helps accommodate larger paddlers. The 32.5-inch-wide, 4.8-inch-thick deck was stable enough in calm conditions to allow testers to bring their cameras and phones aboard without fear. Bonus: the foam deck pad was the most comfortable we tested.
Bote Flood Aero 11' ($799)
The rugged, inflatable Flood Aero is a floating base camp. Blowing it up took six minutes, and the single touring fin required only seconds to install. On flatwater it paddled smoothly and didn’t feel wobbly despite the six-inch thickness, which puts the paddler relatively high off the water but adds rigidity. The extras really make this 32-inch-wide board shine. Bote’s line of purpose-built accessories (coolers, racks, rod holders) transform it into a full-featured touring or fishing rig, while hooks for a shoulder strap ($40) and three handles make for easy carrying. An on-deck Velcro strap allows you to rest your paddle without worry when you reach for a snack or pause for a photo.
NSP DC Surf Wide 8'7" ($1,399)
For the DC Surf Wide, NSP set a strong, lightweight coconut-husk mat atop a 32-inch-wide board that’s stable, responsive, and zippy. This 18-pound steed caught three-foot waves at a central California point break with ease. It maneuvered fast-moving sections like a much shorter SUP, thanks to its shortboard-inspired shape, square tail, and five-fin setup. The single-to-double-concave bottom yields good acceleration even on soft waves. The rockered nose handles steep drops, and the diamond-patterned deck pad is grippy through hard carves. NSP sells narrower surf SUPs, but the DC Surf Wide is a solid choice for big riders or folks looking to step down from a longer board.