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If you’re willing to work hard, conquer your fears, and maybe don some superhero spandex, anything is possible

Paddleboarding keeps getting bigger—and the SUPs keep getting better. Here are three of the most versatile new models. Plus, smart tools for discerning paddlers.

2015 Gear of the Year Winner

As the sport grows up, there are more and butter SUPs for all kinds of paddlers.

Jenny Kalmbach, 35, winner of the Battle of the Paddle and the Molokai 2 Oahu, on training and racing technique

5 stories by our editors about near-death experiences and how they survived.

Outside reviews the best gear in the Summer 2013 Buyer’s Guide, including the Bic Sport Wing Ace-Tec

Designed to make the most of subpar conditions

Though there are many larger, better-known SUP manufacturers, Pau Hana is quickly carving out a name for itself with fast, well-priced boards like the fitness and adventure-ready Crossfit.

The latest trend in surfboard design is stout, full figures. All four of the boards we selected, from the short and fat Third World Exotic Surfboards Ghostbuster to the 5'11" Lost Bottom Feeder, are under seven feet long, maneuverable, and built with plenty of width and thickness to make catching waves easy.

You can extend or collapse the Kialoa Pupu according to your height and whether you’re surfing or touring, so if you need one paddle to do double-duty, this is it.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the NRS Big Earl kayak.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Walden GSI Epoxy SUP.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Surtech Gerry Lopez Surf Music standup paddleboard.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Stewart LSW surfboard.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Rusty Dwart surfboard.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Firewire Dominator CBD surfboard.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Channel Islands Black Flag Whip surfboard.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Hobie Elite Race standup paddleboard.

The paddleboard craze is going wild. Whether you're a seasoned water rat or a total newbie, here’s how to get vertical.

This nine-footer is a high-performance board with plenty of float, so it’s Cadillac-smooth in peeling surf. Up front it’s wide, round, and inviting for toes-on-the-nose time. And the double concave hulls spill to the tail in a slight V, which gives the board a shot of high-octane get-up-and-go. Pair…

CLASSIC LONGBOARD Bob McTavish shaped the original Fireball in 1994. Since then, his 9’1″ performance longboard has become a hard-to-find classic—until late 2007, when Global Surf Industries started mass-producing it. Our GSI model rode well in a variety of conditions, from crisp East Coast beach rollers to a point break…

BEGINNER’S BOARD The INT’s top may be made of closed-cell foam, but that doesn’t mean it’s a poorly performing slug like most soft-tops. Because the business side of the board is all resin (like conventional glassed surfboards), with a set of two Future Fins and a Bahn Fin in the…

It’s five bucks cheaper and every bit as comfortable and secure as any leash we’ve tried. Plus, it’s the first leash made from recycled rubber. Comes in six-to-nine-foot lengths. wavetribe.com…

Constructed from just five main neoprene panels—versus ten-plus in many wetsuits—the CL5 limits the number of irritating seams and boosts your freedom of movement. This 3mm/2mm full suit has fluid-sealed seams to minimize water seepage and works best in water temperatures between 55 and 64 degrees. www.quiksilver.com…

GIGGLES FOR ALL Funboards are often overlooked because they don’t have the sexy lines of a shortboard. But for most casual surfers, this WRV Fun Fish is just right—and the 7’6″ model we tested is the most user-friendly board here. Its flat bottom made for easy paddling and acceleration, allowing…

1. Equipped with five fin boxes, the Walden works as a thruster or quad. Our 6’4″ test model carved up small waves best as a quad. And when the surf jumped up, we popped out the back two fins and added one in the center for a thruster…

The PsychoFreak introduces a new three-layer neoprene sandwich—two thin, solid layers around a perforated middle layer that traps air like a double-pane window—to keep you warmer with less fabric. It works: This super-stretchy, 3.5-milli-meter suit kept us as warm as a five-mil suit while affording tons more flexibility.

Forget funeral black: O’Neill lets you customize your wetsuit online, choosing from 15 colors, plus logo options. You can deck out one of two wetsuits, but we recommend the Psycho II 4/3 cold-water suit (48 to 56 degrees). Though it’s built from toasty 4mm/3mm neoprene, the Psycho is still…

GET UP, STAND UP Last year saw stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) move from the wacky fringe to the pages of Us Weekly, as seemingly every celebrity picked it up. With the fad still on full burn, shapers are racing into the SUP market, which is what makes the C4 special. It…

USER-FRIENDLY RIPPER Top pros like Bruce Irons, Joel Parkinson, and Luke Egan all ride Aussie shaper Jason Stevenson’s designs; the 6’5″ 300KW thruster we tested is identical to the one Egan surfs on in competitions. The bottom features a speedy, single-concave shape that transitions into a double-concave section near the…

Made from recycled plastic bottles, this backpack keeps your surf stuff organized with thoughtful features like a seam-sealed wetsuit pocket, tarp-lined surf-wax keeper, and insulated cooler pocket. dakine.com…

Talk about kids in a candy store. Contemplating the 20-surfboard quiver we assembled for Buyer’s Guide testing this year, our wave riders felt as if they’d been given the keys to Wonka’s brand-new surf factory. We had longboards, guns, funboards, thrusters, and fish—yet there was one stick our testers…

A PLAYBOAT FOR THE WHOLE RIVER We love the kayak industry’s renewed focus on floating down rivers, but that doesn’t mean play-boating is out. The Fuse brings a river runner’s sensibility to freestyle: “Its edges were aggressive enough that moves didn’t feel mushy but soft enough that boiling eddies were…

High-Performance Softboard Not long ago, the words “soft surfboard” would’ve drawn jeers from core surfers. Now comes the ultralight Y-Quad, a truly high-performance softboard designed by Tom Morey, inventor of the boogie board. The semihard slick-skin deck and bottom suggest a glassed board, but the soft rails and boxy tail…

Slippery hands make for slippery surfboards. Avoid SPF-related wipeouts by using this nongreasy, water-resistant SPF 50 sunscreen stick. It ain’t cheap, but your skin is worth it. vertra.com…

1. Can you imagine a tent from the 1970s making it into these pages now? Not a chance. But a good surfboard is a good surfboard, and the retro shape of the single-fin MR, which was designed by surf icon Mark Richards, was hands-down this year’s most stable, predictable,…

A RIVER RUNNER WITH ATTITUDE Backing off from expert-only playboats this year, Riot released a mellow river runner. The Thunder is responsive and relatively fast, and it tracks well across currents. “It will go about anywhere you want to take it,” one tester said, “and it’s great for catching hard-to-reach…

1. When the Flyer shape was first introduced, in 1999, it was as a performance board for small waves. But it worked so well that it became Channel Islands’ bestselling board of all time. Like the Flyer, the Helix is versatile on a wide range of waves. It’s lively…

Yeah, it’s just a beach chair—a beach chair that’s made of ash and stainless steel, has big and small cargo pockets, and can be carried hands-free, like a backpack. Most important, this baby reclines like you’re in business class, so you can tap in to the perfect nap angle.

FAST STICK FOR BIG GUYS If you’re a shortboarder stuck in a longboarder’s body, the Moby Fish may be the choice for you. Because this seven-foot-plus funboard is 22 inches wide, nearly three inches thick, and made with floaty EPS foam, it paddles like a longboard. But thanks to the…

SMOOTH AND STEADY Liquid Logic consulted a flotilla’s worth of southeastern kayak instructors when designing the river-running Remix. The result is a boat that’s about as user-friendly as they come: No edginess, no surprises, and easy to keep upright in squirrely water. And if you do flip? “It’ll literally roll…

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