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We know at least one sponsored paddler who was so smitten with the new RIOT AIR 45 that he defected to the company. And why not? The six-foot Air uses its surfboard-like bow and two removable inch-long fins along its hull to generate more speed on waves and, therefore, more air. Paddlers looking for maximum acceleration can plug in up to four fins, including optional two-inch skegs that make the Air shred-ready for ocean surf. No surf? Just unbolt and remove the fins for runs down rocky river sections. Less-skilled paddlers may find the Air’s ride demanding at first, but advanced paddlers who love waves and mondo altitude will sing hallelujah. ($1,125; 514-931-0366, www.riotkayaks.com)
DAGGER designed the stubby FX 5.7 to help advanced playboaters pull off moves like loops and donkey flips. Plastic pods bolted to the decks of the five-foot-nine-inch FX are the secret. “If you want a boat that will jack you bigger in the air, putting extra volume on the deck is the best way to do it,” explains Dagger’s designer, Marc Lyle. Inside the cockpit, the performance-fit system uses a small hand-operated air pump to inflate a pair of bladders at your hips, which translates into better control on the water and in the air. Intermediate boaters shorter than five foot ten (sorry, tall guys) will find the FX a handy tool for spending all day perfecting aerial stunts on the rapids. ($1,099; 800-433-1969, www.dagger.com)