Flows are up after a big snow year and it’s time to get out on the water. Whether you are heading to the local lake, canyon run, whitewater cataract or surf wave, we have chosen the best boats to keep you on top.
1. C4 Waterman 12’6″ iSUP
Based on C4’s hardboard designs, the 12’6” iSUP is the first-ever inflatable paddleboard nominated by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association as a finalist for Surfboard of the Year. But you don’t have to live on the beach to enjoy it. Maintaining hardshell-like rigidity thanks to interior drop-stitch threading, it’s designed for stability and speed. With rocker in all the right places and a versatile planning shape, this SUP is light and thick enough for river and ocean surf, yet still perfect for touring on the family pond. Plus, it propelled us to first-place in the north-of-I-70 media-division at the Teva Mountain Game’s downriver SUP race last year.
$1,350 (with travel bag and pump); c4waterman.com
2. Dagger Axiom 8.5
Old school meets new in the Axiom, an all-around whitewater kayak available in four sizes. While it might not link a Tricky Whu into a Phoenix Monkey (freestyle moves for you land-lubbers), its dimensions (length 8’6”, width 25.5”, volume 63 gallons), as well as a wave-piercing deck and low-volume stern, make it an all-around surf machine. We took one to the Grand Canyon last fall and surfed our shoulders silly.
3. Liquidlogic’s Remix XP10
The Remix was at the vanguard of the recent movement among manufacturers to develop “crossover” kayaks that can both both tour flatwater and run whitewater. It remains at the head of this new class with a design that performs equally well in big Colorado-runoff whitewater and flatwater touring for when the gradient slackens. The keys: a handy, spring-loaded skeg to keep you on track on the flats, decadent outfitting and a snug-fitting, rear “backcess” hatch to handle overnight gear. It’s the perfect boat for floating from Radium to Rancho on the Colorado River for the annual bluegrass jam weekend.
4. Necky Looksha 17
For all you transplanted sea kayakers now living in the Rockies, the Necky Looksha 17 is your salvation. Made from virtually ding-proof superlinear polyethylene, the 17’4” craft combines high initial stability and hull speed, making it perfect for forays into Canyonlands or the Boulder Reservoir. It also comes with an ultra-comfy, four-way-adjustable ACS seat for support and softness; uber-cushy Comfort-Fit thigh braces; and the largest hatch openings the company has ever designed for grabbing that sleeping bag when you arrive at camp a tad late.
5. Old Town Saranac 146
How can you improve a centuries-old design? Plenty of ways. Old Town started from scratch with the new Saranac family of canoes, narrowing it and lowering the seats for one of the best-paddling rec canoes on the market. A flat bottom for stability and moderate rocker for maneuvering make it the perfect all-arounder. Made from bomber, thermo-formed polyethylene, it comes with two contoured seats and a bench seat for young-‘uns that also includes a covered storage compartment. Throw in cup holders, rod holders and storage trays and you have a craft that’ll make you feel right at home.
6. AIRE Outfitter II
This tandem inflatable kayak got neophytes through Upset Rapid on the Grand Canyon unscathed, so we think it’ll keep you rightside-up too. Increased diameter tubes and a low center of balance give this 12.5-foot rapid-runner stability, while a load capacity of 525 pounds means you can cart along a drybag, Dutch oven and even that mini-keg on sale at Liquor Mart for the campfire. Plus, 18.5 inches of bow and stern rise keep it nimble enough to dodge boat-buckling holes.
7. Emotion Comet 110
We’re not all adrenaline junkies. Some of us just want a stable craft we can float in on the family pond, the local reservoir or a lazy river. And we want it at a price point that will leave some cash to buy those Bronc… I mean Tebow tickets next fall. For the stability of a sit-on-top minus the splashing of cold water, try the 11-foot Comet 110. Made from blow-molded, high-density polyethylene, the sit-inside kayak is ideally suited for day tours, with a comfy, easy-adjusting seat, plenty of reachable space to pack and rig gear and a longer waterline to carry you to that distant shore.
8. Revo Guide
Your shades are designed for biking, driving, chilling… but not for paddling. No longer. With the help of Alexandra Cousteau (yep, his granddaughter), Revo sought to make a polarized lens that provides more clarity on the water. These wraparounds also include a built-in in leash system and have been designed to work with your hat.