Tapping nearly six decades of board shaping know-how has led Hobie to develop an SUP called the ATR, one that does for standup paddlers what the downriver kayak does for rookie river-runners. The name stands for All Terrain Ride, and Hobie shaper Mark Johnson says the design places a premium on all-around "paddleability," followed by stability and surfing performance. Still, the ATR can certainly handle its own in the surf. The tucked rails and an accentuated V-bottom in the tail improve handling on the wave, while well-placed volume and flat deck accommodate wobbly entry-level paddlers looking for a flatwater tour. Available in three sizes. ($1,599 in EPX foam molded construction, L: 11'2", W: 29.5", T: 4.62", 25 lbs., hobie.com).
It only takes a couple of strokes to get the C4 Waterman Holoholo up to speed. What you choose to do with this sleek cruiser's unparalleled glide is another matter. Sure, you can take it in the surf. Shaped in the tradition of Hawaiian "olo" boards, the Holoholo quickly planes on the smallest downwind rollers and accelerates down steeper faces. Shaper/designer Dave Parmenter says the steep, sailboard-like rails allow clean "exhaust flow" of water behind the narrow but stable hull. The result is what Parmenter calls a "certain Cadillac glide" that translates best over long distances. Removable tie-down plugs convert this ride into a versatile overnight touring machine ($1,867 in Thermal Epoxy Compression with EPS core, L: 12', W: 27.5", T: 4.75", 25 lbs., c4waterman.com).
Standup newbies will be hard pressed to find a more stable platform to dial in SUP stroke mechanics than the 12'1" Laird. Benefiting from Surftech's technical manufacturing resources, this Laird Hamilton-designed board is made of Tuflite—a lightweight material featuring sandwich construction of fused-cell EPS foam and two epoxy/fiberglass layers that sets a high standard for board durability and responsiveness. All you need to know is that this stiff and buoyant beast provides plenty of forgiveness in choppy water, and its tapered tail makes catching your first wave a cinch. More experienced surfers will be surprised at how easy it is to shift positions while riding and cutting up bigger waves. ($1,571 in Tuflite, L: 12'1", W: 31", T: 4.13", 30.4 lbs., surftech.com). — Dave Shively
Hobie's five years spent at the forefront of SUP design culminates in the Carbon Hybrid, a paddle crafted from the R&D rigors of Hobie's race and surf teams. But don't let the name fool you, this paddle is all carbon; the 'hybrid' tag comes from the gamut of SUP disciplines you'll feel confident using it for—touring, racing or surfing. Although only 21 ounces, this stiff stick features an 8.5-inch-wide, double-dihedral blade shape and a rigid center spine for significant purchase on those power strokes that matter most. The Carbon Hybrid also boasts a light, tapered oval shaft that's a quick swing from side to side and there's no reason for hesitation when you're ready to lean in on it for your first massive bottom turn ($299, hobie.com)
Those entering the SUP realm to cruise the coast or dabble in the surf will benefit from the lightweight feel and flex of the QuickDraw from Sawyer Paddles and Oars. The handy CamLock Ferrule puts the quick in QuickDraw, as it easily unlocks the shaft to adjust length all the way to 90 inches—perfect for your Sasquatch-sized in-laws. Want to toss this beauty in the trunk of your Prius? No worries; the QuickDraw telescopes down to 63 inches. This do-it-all comes in three blade versions: an optional all-bamboo blade, the cedar-core Zephyr or the Radial (pictured) featuring a carbon power face, fiberglass-reinforced red cedar and ponderosa pine core and Dynel edging, at 28 ounces ($329, paddlesandoars.com).
Sit-down paddlers accustomed to the comfy feel of Werner Paddles' 'oval index' shaft will make an easy upright transition to the Nitro. At a mere 20 ounces (for the one-piece, 78-inch length), Werner's newest SUP model makes those high-cadence strokes for catching set-waves feel as smooth as a comb through surf wax. Chalk that up to the long, narrow and buoyant foam-core carbon blade and an all-carbon shaft solid enough to help you progress steadily through any surf conditions ($299, also available in two-piece, adjustable two-piece and adjustable three-piece shafts, wernerpaddles.com). — Dave Shively