Whether you're looking to drop down the face of a wave or just cruise on open water, skip the soft board and learn standup paddleboarding (SUP) on one that performs. There are two types of boards: Surf-style, which are shaped like oversized longboards. Wide and flat, with a rounded nose and tail, these SUPs are built for stability, not speed. With this type, you can cruise flat water and slow-moving rivers, and even paddle into face waves.
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If you're looking to paddle longer distances smoothly and quickly, then opt for a long-distance board instead. Also known as displacement-hull boards, these longer, sleeker SUPs slice through water and are designed for touring, fitness paddling, and racing. Here's a group of SUPs that won't let you down out on the water.
Pau Hana Oahu Nose Rider
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more steady and stable surf-style SUP than this short (10 foot), wide board. It's a good all-rounder for tooling about on flat water. Just don't expect to get anywhere in a hurry: The Pau Hana is geared more toward riding waves. We tested it in stomach-high peelers and had a blast walking to the nose on this board. One downside: The cool-looking, tribal-inspired traction pad on our tester board started to peel. [$1,145; silvercreekpaddle.com]