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.
Though it shares the general outline of a displacement-hull-style race board, the 12-foot-6-inch Flowmaster packs added thickness and float throughout, making it a steady, comfortable ride – more Cadillac than Ferrari. This long-distance board's sharp nose slices through chop, while the 30-inch width and mostly flat hull have even total beginners feeling stable immediately. The many tie-down points on the front deck make this board a good choice for multiday SUP camping trips and long-distance cruising. [$1,430; shop.surftech.com]