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Combine the brains of white-water park builder Mike Harvey, surfer and board shaper Zack Hughes, and professional freestyle kayaker Luke Hopkins, and you have the hive mind behind Salida’s Badfish SUP. With the Arkansas River as its laboratory, the trio has been perfecting inflatable whitewater paddleboards and river surfers since 2009. Now, the Badfish team has turned its attention to long-distance expeditions with the Wayfarer. Slimmer and slightly longer than your typical float-and-sip lake toys (though it can play the part), this touring board has a smooth, speedy glide for covering water quickly but with more stability than a racing board for confidently carrying gear and tackling moderate rapids. The real game-changer, however, is Badfish’s patented Wiki Rail, a foam extension that squares off the board’s tail to create a clean, efficient release instead of the speed-sucking waves typically produced by the rounded tails on most inflatable boards. “Your day-on-the-lake board is like the townie you ride to the bar,” Harvey says. “The Wayfarer is your gravel bike for adventures.” Tricked out for gear junkies, the board also includes a removable tri-fin system, a GoPro attachment on its nose, a water bottle holder, and a mount for securing a fishing rod, cell phone, or other equipment. All this—plus the collapsible paddle and pump—packs down into a carrying case for weekend camping trips or expeditions further afield. $1,099
We usually prefer to save long sleeves for the evening, but the Eclipse Sun Hoodie from Boulder’s Himali is designed for long days on the water (and pretty much everywhere else you need sun protection). Its stretchy, lightweight fabric has a UPF rating of 20, meaning it blocks around 96 percent of UV rays. Thumbholes keep the sleeves in place; the clever side pocket is a convenient spot to store keys or snacks; and it dries in about five minutes if you go for a dunk. After first releasing earthy hues such as gray and green, the company debuted bolder colors, including red and lime, earlier this fall. $80 (Men’s and Women’s)
Leave it to Montrose-headquartered Abel, the Ferrari of the fly-fishing world, to create a beat-me-up reel with serious sex appeal. The heft comes from the Rove’s field-serviceable design and drag plate made of aircraft-grade aluminum for slowing down monster trout. The bling comes from the laser-engraved fly designs on the back of that drag plate, which spin as you reel in your line, and Abel’s 100-plus signature finishes, each of which is sure to turn as many heads on the water as the Italian supercar manufacturer’s iconic red does on the racecourse. From $750
Mancos-based Alpacka Raft was conceived in 2000 after co-founder Thor Tingey hiked and floated Alaska’s Brooks Range using shoddy gear. Since then, he’s been developing his own packrafts: inflatable watercraft that can be carried in a backpack. All of that experience has made its way into the Refuge. Released in January 2022, the 5.5-pound vessel shaves two pounds off Alpacka’s Classic model, in part by sacrificing a bit of carrying capacity and stability. Rafters will happily make that trade when there are miles of trail until the next river. $1,275
Whether you’re navigating boat-rolling rapids or casting in the rain, your gear will remain bone dry in this fully waterproof pack. Originally crafted out of nylon fragments salvaged from the Denver company’s factory floor, the latest iteration goes beyond repurposing scrap material by turning post-consumer, single-use plastic bottles into tough-as-nails fabric. It’s so indestructible that Canadian heli-ski guides have been known to use orange Thunderheads to mark chopper landing zones in gnarly weather. $300
Zeal Optics has long made sporty, planet-friendly shades. Now, the Boulder-based sunglass brand is expanding into fashion-forward styles. Launched in May, the Duskwing combines polarized lenses perfect for sunny SUP sessions with butterfly frames chic enough for cocktails in Cherry Creek. Rubber inlays behind the ears and on the nose bridge prevent slippage, making these specs as functional as they are attractive, and just like Zeal Optics’ other models, they’re crafted from plant-based resin rather than petroleum-based plastics. $159