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Different Strokes

Posted Apr 26 2011 3:18pm

Can't decide what type of paddling you want to do? Here are some front-runners in almost every category of human-powered watercraft.

Available in five weights, including an ultralight, 42-pound Kevlar version that's a breeze to lift solo, the 17-foot WENONAH Spirit II sings on the water, balancing speed, maneuverability, and carrying capacity. With its convenient sliding bow seat, this easy-gliding performer can also be used for gear-intensive overnight trips. $1,400–$2,500

A multisporter's dream, the HOBIE Mirage Pro Angler provides a tackle compartment, dual storage wells, and ample room for everything from fishing rods to six-packs. It has a cozy, ventilated captain's chair and excellent stability, which makes stand-up casting easy. The foot-pedal propulsion allows you to forgo the paddle so you can cast for lunkers. $2,500

Based on hardboard designs, the C4 Waterman 12'6" iSUP inflatable standup paddleboard is stable and speedy. It maintains its hard-shell-like rigidity, thanks to the interior drop-stitch threading. The board is light and thick enough for river and ocean surf, yet still perfect for cruising on the family pond. $1,350 (includes travel bag and pump)

Old school meets new in the Axiom 8.5 all-around whitewater kayak by DAGGER . While it may not help you pull a serious freestyle move (like, say, a tricky woo-phonics monkey combo), the Axiom's dimensions (8 feet 6 inches long by 25.5 inches wide), wave-piercing deck, and low-volume stern make it a surf machine. $1,000

The tandem AIRE Outfitter II inflatable kayak got neophytes through the Grand Canyon's Upset Rapid unscathed, so it should keep you right-side up as well. This 12.5-footer has a load capacity of 525 pounds and 18.5 inches of bow and stern rise, making it nimble enough to dodge boat-buckling holes, even if you cart along a Dutch oven. $1,395

At 12 feet by 32 inches, the Big Easy by STARBOARD provides a sturdy platform for standup paddlers who are looking to improve their balance and strokes, while the narrow tail allows experienced surfers to maneuver in waves. The Big Easy's epoxy rails can handle beatings, making it an ideal do-it-all board for the family. $1,200

Want the feel of a simple sit-on-top ride without the constant splashing of cold water? The affordable 11-foot EMOTION Comet 110 is a solid, blow-molded sit-inside kayak that's ideally suited for day-tripping. It has an easily adjustable seat, plenty of reachable storage space, and a long waterline to carry you to distant shores. $400

NECKY 's Looksha Elite can catapult ambitious sea kayakers into extended tours and rougher waters. It has a roomy cockpit, a supportive seat, two waterproof hatches, and a smartly designed rudder system. The hull is built for speed, and the fiberglass (or carbon) construction makes for a lightweight craft. $3,100 ($3,700 for carbon)

LIQUIDLOGIC 's Remix XP10 is the latest "crossover" kayak that performs well whether you're moseying through flatwater or charging down rapids. Its handy spring-loaded skeg enables paddlers to navigate heavy whitewater, while its rear "backcess" hatch facilitates mellower, overnight excursions. $980

--Eugene Buchanan and Dave Shively

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