Colorado Essential Gear for Every Water Sport


Combine the brains of whitewater 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 their laboratory, the trio have been perfecting inflatable whitewater paddleboards and river surfers since 2009. Now the Badfish team has turned to long distance expeditions with the Wayfarer. Thinner and slightly longer than your typical floating and sipping lake toys (though it might play the part), this touring board has a smooth, fast glide to cover water quickly but with more stability than a racing board for confidently hauling gear and tackling moderate rapids. The real game-changer, however, is Badfish’s patented Wiki Rail, a foam extension that squares onto the tail of the board to create a clean, efficient release instead of the speed-sucking waves typically produced by tails. rounded on most inflatable boards. “Your day on the lake is like the city dweller you drive to the bar,” Harvey says. “The Wayfarer is your gravel bike for adventures.” Designed for gear junkies, the board also features a removable three-fin system, a GoPro mount on its nose, a water bottle holder, and a mount for attaching a fishing rod, cell phone, or other equipment. All of this, plus the collapsible paddle and pump, packs into a carry case for weekend camping trips or expeditions further afield. $1,099

Courtesy of Himalaya

We usually prefer to keep the sleeves long for the evening, but the Boulder’s Himali Eclipse Sun Hoodie is made for long days on the water (and just about anywhere you need sun protection). Its stretchy, lightweight fabric has a UPF rating of 20, which means it blocks around 96% of UV rays. Thumbholes keep sleeves in place; the clever side pocket is a handy place to stash keys or snacks; and it dries in about five minutes if you go for a dunk. After initially launching earthy hues such as gray and green, the company launched bolder colors including red and lime earlier this fall. $80 (men and women)

Courtesy of Flylords

Leave it to Abel, headquartered in Montrose, the Ferrari of the fly fishing world, to create a spinning reel with serious sex appeal. Weight comes from the Rove’s field usable design and aircraft grade aluminum drag plate to slow down monster trout. The bling comes from the laser-etched fly patterns on the back of this drag plate, which spin as you spool in your line, and Abel’s over 100 signature finishes, each of which is sure to turn just as many heads on water that the The emblematic red of the Italian supercar manufacturer invites itself to the racetrack. From $750

Courtesy of Alpacka Raft

Mancos-based Alpacka Raft was conceived in 2000 after co-founder Thor Tingey paddled and floated the Brooks Range in Alaska using shoddy gear. Since then, he has been developing his own packrafts: inflatable boats that can be carried in a backpack. All of that experience made its way into the Refuge. Released in January 2022, the 5.5-pound vessel undercuts Alpacka’s Classic model by two pounds, in part by sacrificing some load capacity and stability. Rafters will gladly do this craft when there are miles of trail to the next river. $1,275

Courtesy of Jack Reis/Fishpond

Whether you’re cruising rapids or casting in the rain, your gear will stay dry in this fully waterproof bag. Originally made from shards of nylon salvaged from the company’s Denver factory, the latest iteration goes beyond repurposing scrap materials by turning post-consumer single-use plastic bottles into fabric. tough as nails. It’s so indestructible that Canadian heliski guides use orange Thunderheads to mark helicopter landing zones in bad weather. $300

Courtesy of Zeal Optics

Zeal Optics has a long history of making sporty, planet-friendly sunglasses. Now, the Boulder-based sunglasses 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 insets behind the ears and on the bridge of the nose prevent slipping, making this spec as functional as it is attractive, and just like other Zeal Optics models, it’s made from plant-based resin rather than plastics petroleum-based. $159

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