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Great Outdoors: Water Sports Gear For Geeks

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The Great Outdoors: A Bright, Scary Place

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Summer is finally here and you know what that means don’t you? What do you mean you don’t know? Don’t you think about going to the beach on a hot summer day or wakeboarding on the river or even jet skiing at the lake? It could just be me, but that’s all I think about during the winter when I’m at work and read my surf mags during lunch.

Growing up in Portland, Oregon exposed me to the great outdoors while still giving me the city living experience. Portland is centrally located that your 15 minutes from the river, two hours from the beach and one to three hours from a lake. It’s the perfect place for a waterman to live. We have some of the best kite surfing in the world, a top-notch wakeboard park, the best left pointbreak in North America and a handful or rivers for you to frolic in. The chance to have fun in any body of water was completely accessible to anyone that wanted to take advantage of it. So what sort of gear should a geeky waterman have in his arsenal? The following gadgets and gear work whether you’re at the beach, river or lake.

For those folks living in the city and having access to a beach might want to try surfing this summer. But don’t tell anyone I suggested that. In fact, Surfing Sucks! Those of you still wanting to try it out are going to need some really good gear. If the ocean near you isn’t quite warm enough to trunk it then you’ll need a wetsuit and there are tons to choose from. I’ve picked one from Patagonia and one from Billabong.

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Patagonia is relatively new to the wetsuit market while Billabong has been in the game for quite some time. The reason I picked it is because they line their wetsuits with merino wool and the design is simple and doesn’t have neon or crazy colors. I know it sounds a little strange, but the merino wool grid traps in heat while ridding dead air and wicks moisture away from the skin. It ensures you’re toasty and requires less neoprene to keep you warm. If you’re in an area where you’d be wearing a 5mm wetsuit you can wear a 3mm Patagonia and be just as warm. Crazy isn’t it? But the wool isn’t the only reason to keep you warm. Patagonia uses top quality Japanese neoprene that is made from 80 percent non-petroleum based ingredients. That’s a big deal because it has a 98 percent higher closed cell ratio than other neoprene available on the market. In this case, less is definitely more. Patagonia suits are also made from recycled material and they’re a member of 1% For The Planet.

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Billabong’s wetsuit is a little more gadgety for the nerds out there. The Solution Platinum Soundwave has an integrated MP3 player from Freestyle Audio (Look for a review on this player in the coming weeks). The Solution Platinum is the top of the line available suit from Billabong and is made from 100 percent Airlite Superflex (premium Japanese fabric). That doesn’t mean much to you, but it makes the wetsuit super flexible and easy to paddle in. Keep in mind that 90 percent of surfing is paddling.

The Soundwave is waterproof (duh) and completely submergible up to 10 feet. It’s shock resistant and audio playback is virtually skip-free. The built-in 512MB of storage is just enough for a cold-water surf session. The USB port allows for easy MP3 uploading and charges at the same time for up to 40 hours of playback. The 3mm wetsuit with MP3 pocket and player retails for $499.99 and that’s not too shabby considering what you get.

Now that we have your body covered and warm lets move on to an actual surfboard. Better yet, how about a surfboard that’s easy to learn on and easy to travel with? The ULI or Ultra-Light Inflatable surfboard does everything you’d want a PU surfboard to do. Just check out the video and you’ll see I’m not lying. Traditional boards are a real headache to travel with especially in crowded airports and baggage handlers don’t always treat your stick with the attention it deserves. What are you supposed to do when your board has a huge gash or cracked fin in a foreign land that might not have a ding repair guy? With the ULI you’ll never have to worry about such things and it’s easy to pack away. Simply deflate and throw it in your bag. They are constructed from the same sturdy materials used in military and commercial inflatable boats, making them durable and UV resistant. A 7’6″ mini-longboard will retails for $418.95 and an 8’6″ longboard will set you back $448.95. Just remember that surfboards are not beach bling!

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Not everyone has their homebreak dialed in and a tide watch can pay dividends when you’re first starting out. Of course it takes a lot more than a tide watch to make you good, but it definitely helps. The Nixon Lowdown has 15 years of pre-programmed tide chards for 200 beaches, dual time, countdown timer, alarm, wave counter and a light. For only $90 I highly recommend this one.

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If the water is warm enough to trunk it then you should check out the Matix Super-Gusto Military Party shorts. Why? Because they have double beverage pocket holsters. Nough said. A mere $60 will make the hotties flock to you wherever you go.

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If your picky about boardshorts like me then you’ll be stoked on the Hurley The Advantage boardshorts with Phantom technology. Wha? I own a pair of these shorts and they’re the most comfortable and flexible boardshorts I’ve ever owned. You can wear them surfing or wakeboarding and you won’t get a rash or chafe your junk. They move with your body and don’t restrict any of your movements. The best boardshorts currently available. They’re a bit pricey at $75 but worth every penny.

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When Water Wings just aren’t appropriate for a grown man anymore where should you look for flotation? A personal flotation device or life vest will do the trick and make you look manly in front of the ladies. Hammacher Schlemmer offers a 14-channel two-way radio life vest that’s battery-powered and includes a 1.8-mile signal range and water proof up to a meter deep. The vest is a cheap deal at $129.95 considering you get two radios so you can yell at the boat driver for going to fast or radio for help when a shark attacks.

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If you’re into wakeboarding and/or waterskiing then you have a ton of choices these days so it’s hard to recommend a single brand or type of board that will suit your needs. My biggest recommendation would be to buddy up with someone that’s an avid wakeboarder or water skiier and try out what they’re using to see if it’s something you really want to try. Wake World has a pretty good “Wizard” that tells you what board suits you based on your skill level, weight and personal preferences. About.com also has some great info on water skiing for beginners.

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What kind of geek would you be if you didn’t record all the crazy shenanigans you’ll have this summer on film? I think we’d strip the geek title from you. The GoPro Digital Hero 3 is a great low-budget waterproof digital camera, but I don’t think you need me to tell you all about it again. Look for an upcoming review in the coming weeks.

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Now that we’ve covered some of the major gear you’ll need to get wet how about some fun stuff? Tubing is a great way to get a lot of people involved and the cliche “the more the merrier” is where this wrings ring. How about a water balloon launcher? They’re especially great when other boats have them too. Who knows when a hot babe will need a cool down and you’ll be the one to provide her with it.

The Airhead Sting Ray and Jumbo Dog are fun for the whole family. As long as you don’t have a crazy driver that whips you in circles until you go flying in the air then you’ll be fine. I could be crazy but I enjoy hitting the water so hard that you get the wind knocked out of you or even blackout for a couple seconds. I guess I am crazy, but you know it’s worth it and your arms always feel like jello afterwards.

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The Sling King BEAST Mega Slingshot fires water balloons 300 yards. Wowzers. It’s simple to use and never gets old. It does require you to get two friends to help out, but if everyone chickens out then you can just mount it on the boat and take full responsibility for knocking someone out cold.

You can never be too safe in and around the water, so remember to look out for your friends and family this summer. Have fun and take up a new water sport if you get the chance.

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