Best Paddleboarding: West Coast

Paddleboarding Silhouette

Have pad­dle­board, will trav­el! Here’s a list of the best of the west coast to bring your board for some choice paddling. 

Baja Cal­i­for­nia & SoCal
What SUP SoCal! Sun­ny San Diego boasts some tru­ly amaz­ing pad­dle­board­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for folks at every expe­ri­ence lev­el. Check out Mis­sion Bay Park, 4600 acres of marine play­ground with more than 25 miles of shore­line packed to the gills with places to eat, shop, sleep, and play. Indulge in an epic cham­pagne brunch, work on your tan for twen­ty min­utes, then pad­dle out onto the bay for a leisure­ly day of SUP yoga with your fel­low swim­mers, boaters, and maybe even a fly­board­er or two. Or, if you’re look­ing for some mild surf and a longer haul, head to La Jol­la Shores. Fol­low the guid­ed kayak tours to La Jol­la Cove and the sev­en sea caves where you can get up close and per­son­al with all man­ner of marine life, includ­ing Cal­i­for­nia sea lions, flashy Garibal­di, and snor­kel­ing tourists.

If you’re inter­est­ed in adven­tures south of the bor­der, the Sea of Cortez offers no end of entice­ments. Qui­et Lore­to, once the pros­per­ous cap­i­tal of Baja, is beringed with cliffs and coves and home to the Lore­to Bay Nation­al Marine Park. It’s also home to a string of unin­hab­it­ed islands that teem with aquat­ic life such as dol­phins and orcas, sea stars and urchins, even mar­lin and sail­fish. Load up your pad­dle­board for an overnighter and camp right on the island beach­es. Even fur­ther south lies La Paz, where­in the right sea­son you may find your­self in the mid­dle of the par­ty atmos­phere of Car­ni­val or end­ing the day on the water with a guid­ed tour to swim with migrat­ing whale sharks.

Paddleboarding Lake Tahoe

North­ern California
Grab your wet­suit along with your board because the waters only get chill­i­er the fur­ther north you go. Head to San Fran­cis­co to SUP your way beneath the Gold­en Gate Bridge and around Alca­traz Island (yes, that Alca­traz!). Try the put-ins at Sausal­i­to near Horse­shoe Cove. Look­ing to get a lit­tle expe­ri­ence with SUP surf­ing? Leave the bay for Boli­nas, a small town off the icon­ic High­way One whose beach­es boast a friend­ly, mel­low vibe and a long ride per­fect for begin­ners. Of course, if you’re a vet­er­an of stand-up pad­dle­board surf­ing, you’re no more than a stone’s throw from world-class big waves at Mav­er­icks, where you can ride in the shad­ow of big-wave surfer and father of SUP Laird Hamilton.

Nes­tled inland amidst the tow­er­ing Sier­ra Nevadas, strad­dling the bor­der between Cal­i­for­nia and Neva­da, sparkles the majes­tic Lake Tahoe. For a tru­ly epic expe­ri­ence only avail­able on the largest alpine lake in North Amer­i­ca, mak­ing use of the lake’s twen­ty pub­lic launch and land­ing sites to pad­dle­board the 72-mile length of the Lake Tahoe Water Trail. If you’ve only got enough time to do one or two sec­tions, try to begin and/or end in Car­nelian Bay along the Cal­i­forn­ian north shore so that you’ll have time to vis­it Waterman’s Land­ing, a cof­fee shop and SUP out­fit­ter born of a clear love for both beans and boards and a beloved com­mu­ni­ty gath­er­ing spot.

Paddleboarding Mountains

Ore­gon & Washington
Bend is the obvi­ous pick for SUP adven­tures in Ore­gon. Sur­prised? Climbers and skiers have long dom­i­nat­ed the scene here, but the intro­duc­tion of the Bend White­wa­ter Park to an already-awe­some pad­dle down the Deschutes Riv­er through the Old Mill Dis­trict has real­ly upped the ante in favor of pad­dle­board­ers and kayak­ers. Flat­wa­ter fiends can skip just thir­ty min­utes out­side Bend to Elk Lake, where lake­side camp­ing is first-come, first-serve and the views of the near­by moun­tains nev­er cease to amaze. If, on the oth­er hand, you’re look­ing for a lit­tle more adven­ture, head over to Hood Riv­er, OR where the Hood Riv­er meets the Colum­bia under the watch­ful eye of Mount Hood. Put in on the Colum­bia at Vien­to for a down­wind run that’ll take your breath away.

If you find your­self in Wash­ing­ton state, you’ll find great pad­dle­board­ing with spec­tac­u­lar views at Nisqually Nation­al Wildlife Refuge. Sit­u­at­ed where the salty Puget Sound meets the fresh­wa­ter Nisqually Riv­er, the refuge shel­ters a wild array of crit­ters. A pad­dler who puts in at Luhr Beach near the north­west cor­ner of the refuge might be lucky enough to spot bald eagles nest­ing along the shore, beavers build­ing their dams, the salmon run­ning upstream to their spawn­ing grounds, and per­haps even hear the cho­rus of treefrogs. Just be sure to mind the tides!