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.
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.
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!