In Hawaii in the 1960s, surf instructors stood on their surfboards to snap pictures of their students. Giving out the photos was an easy way for the instructors to earn extra tips. Even though that’s where modern paddleboarding started, people around the world have been standing on boards and paddling around since at least the 18th century, when Captain Cook witnessed Polynesians doing it.
For a long time, paddleboarding was something that only surfers knew about. Modern paddleboarding found a broader audience in the late 1990s, when paddleboard races like the Catalina Classic and Molokai-2-Oahu Paddleboard World Championships brought paddleboarding out of the small circle of surfer culture and into a larger, more mainstream arena.
Today, people travel the world to paddleboard, but some of the best paddleboarding around doesn’t even require a trip to Hawaii. California has plenty of great inland and coastal paddleboarding spots. Here are five of them.
1. Santa Barbara Harbor
One thing visitors love about Santa Barbara is that its outdoor activities truly span the gamut. From hiking the that mountains surround the city to whale watching and water sports, Santa Barbara is a place that has it all.
When it comes to stand-up-paddleboarding (SUP) in the Santa Barbara Harbor, you’ll find no shortage of instructors, supply shops, and tours. The reason why Santa Barbara works so well for paddleboarding is that its harbor waters are relatively calm. Stand-up-paddleboarders aren’t the same breed as kamikaze surfers; while surfers often seek the very biggest, meanest waves, paddleboarders often seek the smallest. Santa Barbara Harbor has plenty of small, calm waves.
2. Morro Bay
Morro Bay is a relatively quiet, small town on California’s Central Coast. Located on Highway 1 about four hours north of L.A., or two and a half hours west of Fresno, Morro Bay is popular with stand-up-paddleboarders because it’s good spot for the sport all year round. From late summer through early winter, Morro Bay’s temperature is mild and its winds are gentle. With spring comes harder winds, the kind that attract kiteboarders more than paddleboarders. Adventurous paddleboarders will have fun once spring starts challenging themselves on bigger waves. However, even at its windiest time of year, early risers at Morro Bay can get to the water as the sun is coming up and still enjoy calm waters.
3. San Diego Bay
Maybe you’re planning a family vacation to San Diego. What spots do you hit? There’s the San Diego Zoo, of course, which is recognized as one of the best zoos in the world, and there’s Sea World. What kinds of active, outdoor activities can you do with your kids, though? Surfing is an interesting idea, but for the littlest ones, learning to surf can be a frustrating experience.
Stand-up-paddleboarding, on the other hand, is a perfect activity for the whole family, even kids, and San Diego is the perfect, family-friendly place to learn.
San Diego Bay paddleboarders do more than just paddle around with the family, however. One trend that’s been sweeping the California paddleboarding world, and which is particularly prominent in San Diego, is yoga paddleboarding. Once the yoga class makes their way out into San Diego Bay, they do yoga poses on the paddleboards. From headstands to downward-facing dog, the yogis find that paddleboards are the perfect environment to increase balance, strength, and flexibility in their yoga practice.
4. Redondo Beach
Like San Diego, Redondo Beach, which could be considered a part of the greater L.A. area, is another spot where yogis and paddleboarders are finding that their two activities work well together. Redondo Beach, along with its neighbors of Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach, are all communities where paddleboarding is popular and both lessons and equipment are easy to find.
5. Lake Tahoe
One of the greatest aspects of the paddleboarding sport is that, unlike surfing, it doesn’t require an ocean. Paddleboarding can be done anywhere. People in Whistler, Canada, paddleboard; so do people in Minnesota.
In California, the best inland spot for paddleboarding is the picturesque Lake Tahoe. Located on the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is known the world over for its crystal clear waters, with a surface as smooth as glass. Paddleboarding through Lake Tahoe is a wonderful way to make an intimate connection with the lake. Although you probably won’t find many people doing yoga poses on their boards at Lake Tahoe, you will find plenty of people who enjoy touring the quiet, peaceful waters from the back of a paddleboard.
What Are Your Favorite Spots in California to Go Paddleboarding?
We’ve named five popular paddleboarding destinations in California in this article, but there are dozens of paddleboarding hotspots throughout the Golden State. Do you have any personal favorites? Places that new paddleboarders shouldn’t miss? Be sure to share your ideas in the comments section below.