Although relatively new in the world of sports, SUPing has quickly gained popularity throughout North America, and it’s no wonder why. Attracting fitness junkies, surfers, fishermen, yogis, racing competitors, and nature lovers alike, this adaptable sport has something for everyone. The locations for SUPing are just as versatile. Although almost any body of water will do, some spots seem as if they were always destined for SUPing. So, where are the best SUP spots in North America?
Best SUP Spots in Canada
SUPing is the perfect way to explore Canada’s great expanse and rugged natural landscapes. Although many areas remain unexplored, healthy lifestyles have led many to embrace and develop SUPing. New spots and locations are being discovered and established every day, but some spots in particular have caught the world’s attention.
Tofino, British Columbia
Located along the untamed and isolated shores of Vancouver Island, Tofino is known for its cool temperate climate, unexpected palm trees, whale watching, and of course, its wicked Pacific surf. Although localism amongst the surfing crowd can be a turn-off, that hasn’t stopped SUPing from gaining ground. Canada held its first SUP surf competition there in 2014, and again in 2015. If surfing is your SUPing forte, check out the fast, 5 meter high waves at Cox Beach during summer, or the equally consistent but tamer waves at Chesterman Beach. If you’re the kind of person who prefers SUPing on flatwater, Mackenzie beach is usually calm, although when conditions are just right, you may be able to catch a few small waves. In general, though, the calm waters and peaceful natural surroundings make it the perfect spot to combine yoga and SUPing.
Vancouver, British Columbia
You’d be hard pressed to find a place with more waterways and opportunities for SUPing than Vancouver. The entire city is bordered by fjords, bays, rivers, sounds, lakes and islands, not to mention the surrounding hills covered by dark evergreens and snowcapped mountain peaks. The scenery couldn’t be more spectacular and neither could the SUPing opportunities. You can explore Howe Sound and its many islands before heading out into the Strait of Georgia. For a unique perspective on downtown Vancouver, SUP on False Creek, but watch out for boats. To escape the bustle of the city head to Deep Cove. Surrounded by thin beaches and pines, you’ll feel a sense of calm isolation perfect for flatwater SUPing.
Situated on Lake Ontario, Toronto may not have a lot of surf, but the beautiful scenery, islands, and slight waves of the lake make it the perfect spot to explore on your SUP board. Paddle northeast along the shore to see the dramatic gray precipices of the Scarborough Bluffs. In the opposite direction, just southwest of the city, you can plan your own SUP route to cover 10k or more as you wind through the channels of the Toronto Islands and admire the picture perfect city skyline from afar. If you already have some SUP experience and are looking to try something a little bit different, take a night tour out on the lake. LED lights lining the borrowed board will guide the way through the dark waters. For racing competitors, the city often has relays, and is even hosting one of the events for the Stand Up World Series in 2016.
Best SUP Spots in the U.S.A
With two coasts, an abundance of lakes, rivers, and streams, it’s not too hard to find good SUP spots in the states. Although you don’t have to look hard for some fun finds, there are some truly awe inspiring and fun spots well worth checking out when you aren’t paddling in the water near your neighborhood.
Although its roots span through history and so many cultures it might make you think SUPing was always in our DNA, its modern development can be traced to the Hawaiian Islands. Surfing naturally led to SUPing and its subsequent spread throughout the world. It makes sense that SUPing’s birthplace would be the perfect spot to SUP and surf. You can hit up the beaches at Waikiki or just paddle along the calm waters at Sunset Beach during summer, a drastic contrast to the 15-foot winter waves. If you’re up for it, downwinding is also popular here. From Sunset Beach it’s a fast four-mile ride over coral reefs into Waimea Bay. If you’re feeling like a pro, follow the 32-mile downwind path set out by the M20 Paddleboard World Championship. Start at Kalua Koi on the island Molokai and cross the grueling and endurance testing Kaiwi channel to Maunalua Bay Beach Park on Oahu.
San Diego, California
It’s hard to go wrong in California, but San Diego might be one of the most SUP-friendly places in the country. Nice weather, ocean waves, several bays, islands and nearby lakes, as well as plenty of SUP shops, tours, and lessons make San Diego an unbeatable destination. SUP surfers can take the arcing highway that leads to Coronado Island or get in an added workout by paddling about a mile in. On the Pacific Ocean’s side of the island, an exposed beach break ushers in waves that are perfect for SUP surfers. La Jolla, however, is by far the best place to go. Not only does it have a surfing section, the calmer waters of the cove are a nature lover’s dream. Beneath the clear waters you’ll get a chance to see the rich marine life such as orange tinted fish, sea lions, and sea turtles.
Key West, Florida
Breathtaking beaches, warm weather, clear waters graced by coral reef ecosystems, and an abundance of flora and fauna make Key West one of the best SUP spots in the United States. With literally hundreds of islands nearby, there is something for every type of SUP practitioner here. Easy going riders will find a smooth paddle through mangrove trees and shallow waters full of tropical fish. To improve your flexibility and core strength, pause in the shelter of the mangroves to practice yoga on your board. If you aren’t afraid of the dark and up for an untraditional adventure, take a night tour. LED lights along the board will illuminate life beneath the otherwise black waves. Not enough adrenaline for you? If you’re looking for a little more competition, sign up to race in Key West’s Annual Paddle Classic held in late April or early May. No matter what you decide to do, glimpsing jellyfish, stingrays, and even a few sharks from atop your paddleboard makes Key West a worthwhile venture.
Best SUP Spots in Mexico
When winter comes around and you find yourself struggling to quench your SUP addiction, Mexico might be the perfect place to go. Although SUPing in Mexico is relatively untapped, you’ll be pleased to find it’s pretty well established in a few key places.
Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo
If you want to combine warm Caribbean weather, clear blue waters, private resorts, endless relaxation, and luxury with your flatwater SUPing experience, Riviera Maya is the place to go. The pristine, white sand beaches at Playa del Carmen are the perfect starting point. They’re surrounded by mangroves and reefs teeming with sea turtles and snorkel-worthy marine life. Although you’ll be able to see everything from your board, bring some goggles in case the temptation to pop your head underwater for a second is too great to resist. A bit further south, Tulum isn’t very different, with the added bonus of a few, tame Caribbean waves that are nonetheless a fun ride. You might be the only one out surfing them, though, since Tulum is better known as a yoga haven than a surfing one, which you can incorporate in your SUPing to cool down after paddling through the glassy waters.
Riviera Nayarit, Nayarit
On the other side of Mexico, along the Pacific coast, lies one of Mexica’s most popular tourist destinations, which coincidentally happens to be one of the best SUP spots in North America as well. Sayulita is recognized throughout the world as one of the best SUP spots. Racing is common here. The Punta Sayulita Long Board & Stand-Up Classic is held there annually, and it also hosted the ISA World Standup Paddle and Paddleboard Championship in 2015. For surfing, go to the point break to ride low and easy right hand breaking waves. Just 30 minutes southwest lies another fun SUP surf spot, el Anclote in Punta Mita. If you aren’t into surfing you can paddle along the coast’s flatwater or head out to Marieta Island to wind your way through awe-inspiring caves that suddenly open overhead or lead to secluded beaches.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
Although tourists flock to Tijuana, SUPers might be better off heading south to the tip of the peninsula, Cabo San Lucas. At Medano Beach, paddle along the coast through relatively tame waves out to Land End’s Arch, a striking rock formation that forms a gateway to what seems like the end of the world, or the land, anyway. Downwind SUPing is also possible here. Hennessey’s 2012 World SUP Championship staged an 11 mile downwind race from Punta Gorda to Palmilla, the starting point about 30 minutes northeast of Cabo. SUP surfers will also love this spot. Because it straddles the Pacific and the Gulf of California, you can surf any time of year. Heading toward the gulf, you’ll find an array of beaches with good surf, like Zippers’ fast short reef break waves, or Acalpulquito’s easy going surf.
The best part about these SUP spots is that right now, there’s little competition. You’ll be able to bask in the solitude of empty lakes and have coastlines all to yourself. Nothing beats the tranquility of exploring on your own and creating new boundaries or discovering new destinations. However, as SUPing grows in popularity, so will the crowds. Make sure to check out the best SUP spots in North America before the sport really takes off.