Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington is not a place per se, it’s more of a term for the Cape Fear Coast which stretches from Topsail Island down to Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Bald Head Island and Holden Beach.
The great thing about SUPping in North Carolina is that there’s surf, flat water, wildlife and always some good company to paddle with.
The culmination of the Cape Fear paddling community is without a doubt Wrightsville Beach, where massive paddle board events such as the Cold Stroke Classic, the Surf2Sound Challenge and the Carolina Cup are held.
Whether you are a beginner or a badass, there’s a place for paddling in Wilmington.
The barrier islands offer secluded surf breaks, protected flat water, wildlife, fishing and one of the most welcoming paddle communities around.
The best way to get into a paddle community is through one of the meetup groups or through Facebook where you’ll always find someone in Wilmington to take you out and show you the sights on the water.
The Carolina Cup itself has a gruelling race which sees the world’s best stand up paddle boarders competing in the Graveyard Course.
The elite Graveyard course is not the only event here though, there’s a kids race, a recreational “Harbor Island” race and the Money Island open race.
There’s plenty of stuff going on in the five-day event, so don’t be deterred by the level of the competition.
Of course, the Carolina Cup is the peak of SUPing in Wrightsville Beach. The beautiful flatwater of the southern North Carolina waterways and pristine Atlantic Ocean are all excellent paddle board spots.
There’s also plenty of other beaches where the waves are great for SUPing. With local guides such as the instructors at WrightsvilleSUP finding a perfect spot for any tide or weather, there’s virtually a perfect place to paddle board any day of the year.
If you’re looking for something truly different, you might want to check out the Night SUP tours, where you’ll experience a whole new perspective on paddle boarding.
Wrightsville beach is truly a perfect paddle board getaway for paddlers of any level.
Tofino, British Columbia
Tofino, located along the untamed and and isolated shares of Vancouver Island is known for quite a few things: the cool temperate climate, the palm trees (which you’d really not expect to find there), the whale watching and the wicked Pacific surf.
SUPing has been recently gaining ground here and Canada held its first SUP surf contest in Tofino in 2014, which has since been held annually.
If you’re looking for some great SUP surfing, check out the fast, 5 meter high waves at Cox Beach in summer, or the consistent but tamer waves at Chesterman Beach.
If flatwater SUPing is your preference, Mackenzie beach is usually calm, although with just the right conditions, you may be able to catch a few small waves. In general, the calm waters and peaceful natural surroundings make it the perfect spot to combine yoga and SUPing.
Tofino Paddle Surf have all you’ll need for SUPing in Tufino, as do T’ashii Paddle School.
We now leave the continental US for our final few top paddle boarding spots.
If you’re not afraid of paddling in the cold, Alaska is another top paddle boarding hot spot, which offers quite a unique experience. Few places in the world can offer untouched nature like Alaska, the Last Frontier.
Stand up paddle boarding has really picked up in southcentral Alaska in the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. With lakes everywhere you look, and glacier/ocean SUP adventures beckoning just a few hours from Anchorage (or closer if you’re willing to try the Alaska bore tide!) – the Anchorage region has an amazingly enticing combination for the SUP enthusiast.
The majestic Wasilla Lake found in the Matanuska Valley north of Anchorage is a prime stand up paddle boarding spot for flatwater SUP.
The Eklutna lake is another great spot, not too windy and with hard to beat surrounding views. Portage Lake is an awesome paddle board spot with plenty of icebergs along the way, and a short paddle to the glacier. Mirror lake is especially captivating at sunset.
There’s plenty of other regions in Alaska for great SUping such as Eagle River, Fairbanks, the Turnagain Arm Bore Tide and Seldovia Bay to name a few.
Standup Alaska can be your local guides if you’re planning to paddle the majestic Wasilla Lake in the Matanuska Valley. Alaska Wildnerness SUP is another of the fine SUP shops in Alaska.
Here’s a glimpse into exploring the Last (Frozen) Frontier.
Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico
If the cold weather is not your thing and you’re more inclined to enjoy the warm Caribbean weather, the Riviera Maya is the place to go.
Start off at the pristine, white sand beaches at Playa del Carmen.
Besides being surrounded by mangroves, the reefs are teeming with sea turtles and other marine life.
Although you’ll be able to see everything from your paddle board courtesy of the clear waters, a pair of goggles is a must if, like many, you are unable to resist the temptation to pop your head underwater for a clearer glimpse at the marine life.
Similar conditions are found at Tulum, a bit further south, where you’ll also find a few, tame Caribbean waves that offer a fun ride.
Tulum (famous for Mayan ruins) is better known as a yoga haven than a surfing one, so can easily be incorporated as a cool down option after a SUPing session.
You might also want to check out one of the famous Mexican cenotes (sink holes) which are also great places for SUPing whilst enjoying the sights and sounds of the jungle wild life.
Check out Ocean Pro kite or Playa de Carmen Kite boarding, one of the many SUP shops for SUP rentals and tours in the Riviera Maya.
Hawaii Oahu, Hawaii
We’ve kept the absolute top spot for paddle boarding for last.
SUP’s modern story comes from the Hawaiian islands, where the Hawaiian translation is “Ku Hoe He’e Nalu” meaning to stand, to paddle, to surf a wave.
It of course makes sense that the place which offers the best spots to surf and SUP is the place where SUPing was born.
Surfing in Hawaii naturally led to SUPing and being how Hawaii brings some of the best surfers from across the world together, you can understand how paddleboarding quickly spread across the world.
Whether you want to hit up the beaches at Waikiki or just paddle along the calm waters at Sunset Beach during summer, or you’re brave enough to face the 15-foot winter waves – Hawaii should definitely be on your bucket list if you want to call yourself a real SUPer.
It’s only natural that downwinding is also very popular in Hawaii. You can ride the fast four-miles from Sunset Beach to the coral reefs at Waimea Bay
The real pros can follow the 32-mile downwind path set by the M20 Paddleboard World Championship. Starting at Kalua Koi on the island Molokai, you’ll need to then cross the grueling Ka’iwi channel to Maunalua Bay Beach Park on Oahu which will surely test your endurance to its limits.
And that’s a wrap! That’s our choice of the top paddle board spots. Which ones have you visited? Which is your preferred SUP spot? Which ones would you REALLY like to visit? And don’t forget to share any other awesome paddle board spots we may have missed in the comments below.