7 Best Spots for Beginners to Learn Stand-Up Paddling

by  Jill K. Robinson | Aug 26, 2014
Stand up paddleboarding
Stand up paddleboarding / NicoElNino/iStock

The fastest-growing water sport in the world, stand-up paddling (also known as SUP) is an easy sport to learn, despite looking like you need to be a master of balance to even think about it. Sure, balance is an important element, but if you can walk down the street without falling over, you’ll usually be fine. Want to learn the basics on your next vacation? Here are the best places to try it out:

Kauai, HI
With a varied coastline, plus inland jungle rivers, Kauai is a great place to start out with SUP. One of the best spots for beginners here is the Wailua River, in the middle of Kauai’s eastern coast. Protection from surf and wind means you can focus on your own balance without worrying about other elements trying to throw you off the board. That’s when everything seems to shift into island time. Take a lesson or rent a board from Kayak Kauai.

Lake Tahoe, CA
With more than 72 miles of shoreline, including sandy beaches and rocky inlets, Lake Tahoe is ideal for visitors to explore from the water on stand-up paddleboards. Online maps offered by the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Association break the 72-mile shoreline into seven segments — perfect for day trips. Rental opportunities abound, and public agencies in California and Nevada ensure good launching spots. Get your south shore rental from South Tahoe Standup Paddle, try SUP Yoga with Balance Bodyworks, or go to camp with SUP with Nicole.

Half Moon Bay, CA
Half Moon Bay may be home to big wave surf spot Mavericks, but you can stay safe with a SUP session in Pillar Point Harbor , protected from the surf and ocean surge. Paddle as fast or as slow as you like to take in the scenery and local wildlife -- think: California sea lions, harbor sealsm and an ever-changing list of migrating birds -- while staying safely within the harbor boundaries. Rent a board from Half Moon Bay Kayak Company or Mavericks Surf Shop. (Full disclosure: Our writer's husband is an owner at Half Moon Bay Kayak Company, but we promise that's not the only reason she loves it!)

Yampa River, CO
The Yampa River begins in the headwaters of the White River National Forest and continues on to the Utah border, where it meets up with the Green River. Catch it flowing through the heart of Steamboat Springs for a river stand-up paddle session, involving an inflatable board. The best way to learn how to SUP on a river is with a lesson, where you’ll get the down-low on handling small rapids and the nature of changing water. We suggest taking your lesson with Steamboat Paddleboard Adventures.

Black Canyon, AZ
The Colorado River’s Black Canyon is a 600-foot-deep cleft in the basalt of Nevada and Arizona’s desert. The jaw-dropping beauty of the canyon and its jewel-toned water should be experienced at leisure -- always a good reason for a camping trip. See how easy SUP camping is with a day trip or overnight with Try Stand Up. Learn the ropes, and you may soon find that you’re planning overnight river excursions close to home.

Key Largo, FL
There are so many areas in the Florida Keys to paddle that it can seem overwhelming as a SUP destination. Close to Key Largo, Paddle the Florida Keys offers a variety of routes for SUP renters to test their skills. Also offered are eco-tours of the Florida Bay and Key Largo Region. Want to have a bro-tastic day on the water? The “party rental” boards fit from four to eight people. (Pro tip: We think paddling your own board is actually more fun.)

New York CIty, NY
Stay with me here. Even in New York, it’s possible for stand-up paddlers to get out on the water, and there’s plenty for you to choose from -- whether you’re into SUP basics, yoga, boot camp, race training, or romantic twilight paddles. Tourists and locals alike get great views while being out on the water with Manhattan Kayak Company. Remember to bring a change of clothes, so you can go out afterward.

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