A few years back when we lived in Redondo Beach, one of the beach cities near Los Angeles, we started to notice an increasing number of people on stand up paddle boards (SUPs) gracefully cruising around the harbor and ocean. Having never surfed or gotten into board sports, we weren’t sure how hard it would be to learn. On vacation, Jaime saw a woman paddleboarding with her dog on the Sea of Cortez and decided we would learn when we got back home. It turned out it wasn’t as hard as we thought it might be and we didn’t end up going swimming during our first lesson! It has also been a great activity to do while RVing.
While SUPing started in Hawaii as another way to surf, the popularity has grown as people have discovered that large and stable boards are great for paddling lakes and rivers as well as the ocean.
Our first boards were 11-foot fiberglass epoxy and perfect to strap onto the top of our SUV and drive down to the beach, but not exactly travel-friendly. So, we added two inflatable boards (iSUPs) that fold up and fit into a backpack carrying case we could fly with. Flash forward to the present as full-time RVers, we sold the fiberglass boards and keep the iSUPs in a storage bin and have enjoyed using them in places from the Puget Sound to Baja, Mexico.
Of course, the inflatables have to be blown up and came with a manual pump that can be quite a workout in and of itself to get the 12’6” boards up to a rock-solid 15psi. Fortunately, we have an advantage with our Bago’s onboard air compressor that allows us to pump them up without breaking a sweat.
How to Test it Out
If you are thinking about getting started with SUPs, there are more and more places where you can rent and take a lesson. Many board shops will also let you demo boards before buying. With a little research, you can also purchase a board you think will work well for you (Costco and Isle online have great return policies, in case you decide it’s not for you), then just learn the basics from reading articles and watching videos. For example, check out this beginners guide to SUPing.
We prefer a longer touring style board as they are more stable and track better, but there are many shapes and sizes to suit your personal preference and boarding style. We have family members in their 70s who easily stood up on our boards on their first outings.
A Few Safety Tips
It is also important to note that the US Coast Guard considers SUPs to be “vessels” and require you have a PFD (personal flotation device) and a sound producing device (whistle) on board. We wear a waist PFD that deploys a life jacket with the pull of a cord and a C02 cartridge to inflate that is comfortable to wear and compact.
A leash that connects you to your board is another important piece of safety gear, especially in open water. Our boards are very buoyant, but if we get knocked off in waves and high winds, we don’t want to lose them.
Speaking of winds, we always try to check the wind and weather conditions. SUPing in the wind is not easy and it’s much better to paddle into the wind and let it push you back home when you’re done. It’s also a good idea to check the local water rules to make sure you’re in compliance. For example, Oregon requires an Invasive Species Permit for all boats.
Favorite Places to Camp & Paddle
Lake Powell, Utah
We camped at the beautiful Lone Rock Beach Campground and paddled out past the rock into the nearby canyons. The lake is huge and there are a lot of canyons we would like to explore more of next time we visit.
We’ve enjoyed paddling in Baja California and Baja California Sur. On our trip last year to Gonzaga Bay, we heard whales breathing before we spotted them surfacing a mile away. This year we have loved the postcard-perfect waters of Bahia Concepcion, launching from Playa Santispac – a beach you can camp on.
Lake Mead, Nevada
Our free camping spot at Stewarts Point was a stone’s throw from some great paddling.
The Pacific Northwest
With all the lakes, bays, and rivers, there’s not enough time in the short summers to enjoy all the places to paddle here. Some of our favorites are Waldo Lake in Oregon, La Conner, Washington, and The Deschutes River in Central Oregon.
Do you SUP? Where is your favorite place to paddle?