The beauty of SUP is its versatility. You can rip down a river gorge or meander around the local pond, traverse an urban canal or explore an ocean reef. As long as there’s water, your paddleboard is your ticket to ride.
Of course, all paddlers have their own idea of paradise. For some, it’s the solitude of an alpine lake. For others, it’s the rugged shorelines of the Northwest. There’s even a certain breed of thrill seekers who get their kicks out of illicitly paddling on private property (if you think the Bellagio fountain looks amazing, just wait until you’ve paddled across it).
When it comes to America’s most popular locations, there are the usual suspects. Plenty of people flock to Key West. And the Santa Cruz area has a special place in many a paddler’s heart. Unsurprisingly, Hawaii is also beloved by beginner and expert paddleboarders alike.
These saltwater destinations are undeniably impressive, but they’re essentially limited to coastal areas. If you move inland, you’ll encounter the vast waterways and diverse lakes that make freshwater paddleboarding a unique alternative to the ocean.
About 60 miles east of Portland you’ll find the adventure town of Hood River. It may have a population below 8,000, but it offers plenty of incredible SUP opportunities. Board sports have long been popular here, with windsurfing aficionados first flocking to the mighty river in the ‘80s. Next came the kiteboarders, drawn to the powerful winds that rip through the gorge.
Now it’s SUP that attracts a good share of the local attention, with paddlers tackling whitewater sections that’ll take your breath away. Not quite your style? No problem, because there are also areas where you can leisurely enjoy some flat water paddleboarding.
Colorado is a particularly SUP-friendly state, with lots of rental shops and epic whitewater parks. For many paddlers, the state’s crown jewel is the Arkansas River. Stretching nearly 1,500 miles, it’s one of the longest rivers in the nation.
The Arkansas may not boast the intense rapids of other American rivers, but it has enough complex stretches to challenge the most seasoned paddlers. You’ll also find whitewater parks in Salida and Buena Vista. On the flipside, there are long stretches of flat water that are perfect for beginners. Whatever your skill level, this area of Colorado always delivers.
The oldest national park east of the Mississippi River, Acadia offers classic New England adventures for paddlers. And while it’s located along the Atlantic coastline, many of its greatest treasures lie inland. Be sure to check out Eagle Lake, Seal Cove Pond and Echo Lake. Explore these freshwater gems and you might even encounter some of the local wildlife, including bobcats, coyotes, foxes, black bears and moose.
Given the climate in this part of the country, it’s best to visit in the summer or early fall. September and October are often the best when the summer crowds have diminished and you’re able to enjoy more of the solitude that makes Acadia so amazing.