Editor’s Note: San Diego was voted by SUP Magazine readers as the winner of the 2018 Paddle Town Battle.
San Diego, California might just be one of the most attractive SUP destinations on Earth. Home to more than a seemingly endless summer, miles of public beaches and of course, the California burrito, America’s Finest City hosts a smattering of SUP locations with something on offer for every standup paddling discipline and skill level.
There’s a thriving SUP community to boot, with local paddling groups and outfitters standing by to help make your San Diego SUP dream trip a reality. Here are a few San Diego paddling hubs to keep in mind while making travel arrangements this winter.
San Diego SUP surfing touts too many spots to list here, with uncrowded breaks spotting the coast from Imperial Beach to Carlsbad. But if you’re new to town or new to SUP surfing, one surefire bet for gentle waves and a SUP-friendly lineup sits at Tourmaline Surf Park in Northern Pacific Beach.
“Tourmo,” as the locals call it, is the city’s go-to training ground for longboarding and SUP surfing, featuring mild surf and a dense (but hospitable) crowd. Paddle a short jaunt north to PB Point during mid- to high-tide for a longer, more consistent right-hand point break alternative.
Touring: Mission Bay
If you’re aiming to immerse yourself in quintessential SoCal beach life, there’s no better place to tour than Mission Bay. The wind-protected nooks and crannies of this manmade bay offer seemingly endless flatwater exploration, featuring unparalleled views of the Mission Beach peninsula, Pacific Beach, Crown Point and Fiesta Island. Get outfitted at the Mission Bay Aquatics Center and paddle across Sail Bay for a drink at the Barefoot Beach Bar and Grill to round out a day’s outing.
Downwind: Cardiff to La Jolla
Disclaimer: Wind is not San Diego’s pièce de résistance when it comes to ocean paddling, and thus downwinding is not San Diego’s traditional forte. That said, on the rare and rather random occasion that the wind honks out of the north (we’re talking 340 to 360-degree NNW, ideally), the 10-plus mile run from Cardiff (Encinitas) to La Jolla (Scripps Beach or La Jolla Cove) offers an unobstructed downwind course hailed by locals as San Diego’s primary option.
Keep tabs on the wind report during your visit and hit up an outfitter if you see a 20- to 25-knot NNW breeze in the immediate forecast.
Adventure: Northern Baja
Less than 30 miles south of San Diego, paddlers with a knack for exploration can find themselves in an entirely new world of SUP offerings, or at least a new country. The trek from downtown to the San Ysidro border (entering Tijuana), takes less than 30 minutes. Hightail from there to the coast and you’ll be paddling Mexican waters in less than an hour’s time from your San Diego departure. While surf dominates the disciplines of SUP in Northern Baja, there are flatwater and touring options in the Playas de Tijuana and Rosarito regions as well. Find a good guidebook, double-check that your passport is up to date and plan wisely. This may be foreign terrain, but it’s a lot more accessible than one might expect.
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