The Best Places to SUP in San Diego

Jacqueline Gephart paddling with Keeper and CBC brands in Oceanside CA.
Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

San Diego was voted by our 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.

La Jolla Cove does not disappoint. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

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.

Surf: Tourmaline

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.

San Diego is home to countless surf breaks. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

“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 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 340-360˚ NNW, ideally), the 10+ 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.

Not a bad takeout spot. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt Image via Grivel

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. High-tail 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.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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