Paddle Town Profile: Washington D.C.

In Session: One of many sup events outside our nation's capital. Photo courtesy Washington Canoe Club

Think your hometown has what it takes to win the 2018 Paddle Town Battle? Vote for your favorite paddling town and it could receive a feature profile in our upcoming Summer Issue!

While politics might be all the rage in our nation’s capital, for paddlers that’s all secondary to what lies within and just outside the city limits: an oasis of standup paddle boarding options that leave the problems of the White House in their wake.

Whether it’s dipping a blade along the C & O Canal or on the Potomac River, a variety of lakes, rivers and bay tributaries offer ideal SUP conditions, making the nation’s capital a shoo-in candidate for this year’s Paddle Town Battle. Check out Washington DC’s city profile below and then cast your vote to help determine the winner of this year’s Paddle Town Battle.

SUP Overview

Name it and you can paddle it in the D.C. area, from downwinding and touring to surfing opportunities on the Potomac below Great Falls. “There’s a wave there that’s off the charts, as well as a pretty strong river SUP scene,” says local SUP surfer and photographer Skip Brown. “You can stay on it for hours.”

The best season to paddle is generally April-October (once it warms up, or if you are die-hard you can gear up in booties and wetsuit/drysuit during winter)

Key Events/Races

The Kumu’ohu Challenge at Washington Canoe Club is held in mid-April every year (April 14 this season), with a growing SUP contingent, and is the first local race of the year. The Bay Bridge Paddle in Annapolis is held in early June (June 2 this season) and is one of the biggest SUP races on the East Coast with close to 400 participants. “Next to the Carolina Cup, it’s the biggest SUP race on the east coast,” says Capital SUP’s Chris Norman, adding that 30-40 DC locals also regularly travel to other east coast races together during the summer.

Best Paddling Spots 

Angler’s Inn River Access – Potomac, MD. This area offers quick and easy access to great flatwater paddling on the C & O Canal (lessons also available).

Key Bridge – Georgetown. A great place to rent equipment and take a lesson along the Potomac River (rentals available).

Capitol Riverfront – Washington, D.C. Paddle along the Anacostia River past DC’s historic Navy Yard, Nationals Stadium, Kingman Island and Yards Park and other spots of interest along the river.

Riley’s Lock – Poolesville, MD. Located at Great Seneca Creek in Northern Montgomery County, this is a great launch spot.

National Harbor, MD. A metro SUP hotbed, offering calm waters and scenic views (rentals available).

Annapolis, MD. Paddle along the Chesapeake Bay and countless rivers, creeks and tributaries. Launch points include Amos Garret Park, Jonas Green Park, Chesapeake Avenue Beach, Truxton Park and Sandy Point State Park. Info:

Dyke Marsh Refuge – Alexandria, VA. One of the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetlands in the metro area. Info:

Pohick Bay Regional Park – Lorton VA. Great for wildlife viewing. Info:

Reston, VA. SUP lessons are available on Lake Anne and Lake Audubon. Info:

Local Paddling Scene

National Capital Area Women’s Paddling Association and Washington Canoe Club are two local clubs that focus on outrigger and skull, but are also embracing SUP.

“Standup paddleboarding has become a very large part of the Washington Canoe Club,” says the club’s Liz Pennisi, whose group rents out SUPs to members first-come, first-served. “We have many members who are recreational, racing, surfing and whitewater SUP paddlers and a couple who are certified instructors and coaches.”

The club hosts several races a year that include SUP along with other paddlecraft, and many of its racers compete in national and international events. Outfitter Capital SUP also hosts a three-day-a-week SUP Race Training Program at its Navy Yard location that draws up to 30 people.

Local Outfitters

Capital SUP: With locations in Annapolis and DC, Capital SUP is the spot to go for all things SUP, from rentals and retail to lessons. “We’re really trying to grow the local SUP community and be a true hub for it,” said Norman. “There are more and more people doing it every year.” Info:; (410) 919-9402

 Key Bridge Boathouse: Formerly Jack’s Boathouse, Key Bridge Boathouse offers SUP rentals, fitness and yoga classes. Info:, (202) 337-9642

River Riders: Located in Harpers Ferry, River Riders offers non-guided SUP rentals and lessons along the Appalachian Mountains. Info: www.riverriders.com304-535-2663, 

Valley Mill Kayak School: A longtime fixture in the local kayaking scene, Valley Mill offers lessons, complete with Stride Airlite HD river boards. Info:, 301-840-7388

Potomac Paddlesports: A paddlesports outfitter and retailer offering instruction and two-year memberships, which includes four lessons, coached weeknight practices, board rentals and a 10 percent discount in the store. Info:, 301-881-2628

The Paddle Town Battle is On!

The Paddle Town Battle was simple in concept: pick the 16 best standup towns in world and let you, dear readers, vote to decide the ultimate SUP city.

But what makes a good place to live and paddle? Is it access to the water? Is it a nice place to live? Is it the people? We debated. There were so many questions to answer that we formed categories: proximity to types of paddling (ocean surfing, whitewater, flatwater, downwind, river surfing), community (races, shops, people), off-the-water amenities (breweries, eateries, yoga studios) and influence (what role this place has played in the sport). If you think your town has what it takes, submit it here for a chance to win the Paddle Town Battle!


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The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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