There are many places to stand up paddle board in Southern California. One of the local hidden gems is in Carlsbad, CA at the Aqua Hedionda Lagoon. To the locals it is known as the Carlsbad Lagoon. It’s beautiful to paddle at sunrise, sunset, and moonrise. I spend a lot of time at this lagoon coaching beginner and intermediate paddlers. I also love training for SUP races, and paddling with my friends. It’s a great place for learning to SUP on flatwater.
Paddlers can circumvent the lagoon for a 2-3 mile paddle when no motor boats are present. When paddling the lagoon it is best to stay close to shore & paddle the parameter. As you get closer to the west end of the lagoon, marked by buoys, you will have to navigate jet skis & motor boats. This can add some fun & challenge to your paddle, but do keep a safe distance. Once you pass the jet ski area, you can cruise under the I-5 overpass. Be mindful of boats when cruising back along the south side of the lagoon, as paddle boards are not suppose to be on that side. If you go at high tide, you can venture into the tributaries located on east side of the lagoon. If you head back there with the wind, be ready to fight the headwinds on your way back! Please refer to the map below & stay in the passive use areas.
Birds and fish at the lagoon are plentiful. Recently, I observed an Osprey flying with his catch of the day, and later snacking on it in a tree. You will also see the California Brown Pelican, California Towhees cruising around, Egrets, and Great Blue Herons. Many people are surprised by the Mullet jumping up in front of them, and almost landing on their boards! Near the east side of the lagoon you will also see stingrays. As long as you don’t step on them they won’t harm you. Occasionally you can observe a sea lion or sea turtle cruising in the lagoon.
To get to the Carlsbad Lagoon take Interstate 5, take the Tamarack Avenue off-ramp and head east. Make a right on Hillside Drive, another right on Park Drive, then another right on Bayshore Drive and into the cul-de-sac. This is a quiet neighborhood, so please exercise respect, taking heed of dog-walkers and removing your trash when you leave. A right-of-way leads to the shoreline, where you can launch straight into the lagoon. Important rules and regulations for the Aqua Hedionda Lagoon can be found at http://www.carlsbadca.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=26088. Passive vessels require a permit. You can purchase a 1 day permit or an annual permit. Permits may be obtained at the Carlsbad Lagoon, online at https://www.carlsbadca.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=23909 , or in person at the Monroe Street Pool.
Office hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.
So many races in March! ☘️ It’s like March SUP Madness! We are green with envy we can’t do them all! Find your races here:
It does rain in Southern California! It may not happen as often as we like, but when we get a good rain it's best to stay out of the water. Don't risk getting sick or a serious infection (see The Inertia article link below).
It's not worth it!
Health officials advise against ocean water contact for 72hrs following a significant rain event due to elevated bacteria levels, especially nears harbors, drain pipes, and rivermouths.
The Inertia: https://www.theinertia.com/surf/surfing-in-dirty-water-what-you-need-to-know-this-winter/
Check the water quality in San Diego: http://www.sdbeachinfo.com/
Check the water quality in Orange County: https://ocbeachinfo.com/
What is your favorite activity on a SUP? Here is a list of some of the most popular activities on a SUP.
I want to thank all the paddlers on SUP Chat who helped contribute to my poll on what SUP activities they enjoy. If you are passionate about SUP join our SUP Chat group on Facebook.
As with any of these activities, always be safe and have FUN!
Enjoy stand up paddle boarding on flat water by yourself, or with friends, and family. Many local SUP shops offer lessons, and social events to get you started. At Blue Paddle SUP we have Halloween Paddles, Full Moon Paddles, Food Drive Paddles, & etc. Best time to go SUP is when the weather and water are warm, but you can paddle through the winter months with proper equipment.
Check your local shop for rentals, lessons, and events, and get out on the water!
Do your yoga practice or your fitness routine on a stand up paddle board. This can be done outside on flatwater or at your local indoor/outdoor pool. It's a great way to elevate your breathing, stretching, balance, and core.
Stand Up Paddle Board Racing on water is a blast! There are all kinds of SUP races throughout the world that you can enter. Find a small local community SUP race to enter for your first race. Start off with a one mile or a 5K race. Don't worry about your pace, just go meet the paddle community and have fun! Equipment gets a little more expensive once you have to purchase a race board. But many races still have a "sup surf" division (less than 12'6" size board) that you can participate in.
Super fun way to experience SUP! You paddle with a high wind at your back. Winds can be anywhere from 15-30mph. When first starting off go with an experienced friend or take a lesson. A great place to do downwinding for the first time is The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. At the Columbia River Gorge, the winds travel East and the current travels West creating swells in the water that you surf. It's similar to surfing, but you are travelling in a straight line, pushing you down the river!
Another fun way to enjoy SUP! I admit I love sup surfing. I had never surfed until I sup surfed at 50 yrs. old! All I can say is try it, you will love it! There are so many wonderful things about it that I could write a separate article on it! Anyway it's one of the hardest, and funnest ways to SUP! You can SUP Surf a short board, a long board, a race board, or even a Mega inflatable board! Going in and out of the surf, catching a wave, riding a wave, getting safely out of the wave. Always progressing, always laughing!
This is on my list to do! Stand Up Paddle Boarding in water rapids! Whitewater SUP requires a lot of skill and focus. Watch Mike Tavares shredding on the river https://www.supthemag.com/videos/mike-tavares-shredding-on-the-river/. White water parks are showing up on rivers everywhere there is a paddle community to support them.
This is one of the latest trends for SUP! I'm not sure if it's something I will ever try, but you just never know. It's similar to SUP Surfing, but people who do it say you "fly"! SUP Foiling has a huge foil fin on the bottom of a short, wide board. It does not require waves at all. In fact you can learn to SUP foil by being pulled from the back of a motorboat.
SUP with your DOG, CAT, or other PET
Stand Up Paddleboarding with your dog! This is very new for me. I just got a dog about 4 months ago. Check out my blog I have a couple of articles on SUPing with your pup. There are a couple of people that SUP with their cats too, and most recently a pig, a goat, and a hedgehog!
Escape and discover new destinations by SUP. Whether you are traveling to Mexico, Asia, or Europe, you can organize a SUP adventure through local guides or companies. Some of my favorite adventures are right here in Southern California on the Pacific ocean. This past summer I went with a group down the Colorado River. We paddled, camped, & explored!
SUP for a CAUSE
This is a great way to do some good and get to know your paddle community! In the 6 yrs. that I have been paddling, this community is amazing! A few paddles I have participated in are the StandUp for the Cure, and Monster and Sea 24 Hour Paddle, Paddle Purpose. There is Paddle Imua in Hawaii a multiple discipline paddle race that celebrates the lives of special needs children by embracing our connection to the ocean. Or you can paddle 25 miles around Manhattan in New York at the SEApaddleNYC, and raise money for autism and the environment. There are so many opportunities to paddle for a cause: clean water, environment, mental health, empowering women, & etc. "Get “onboard” to do something good for someone else, and revitalize your love for SUP once again. The is a whole new passion for paddling when your paddling for a purpose!" Jodelle Fitzwater/StandUP Journal
These are usually a long and well planned out adventure or journey. Some people like to set off and navigate whole islands. For instance, Sian Sykes of Psyched Paddleboarding recently stand up paddle boarded around Wales while raising money for Surfers Against Sewage, The North Wales Wildlife Trust and The RNLI. If you really want to challenge yourself than sign up for the YuKon River Quest. The world's longest annual paddling race-715km/444 miles from Whitehorse to Dawson City, Yukon.
Check out these links for more about expeditions:
This is also pretty trendy right now. I've got the gear, and just haven't done it yet! You can get a paddle board equipped with scotty mounts to attach rod holders, bait trays, down riggers, fish finders and whatever else your heart desires. Here's a little video to get you going: https://www.supthemag.com/features/skills/beginner-video-tutorial-for-building-a-basic-standup-paddle-fishing-setup/.
Water has always been part of my life from a very young age. Whether it was a creek, the Gulf of Mexico, the Long Island Sound, or the Pacific Ocean. But it wasn't until my 50s and living in Southern California that I took up surfing! I wouldn't call myself a surfer, but I would categorize myself as a Stand Up Paddle Boarder who loves to SUP Surf! Stand Up Paddle Boarding has opened up so many opportunities for me to be on the water. Would I have ever tried surfing with out paddle boarding first, it's hard to say. Paddle boarding has giving me the confidence to go on the ocean and enjoy and explore its beauty! SUP surfing was naturally the next step for me to transition into. As I spend more time on the water, I feel the need to keep learning and exposing myself to different ways to become a better water woman. So, let's go learn to prone surf!
Pacific Beach Surf Shop has been open since 1962! It is the oldest surf school in San Diego. It's located right on the beach along the famous Pacific Beach boardwalk. Randy Strunk is the owner, manager, and sometimes surf instructor for his PB Surf Shop. I met Randy through paddle boarding! He is truly a great waterman. Not only does he surf but he is a traditional prone paddle boarder, and paddles outrigger canoe. I knew our lesson with Randy's shop would be nothing but awesome! PB Surf Shop has some very talented and knowledgeable surf instructors. We were fortunate to have Josh as our instructor. He is from Australia and has been surfing his whole life. He loves being in the ocean and gave all of us some great instruction!
Surfing is not easy! The women and men out there doing it make it look like it is! First the foam boards you use for learning to surf are pretty heavy-heavier than my SUP surfboard. But when you are first learning its good to go on a bigger board. Popping up or standing up on a surfboard is harder the older you get. The two younger women I was with did it with ease. Probably the most tiring and hardest part of surfing is paddling back out through the white wash. My arms were so tired after our surf session. I definitely wished I had a paddle to paddle back out! According to Randy, prone surfing will make me a better sup surfer, and I believe that's true. I just love that surfing gives me another way to play and be on the ocean!
So get out there-Try new things-Go Surf!
PC Jonathan Halvorson, PB Surf Shop
Meet Bridget! She joined our family about 6 weeks ago. She was adopted through Homes for Animal Heroes. A national program dedicated to rehoming retired research animals. Bridget was a lab dog and gave the first 6 years of her life so people without hope from cancer might have a second chance. For all of you who may have been touched by cancer can thank dogs like her. She is a cancer hero! Now she gets her second chance. Bridget has had time to learn about grass, cars, streets, pools, teenagers,& dog parks. So now it's time to take Bridget out on a SUP!
On any given day at the Carlsbad Lagoon in Carlsbad, CA, there is usually a dog or two on a paddleboard. I haven't seen any cats on the lagoon, but I do know a couple who SUP elsewhere! The dogs come in all kinds of sizes and breeds. It's always amusing to see a great dane or a yellow labrador on a 10ft or smaller paddle board with their owner! As a paddle boarder I knew nothing about paddling with a dog! So I contacted Samantha at SUP PUPS California to come up to Carlsbad and coach me and Bridget on how to safely paddleboard together!
Samantha with SUP PUPS California is really great with dogs. She's very enthusiastic and loves to help people paddle with their dogs! She also has a great helper-her dog Jack, who is also a rescue dog. Jack is very calm and also a great coach with the dogs! Bridget loved him! Samantha coached us on how to get your dog on the paddle board and then once they are on what do you do. How do you keep them on the paddle board? Well Bridget was not interested in jumping in the water, but some dogs do. Bridget did cruise back and forth on the paddleboard between and around my legs. The key is to balance yourself and keep your board stable while they explore. Eventually Bridget got comfortable and sat on either the front (bow) or the back (stern) of the SUP. At one point while she was cruising along the side of the SUP, she fell in. Since she is a small dog (15lbs) it was easy to grab the handle of her life jacket and place her back on the SUP.
Bridget and I had a fantastic time exploring the lagoon on SUP! She has a life jacket on order and we will be out on SUP soon! Samantha and Jack with SUP PUPS California are a great team to work with! If you live in Southern California and you are interested in learning to SUP with your dog, contact Samantha at SUP PUPS California. You can also follow her on instagram at sup_pups_california.
“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”
― John Muir
I recently went on a SUP camping 🏕 adventure with Sunset Stand Up Paddle and Maine Standup Paddling. We paddled up the Colorado river in Black Canyon to Arizona Hot Springs, Hoover Dam, and Boy Scout Canyon. We set up base camp at the Arizona Hot Springs. This is a great place to camp because you have access to the cool waters of the Colorado River (great for purifying and drinking), hot springs (morning or evening soak), hiking, & cliff jumping. Our guides provided our morning coffee and evening happy hour! We had to bring all our camping gear, and food on our SUPs. You could bring your own sup or rent one from Erin at Sunset Stand Up Paddle.
Arizona Hot Springs
I purchased an inflatable SUP about 4 yrs. ago. It's a 12'6"x29 JP Australia. I've used it a few times, and tested it out prior to our trip. We all met at Willow Beach Marina in Arizona. Pumped up our boards and loaded our gear. Lucky for me before we started up river Sarah heard a hissing sound! Ugh, my inflatable had a small leak! Erin and Matt quickly patched it up and we waited about 20 min. We pumped it up to only about 5psi. I had a piece of duct tape so I put that over the patch and off we paddled! We meandered up river, stopping for lunch, jumping in the 53 degree water, and enjoying the river and canyons. As we got closer to the dam or more up river you could feel the current getting stronger. The hardest part was paddling into shore at Arizona Hot Springs. There was a fast current coming down the river that you had to maneuver through.
Setting up camp wasn't too difficult. We stayed close to the river which was an entertaining and fun place to be. We were able to see paddlers coming in and out throughout the morning and evening. Some campers brought 1-2 person tents, but I decided I was just going to sleep on my inflatable. We found a nice little spot to make our campsite. I brought LUCI lights and hung them up.
Did someone say Happy Hour?!
Once we got our campsites ready we gathered around the paddle table for appetizers and drinks. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! Our first night we celebrated Cinco de Mayo-margaritas, chips and salsa, and Matt's famous bean dip! I bought a six pack of beer in Boulder City, NV before we left. I was cooling it in the river while we set up camp. Well remember the strong current we had to cross to get to shore-it got stronger as the evening progressed! When I went to retrieve my beer, it was gone! The river taketh away! Later that evening we went up to the soak in the hot springs. They are only about a 5 min walk from our campsite. What a wonderful way to spend the evening under the stars and the light of the moon.
Hoover Dam and Sauna Cave
Camping and sleeping they don't really go together-at least for me! So I was up early and headed back to the hot springs before everyone else woke up! What a fantastic way to start your morning! Next coffee! Matt is the camp coffee barista aficionado! He makes a mean cup of joe with his aeropress & Kicking Horse Coffee! ☕️❤️ Morning breakfast consisted of a bar, oatmeal, or a freeze dried packet of biscuits and gravy or breakfast skillet. I stuck with oatmeal and dried fruit. But several of the campers enjoyed their freeze dried foods. Today we were headed to the Hoover Dam! It was a 4 mile up river paddle. Today was a lot hotter than the first day. I think it was around 95 degrees. Matt made sure we had plenty of purified water! We all brought hydration and lunch with us. I do a lot of ocean and bay paddling,but not too much river paddling. Heading up to the dam the current get's a lot stronger, and there were more eddies (swirling reverse current) to play in. We also stopped and played in the waterfalls, and learned how to ferry SUP across river current. This was my first time to the Hoover Dam. It is big, but not the biggest according to Hoover Dam history! It is still really amazing. We stopped at Sauna Cave on the way back down river. It was dark and steamy! Going back down river was a blast. The current was moving at a nice pace. There was never any white water, maybe a little boat wake to surf once in awhile. Overall the boat traffic was not too bad.
We got back before dark and time for happy hour or now what had become known as dinner! We had a campers charcuterie spread and drinks. We built a fire and enjoyed the canyon sites and sounds!
Boyscout Canyon & Cliff Jumping
Another restless night of sleeping! Blame it on the field mice and the snoring! Today we were free to explore on our own. Soft schedule later for yoga, hike, & cliff jumping! A small group of us set out for Boy Scott Canyon (BSC). We packed water and a snack. BSC is located about 2 miles up river right of Arizona Hot Springs. This is a really cool place to hike, but not easy! You have to climb up ropes hanging down from the sides of the canyon to continue up to the springs. We made it to the third one and it was super steep. Only one of us was brave enough to make it up. Our crew was so encouraging of each other it was really such a great experience. Once we got back down, we headed back to our campsite to chill! Erin, Matt and Sarah went for a hike and did some cliff jumping. The rest of us were pretty wiped from our earlier adventure! Happy hour/dinner was quesadillas, salsa, & avocado. Matt cooked a little red pepper and onion to put in the quesadilla. They were delicious! We built a fire and attempted to make jiffy pop!
We are headed home today! Our hearts and souls are filled with love for the river, the canyons, the beauty, and each other. This really was a cool trip. I can't wait to make the journey again! You don't have to be an expert paddler to do this trip! You just have to have the desire to go and explore! ADVENTURE IS WAITING FOR YOU!
Feel free to email me or message me any questions about this trip!
Peace, Love, & Hoppiness
* Be careful of obstacles -dock railings, cleats, boats, bird poop.
* Stay low when getting on/off your SUP.
* Paddle to and from the dock on your knees.
* Stand Up when you are away from the dock
What do you get when you know 6 girlfriends who love to paddle board as much as you, and an XL Red Paddle Inflatable SUP?
A whole lot of FUN, LAUGHS, & SCREAMS!