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THE BEST STAND-UP PADDLEBOARDING SPOTS IN SAN FRANCISCO

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Jackie Paisal

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SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) is an awesome adventure. And Bay Area residents know we have THE BEST spots to choose from.

When the surf is down and the winds are light, it’s time to walk on water — or so it feels when you’re cruising on one of these ginormous paddle boards. And you’ve just gotta try it! Below we’ve compiled the top places super-close to San Francisco that you just can’t miss.

Just a stone’s throw from South Beach Harbor in the city, City Kayak will get you all set to paddle on the bay. Though, you’ll only want to head out when there is zero wind, as the harbor can get extra windy at times. On the best days, sweeping views of SF’s skyline will dazzle you while you paddle around Pier 40. They also offer a Twilight tour for kayaking at dusk, and those views are totally worth it.

Also heading east across the bay, the small island of Alameda (directly next to Oakland) is a perfect SUPcation. And the folks over at Boardsports California are keeping the small shop, mom-and-pop vibe alive. Get all your gear from them and if you’re new to SUP, take one of their beginner SUP lessons. They’ll have you standing and paddling in no time… if you can pry your eyes off the SF skyline.

Head across the Bay Bridge and you’ll almost immediately land in Oakland’s Jack London Square. From the water, you’ll be gifted peeks of green rolling hills to the east and SF’s dramatic skyline to the west. It’s the best of both worlds, if you will. Who you gonna call? Cal Kayak! They will hook you up with rentals, and they even offer a Full Moon guided paddle experience. It’s an enchanting time to be on the Bay’s glassy waters.

This will be the closest you’ll get to the Golden Gate Bridge, and it’ll remind you how small you actually are. Plus, birds, seals, and a sandy beach will accompany you on this paddle. You’ll enter Crissy Field from the Marina neighborhood and rent your gear from Boardsports California. Just know this isn’t a paddle for beginners, so definitely take them up on their intro to paddle boarding class before heading out.

The Aquatic Park Waterfront in San Francisco offers paddlers close-up views of the Golden Gate (not as close as from Crissy Field), Coit Tower, and Alcatraz. New to SF? Sooo, yeah, the ocean is cold here — you’ll want to paddle in a wetsuit. No worries if you don’t have your own, Boardsports California has you covered there too. Before you plan your day, be aware this won’t be a spot for beginners to explore as the swells here are much more challenging with stronger tides; you’ll need to be an experienced paddler to take on the choppy waters.

Just north across the Golden Gate lies the sleepy town of Sausalito. Waters are calmer here and are the perfect place for paddle boarders of all levels to explore. You’ll have spanning views of the Marin Headlands along with SF’s growing skyline. But perhaps Sausalito’s biggest highlights are the iconic houseboat communities that line the waterfront. You’ll paddle past them, with a good chance harbor seals will be enjoying the waters with you. Sea Trek will cover all your rental needs and if you paddle often, consider their $45/month paddle membership. Fitt tip: For all you yogis out there, try SUP Yoga in Sausalito. The calm waters make this spot epic for even first-timers.

An hour and a half north of the city, Bodega Bay is absolutely worth the slightly longer trek. The protected bay is perfect for SUP because it’s not as windy, making this a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Hiking trails litter the gorgeous green hills, and the crystal blue water makes this one of the most aesthetically pleasing spots in the Bay Area to SUP (or hike or hang). Bodega Bay Surf Shack will cover all your rental needs along with surf and kayak lessons if you’re feeling like more adventure.

Head south of the city where the beautiful fishing town of Half Moon Bay awaits. The serene paddle setting makes this an excellent spot for beginners, but is also a spot for advanced paddlers. And with a protected harbor, the chance to spot seals and other wildlife, and an enticing array of nearby watering holes to wind down at after your paddle, HMB is the ideal SUP spot. Count on HMB Kayak for all your rental needs.