One of the fastest growing sports in the world, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is quickly becoming a favourite pastime just about anywhere you can find water. Leaving behind their Pacific roots, adventure-seeking paddlers are now packing up their inflatable SUPs and actively exploring everything from European canals to Mediterranean islands.
As an adventure travel junkie, I’m always excited to pack up my bombproof iROCKER SUP and head to a brand new paddling spot. Paddleboarding opens up an exciting new world of places to explore, and in this article I’m going to lay out 5 breathtaking bucket list locations that are perfect for exploring on your inflatable paddle board.
So without further ado, let’s get right to it…
1 | Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe was one of the first inland areas to adopt stand up paddling into their various array of outdoor adventures. Nearly 1700 feet deep and the second deepest lake in North America, Lake Tahoe was the site of the 1960 winter olympics and is the location of many legendary stories such as Tahoe Tessie and the shrunken bodies of ex-mafioso’s.
On a good day during the summer, one can expect calm and tranquil waters with visibility of up to 70 feet. While paddling anywhere in Lake Tahoe is an amazing vantage point for taking in the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains, Emerald Bay holds a certain “Je ne sais quoi.” Lake Tahoe is typically a rich blue color due to its unusual clarity, but Emerald Bay’s relatively shallow bottom gives way to a tropical teal blue-green, framed in by white sand beaches.
Considering the fact that Emerald Bay is one of the most picturesque parts of the lake, you can expect summertime crowds coming in the form of hikers, recreational boaters, and other paddlers.
2 | Snake River Canyon, Idaho
Featuring countless springs, two major waterfalls, and 500-foot canyon walls, Snake River Canyon is a unique place to explore on an inflatable SUP. Better known for its hikes and cliff jumps, Snake River Canyon offers adrenaline for visitors of all types.
The river offers year-round, SUP-worthy rapids categorized as Class 3 in the off-season and Class 4 during the peak summer months. Experts advise that you don’t take this paddle lightly, as you’ll be heading 8 miles downstream through advanced whitewater conditions.
In particular, Lunch Counter Rapids has made a name for itself in the river SUP community. A standing chest-high wave at high flow, Lunch Counter is a landlocked SUP surfer’s paradise. If you’re up for serious adventure, Snake River just might give you the ride of your life.
3 | Amsterdam
A dutchman will tell you that the only way to see Amsterdam is from the water. Often referred to as “the Venice of the North”, Amsterdam is strung together by three main canals which form concentric circles around the city’s 90 small islands.
Paddleboarding offers a unique way to go beyond Amsterdam’s infamous red light district and experience a historical perspective of the city. A number of guide agencies lead SUP tours throughout the city, but don’t plan on paddling much during the winter months. Also, Amsterdam’s canals are not known for their cleanliness, so this is one paddling location where you probably won’t want to fall in.
In addition to leisure paddling, Amsterdam hosts one of the longest SUP endurance races in the world. The SUP11 City Tour stretches across 220 kilometers and spans 5 days of racing.
Among hundreds of years of history, ferry boats, barges, and paddle bikes, the canals of Amsterdam are something that every adventure traveler should experience firsthand.
4 | Bay of Islands, New Zealand
It doesn’t take an affinity for Gandalf to know that New Zealand is a magical place. There are thousands of places to explore, from the rolling forested hills to long stretches of white sand coastlines. But of all these potential places to paddle, Bay of Islands may be one of the best-suited for paddleboarding.
Bay of Islands sits on the northernmost stretch of New Zealand’s north island. Known for its subtropical climate, Bay of Islands is home to a rich and rugged coastline filled with natural and historic wonders.
Nearby Waitangi Historic Reserve offers a unique opportunity to see and experience Maori culture firsthand. Waitangi is considered by many as the birthplace of New Zealand by way of a treaty signed In 1840 between 500 Maori chiefs and the English Crown. Urupukapuka, the largest island in the Bay of Islands, is also noteworthy for its immaculate beauty — featuring long stretches of white sand beaches, dense forests, and crisp waterfalls.
Needless to say, New Zealand’s Bay of Islands in a stand up paddler’s dream.
5 | Corn Islands, Nicaragua
As the world gets smaller, there are fewer and fewer places where one can truly find solitude and pristine beauty. Thanks to special legislation, the Corn Islands of Nicaragua have been able to preserve their breathtaking natural beauty.
The Kukra people were the first to populate the Corn Islands. In the early 1700’s, they were wiped out by a combination of the European slave trade and warring indigenous people. By 1841, the island had been carved into farms or sugar plantations where nearly every resident was either slave, or slave owner.
In August of 1841, Colonel Alexander McDonald of today’s Belize landed on the islands, gathered up all of the slave owners, and freed all of the slaves. On August 27th of each year, you can still enjoy the celebration of their freedom through an annual festival on the big island.
Today, the island’s farms have been mostly phased out and Corn Islanders live a subsistence lifestyle by fishing nearby reefs and working on small agricultural projects. As a result, you can enjoy some of the clearest tropical water you’ll find in the Western Hemisphere.
Whether you want to paddle along breathtaking, untouched white sand beaches or enjoy a seaside sunset paddle — you’ll find it all at Nicaragua’s stunning Corn Islands. As an added bonus, you’ll be within close proximity to the world class surf of Nicaragua’s Southwest coast.
Stand up paddleboarding has opened up an exciting new way to explore the world’s many oceans, lakes, and rivers. Yet, with the growing popularity of the sport, it can be tough to find the solitude in nature that we all crave.
Whether you’re paddling out into Emerald Bay, or discovering a new species of Finch, the SUP destinations in this bucket list are sure to give you the adventure you’ve been looking for. Now it’s time for you to book flights, pack an inflatable paddle board, and embark on your next adventure.
Paddling enthusiast and editor-in-chief of InflatableBoarder.com, Jason is an avid world traveler who currently resides in beautiful Panama with his wife and two small children. You can connect with Jason on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.