The California coast offers an alluring escape -- beautiful views, ocean breezes, fresh seafood, and adventurous water sports. And while braving a maverick wave on a surfboard isn't everyone's idea of fun, thanks to the revival of a much more relaxing Hawaiian pastime, now everyone can surf the sea.
Stand up paddling (SUP) or paddleboarding is the fastest growing surface water sport, partly because the stability of the board makes it extremely easy to balance. Paddleboards are longer and slightly wider than surfboards, and the rider simply stands atop the board and uses a long paddle to move gently through the water.
Paddleboarding also offers a unique perspective because -- unlike balancing on a traditional surfboard where the attention of the surfer is focused on the waves -- paddleboarding allows the rider to enjoy the surroundings. On clear, still water, it's possible to see fish and other marine life from a paddleboard, and because of the ease of balancing, it's even possible to snap a photograph with a free hand. Seals, who are afraid of humans when they're on land and vulnerable, are friendly and playful in the water, and will often swim right up to paddleboards.
A graceful, elegant way to traverse a body of water, it's no wonder that paddleboarding was once the preferred method of transportation between tiny Polynesian islands. Because of its increasing popularity, most shops that rent kayaks and canoes now rent paddleboards as well. Visit one of the shops near our Northern California hostels to try this fun and easy sport, and gain an amazing perspective on coastal wildlife.
Blue Waters Kayaking
Located in Point Reyes, Blue Waters Kayaking has two locations on Tomales Bay: Inverness (which is 10 miles from the Point Reyes Hostel) and Marshall. They offer paddleboard rentals for $25/hour, as well as group classes or private clinics to learn the basics of this fairly simple water sport.
California Canoe and Kayak
California Canoe and Kayak is in Pillar Point Harbor, 3 miles from the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel. They offer classes and clinics, and paddleboard rentals for $25/hour. Pillar Point is a calm harbor with a variety of wildlife to spot on a clear, sunny day. At a leisurely pace on a paddleboard, the harbor takes one hour to circumvent without stopping.
Sea Trek in Sausalito is located 5 miles from the Marin Headlands Hostel, and offers paddleboard rentals for $20/hour, plus something very special for those interested in an extra challenge -- stand up paddle yoga. Stand up paddle yoga is a great alternative to simply paddling around a harbor on a board, with the added bonus of learning how to balance on one foot while standing on water!