Paddling Southern California from a Pro’s Perspective

sean.belliveau@gmail.com Instructional, Spotlight, Video

From its famous mile after mile of coastal beaches to inland mountain lakes of the sierras, Southern California is the ground zero of the SUP explosion in continental USA.  And for a great reason - there’s a ton of places to paddle and a multitude of ways to enjoy your time on a paddle board year round! 

“To know before you go” is our motto and knowing the waters and your own abilities is very important. In this region we have a large variety of coastal paddling, surfable waves, white water rivers and epic mountain lakes.  You could be faced with wind events, wild currents, crowded marinas, unpredictable surf and currents and even wildlife hazards! 

An intermediate paddler in this area would be able to paddle comfortably among busy boat traffic and be familiar with the rules of the road. SoCal has miles and miles of coastline but relatively small amounts of flat water (enclosed or semi-enclosed areas), these areas are typically man-made or man-modified into marina where there is a lot of commercial and recreational boating. In fact, Marina del Rey in Los Angeles is the second most densely populated man-made marina in the world - Summer weekends can be very busy! 

From Morro Bay at the northern edge of this region (as defined by Perfect Paddles) where the higher latitudes can produce more wind to San Diego in the south where the average wind speed is less, an intermediate paddler visiting or living in this region should be prepared for paddling in 12 to 15mph. (*Note wind events like Santa Ana’s are common in this region where wind speeds can be much greater and offshore.) Paddlers can expect the afternoon sea breezes in this area, on average, to be in the 12-15 mph range at any time. Somewhat counter intuitively we tend to experience lighter average winds in the Fall and early Winter with variable, unpredictable winds in the late Winter and Spring. 

Thousands of miles of coastline and glorious beaches gives us unlimited SUP launch spots into the open Ocean for coastal paddles, sea lion paddles, whale watching, and dolphin paddles, and also crowded surf lineups, An intermediate paddler here should be able to recognize and launch through 2 to 3 foot waves. While waves come in 20ft plus zone on occasion an untrained paddler not familiar with waves launching and surf zones can be a menace to beachgoers and themselves. Those who put the time in can enjoy SUP surfing all along our coastline and is a major part of our SUP culture around here so I hope anyone visiting or living here can take some lessons and explore this part of our sport.

Come for a visit and enjoy the diverse experiences we have to offer!  You might just end up staying longer than you think!

From Tim Sanford, Founder of Perfect Paddles and Owner of Paddle Method