Today, SUPing is for West Coasters, Nor'easterners, and land lubbers alike.
Today, SUPing is for West Coasters, Nor'easterners, and land lubbers alike.

Where Are the Best River and Lake SUP Destinations?

You don't need an ocean to stand-up paddleboard


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Stand-up paddling isn’t just for oceans anymore. Or Hawaii, Florida, and California, for that matter. In June, Idaho’s Payette River Games awarded the largest cash purse on record for SUP racing. Inland SUPing has arrived. Here’s where to go for upcoming races—all year long. 

Kelly’s Whitewater Park, Idaho

| (Kelly's Whitewater Park/Google CC)

Kayak athletes will recognize this park as having some of the top whitewater in the country, but now SUPers are navigating these waters too, as they did recently at the Payette River Games, where paddlers competed in downriver sprints, SUP cross, and other events. “I think river SUP is the next big thing and possibly an Olympic sport,” says Gillian Gibree, a Roxy Pro SUP athlete who competed in the games.

The Great Lakes, Illinois/Michigan/Wisconsin

| (Russ/Flickr)

Several SUP outfitters have popped up on the shores of Lake Michigan, including Chicago SUP. The fifth annual Great Lakes SUP Classic, a popular Midwest event with six- and three-mile races, is slated for September 13, 2014, on the lake near Holland, Michigan. Also in the Great Lakes area, the Midwest Stand-Up Paddle Festival, a World Paddle Association–sanctioned event, was held in Madison, Wisconsin, on July 12, 2014.

Lake Dillon, Colorado

| (Mark Byzewski/Flickr)

Outfitted by Stand Up Paddle Colorado, this reservoir two hours outside of Denver offers prime SUP water. It’s also the host destination of the annual Dillon Challenge, scheduled for August 3, 2014.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

| (Out and About Marketing/Google CC)

Both North and South Lake Tahoe, where cool blue lake water seques into mountain peaks, are popular for the sport. (The number of available outfitters reflects that popularity.) The annual three-part Tahoe SUP & Paddleboard Race Series hosted 147 elite paddlers and a field of more than 300 amateurs at its kickoff event at Donner Lake in May. Jam from the Dam (July 12, 2014) and the Tahoe Fall Classic (September 14, 2014) complete the series, which has a $20,000 cash purse.

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

| (Gail Frederick/Flickr)

Even in the chilly environs of New England, SUPers are hitting the water. Although Cape Cod and Nantucket have long been destinations for the sport, paddlers are heading inland to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, says Kristin Artz, public relations director for the World Paddle Association. SUP NH has offered lessons and rentals at the lake since 2007. Beyond New Hampshire, you can find lake and river paddling in Vermont and along the Charles River through Boston. Artz says there isn’t a New England state that SUP hasn’t reached.

Willamette River, Oregon

| (Don Hankins/Flickr)

SUPers cruise down the scenic Willamette River year round, but come June, paddlers flock to those waters for the Rose City SUP Classic, just miles from downtown Portland. Local shop Gorge Performance offers lessons and rentals. Every April in outer Portlandia, racers head to George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego for the Willamette SUP Cup (aka W’SUP Cup).