Beginner’s Guide to Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in Santa Cruz

Stand up paddle boarder at Natural Bridges

Stand-up paddle boarding is creating waves.

As one of the fastest growing water sports in the world, Santa Cruz locals interested in having a little adventure on the water need look no further than in their very own backyard.

In the last several years, stand-up paddle boarding has become increasingly popular. With roots in the Hawaiian and Polynesian Islands, stand-up paddle boarding has been around since the 1960’s but made it’s way to the coast of California in 2000.

It’s popularity has sky rocketed, partly because it is fairly easy to learn–within an hour of practice most people can manage to make their way through calm waters.

It provides an awesome whole-body workout–it builds strength through balance and resistance while working your core! And you certainly can’t beat the setting–who wouldn’t want to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Monterey Bay while paddling around on the ocean’s surface?

Stand-up paddle boarding uses a larger and wider, padded type of surfboard that’s made with more volume than the average board, so it floats better, making it easier to establish balance. Coupled with the use of a single blade paddle, the participant stands up on the board and with the sweep of a stroke propels them self forward.

Perhaps you’ve never been out on a stand-up paddle board, but have been itching to give it a shot. With a little guidance from one of our local SUP business’s, you will be out on the water in no time. Within an hour of practice, most people can manage to make their way through calm waters.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Santa Cruz: What Should You Expect?

So, it’s your first time?  Not to worry!  Read on to find out what to expect…

  • Plan on stuffing your body into a wetsuit. Wether you like this idea or not, you’ll be thankful you wore a wetsuit if you fall in the water.
  • Be prepared to feel awkward. Carrying your board down to the shore can feel just a tad foreign, so be patient with yourself.
  • Plan on spending some time on your knees before coming to a standing position, as it can take time to gain your balance.
  • Be prepared to see sea otters, sea lions and other creatures while paddling along.
  • Expect to have a new addiction–Stand-up paddle boarding!

Where Should You Go?

Santa Cruz offers several ideal locations where beginner stand up paddle boarders can tool around on their boards, but the following spots are almost always a safe bet where you will most likely find calm waters:

  • Santa Cruz Harbor: This an ideal spot for beginners. With two SUP shops right near the Harbor, you will have your choice of boards, lessons and guides to choose from. In addition, apprehensive paddlers can stay in the harbor and paddle around without having to venture out into the ocean.
  • The Santa Cruz Wharf: Paddling near Cowell’s Beach is a popular spot among beginners. You will probably have to share your space with surfers, seals, kayakers and open-water swimmers, but depending on the time of year, you may be rewarded with a glimpse of a whale!
  • The Capitola Wharf: If you don’t mind fighting the crowds in the village this may be the perfect spot for you. Be forewarned that parking is difficult to come by in this quaint little beach town. But once you are out on the water, there is a good chance you will encounter sea otters while you enjoy amazing views of the Monterey Bay.

5 Tips for SUP Beginner’s

Trudie Ransom, owner of SUP Shack at the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor, shares the following 5 tips for beginners:

  1. Always take a lesson. A lesson teaches you how to hold the paddle correctly, it will most likely keep you dry and the learning curve will be faster than if you hadn’t taken a lesson!
  2. Always look on the horizon when you are out on the water. Looking straight ahead will give you a good sense of balance while you are on the board.
  3. Always know where your sweet spot is on the board. You need to know where your center of balance is, so figuring out where to place your feet is vital.
  4. Aways be happy, be patient, and be sure to respect and share your environment with your fellow outdoor enthusiasts. “Just chill”, Trudie encourages.
  5. Always take into consideration your situational awareness. Be aware of your surroundings, your environment and the weather. Equally important–know your limitations.

Sup Shack at the Santa Cruz HarborIn addition to these five tips, Trudie encourages beginners not to use the paddle boards in the surf zones. If they do take the boards paddle surfing, she reminds the participants to follow proper surfing etiquette.

The Shack offers rentals, private lessons and group lessons. They are located by the Crow’s Nest in the Santa Cruz Harbor and are open 7 days a week, rain or shine.

The following locations in Santa Cruz offer stand-up paddle boarding rentals as well as lessons:

SUP Shack
2214 East Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Covewater SUP
726 Water Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Covewater SUP is not located on the beach, so you will need to transport your own board down to the water

Stand Up Paddle Capitola
208 San Jose Ave
Capitola, CA  95010

Club Ed
On the beach by the Santa Cruz Wharf

Kayak Connection
413 Lake Avenue, #3
Santa Cruz, CA 95062

About Aracelly Macko

Aracelly Macko is teacher and fitness enthusiast who enjoys building friendship and community through exercise.