Stand Up Santa Barbara

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Hawaiian legends like Duke Kahanamoku first used standup paddleboards to help maneuver their old-fashioned, monolithic surfboards to the islands’ sizable breaks- something which required quite a bit of paddling. While not as concerned with getting to far-out breaks efficiently, modern Santa Barbarians are still becoming a significant part of the SUP boom.

Santa Barbara local and lifelong waterman, Warren “War Dog” Thomas, opened the first specialty standup paddleboard store in 2005 after spotting its rapid rise in popularity. Thomas caught the paddleboard wave-craze and so too did thousands of other people living near any body of water across the country. Last year, standup paddling ranked as the outdoor sport with the most first-time participants, and the trend doesn't seem to be slowing down, with many active people getting "on board" with SUP. RootsRated has compiled some categories to help you find your paddling niche in Santa Barbara.

1. First Timer

Kate Stuart

Everyone has to start somewhere, but the best place to learn how to enjoy standup paddling is in the Santa Barbara Harbor . Always glassy except for the occasional small wake of a boat, the harbor is the perfect place to adjust to the balancing act of standup paddling. Plus Channel Islands Outfitters rents boards and provides different levels of instruction from their location in the harbor. Once board stability and basic balance are achieved on the flat water here, venture towards Stearn’s Wharf to gradually get the real sea legs. The beauty of standup paddling is that it can be fun for a variety of skill levels, and there’s no shame in a relaxing glide through the harbor.

2. Weekend Warrior

Karma Surf Retreat

If the goal is to catch some waves, standup paddling can often be more productive than standard surfing in Santa Barbara because it allows the rider to catch smaller waves. While you can SUP at any of our favorite surf breaks in Santa Barbara, the most common spots are Leadbetter Beach Point and Campus Point because they are longboard-friendly. If the goal is simply to enjoy a workout and see some marine life, the kelp forests at Butterfly Beach are superb. In the spring and summer months, paddlers can sometimes see whales migrating through the Santa Barbara channel often very close to the shore!

3. On-Board Yogi 

Karma Surf Retreat

A subculture that’s garnered lots of attention lately is the SUP-Yoga crowd, which combines two activities that demand quite a bit of balance and core-strength. This is health and fitness done right. Best anywhere the water is calm, paddleboard yoga provides a great core workout, rejuvenating stretches, and difficult balance training all while soaking up the sun in the therapeutic environment of the ocean. When paddling or doing yoga on land just isn’t enough, find your spot on the water to breath deeply and add a new element to your active lifestyle.

4. Endurance Paddler


Sooner or later, every new sport will add a competitive element. Since 2007, paddleboard races have been popping up in a variety of places. Whatever your sport of choice is, chances are standup paddling can provide great cross-training benefits as it works the core and arms and can provide some cardio burn depending on the distance and effort. Triathletes, swimmers, climbers, and surfers can benefit from the fitness gained. Try paddling the coast around Gaviota State Park for a challenging workout, or just pick a couple landmarks to paddle between, like Butterfly Beach to Arroyo Burro (about 6 miles).

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