|Double Rainbow… All the way across the sky. Photo: Kenny Gibbs|
By Eugene Buchanan
IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN. The Packers are playing in a blizzard, crazy-eyed dudes in Santa suits are hustling frozen street corners, and the warm waves you crave are out of sight, but not off your mind. It’s time to trade that blighted urban icescape outside your office window for more hospitable climes. There’s only one problem: How to get your 12-foot board and 7-foot paddle on the plane.
Face it, flying with a standup board is a pain. It’s expensive, difficult and, like milking 6-inch wind chop, often not worth the effort. Fear not, flight-challenged ones; these easy-to-reach destinations offer full quivers of quality SUPs, great places to ride, and beachside bars to celebrate your great escape.
Rent a board from Kayak Kauai’s dock right on the Hanalei River and paddle it 20 minutes downstream into Hanalei Bay, where you can tour along the bay’s mile-long sandy shore, catch user-friendly waves inside or—swell permitting—ride giants on the outer breaks. When swells are smaller during the summer, experienced paddlers can also explore the world-famous Na Pali Coast. Check out the 4,000-foot sea cliffs on out-and-back runs from Ke’e Beach at the end of the road on the North Shore, or from Barking Sands Beach at the end of the road on the west side. Want to go big? Try the full 17-mile downwinder from Ke’e to Barking Sands. The company will provide a car rack with your rental. Info: kayakkauai.com, (800) 437-3507.
From Los Angeles (6 hours); San Francisco (6 hours); Seattle (6.25 hours); Phoenix (7 hours).
Solution 10’6″, 11’6″; NSP 10’6; Surftech Laird 12’0 softtop; carbon paddles. $45/day; $225/week.
Hit the Hanalei Dolphin next door for a Longboard Island Lager and some of the island’s freshest sushi.
|Photo: Peter Green|
KEY WEST, FLORIDA
Tourists flock to Key West in the winter for its fine weather and anything-goes attitude. But beyond the world’s largest Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville Cafe and the feral descendants of Hemingway’s cats, Key West is a superb SUP destination. Rent your ride from Lazy Dog and head left from the dock to tour toward the Atlantic, or veer right and track through the protected waters of Florida Bay. Either way, you’ll pass through two national wildlife refuges, paddling above fish, rays, sharks, manatees, dolphins, barracuda and turtles. Topside, you’ll see birds, birds and more birds, including cormorants, egrets, pelicans and seven species of heron. You can also detour through tunnel-like mangroves, and grab overhead vines to propel your craft monkey-bar style. Info: lazydog.com; (305) 295-9898. Another option is SUP Key West Info: supkeywest.com; (305) 240-1426, whose owner-guide Megan Harber also owns the Key West SUP Race trophy and a Ph.D. in marine ecology. Don’t miss the full-moon tour.
New York City (5 hours); Atlanta (2 hours); Charlotte, N.C. (3.25 hours); Nashville, Tenn. (6.75 hours); Boston (8 hours).
Jimmy Lewis and Surftech Laird boards; carbon-fiber paddles. $25/day; tours $40/day.
Fresh fish and Hurricanes (white and dark rum, passion fruit puree, orange juice and grenadine) at Hurricane Hole on the dock next door. Hint: enjoy two-for-one drafts from 4-7 pm daily.
|Photo: Scott Winer|
Tavarua has been a go-to spot for pro surfers for decades, thanks to its understated island luxury and a signature wave, Cloudbreak, which has probably been featured on more magazine covers than any place south of Pipeline. But this Holy Grail of tube riding is also a standup paddler’s dream, with gorgeous reefs in a gin-clear lagoon and a smorgasbord of quality breaks. “Kiddieland is perfect for beginners, while Boatman’s Right and Backyards are alternatives for people looking for something a little more serious,” says Tavarua Island Resort manager Dylan Fish. “Tavarua Rights and Restaurants can be perfect waves for SUP riders with a little more courage and skill.” And Cloudbreak? Yes, but only if you’ve got the game and the cojones. (The wave Kai Lenny is riding on p. 25 is Cloudbreak.)
Info: tavarua.com, (888)-669-7873.
Los Angeles (10.5 hours); Honolulu (5.5 hours); Sydney (3.5 hours)
Naish Window 11’6,” AST 11’4,” and Nalu 10’6″; Laird 12’1″; C4 Waterman and Kialoa paddles.
“The jacuzzi is a great place for an ice cold Fiji Bitter at the end of the day,” Fish says. “The lightning shows in the evenings are some of my favorite times on Tavarua, when the big thunderheads build up over the main island.”
|Photo: Clarke Merritt|
PUNTA SAN CARLOS, MEXICO
Solo Sports owner Kevin Trejo doesn’t like to pigeonhole his resort. Baja’s Punta San Carlos, he says, “is for riding waves”—a description that includes surfing, longboarding, kiteboarding and windsurfing, in addition to world-class standup paddling. Get to San Diego and Solo Sports will whisk you via private plane or chauffeured stretch van 275 miles down the Baja coast to your own private SUP resort. The nearest town, Rosario, is 50 miles distant, which means plenty of empty breaks and safari-style luxury camping. You’ll also have free use of SUPs, surfboards, kayaks and mountain bikes. Take your SUPs to small waves outside your bedroom, or bigger breaks on the point or at Chili Bowl. You can also tour and troll, supplementing your meal menu with the fresh catch of the day, from sea bass to halibut and yellowtail. Bonus: more than 100 miles of world-class mountain biking singletrack.
Info: solosports.net, (949) 289-7779.
FLY DIRECT TO SAN DIEGO FROM
Denver (2 hours); Chicago (4 hours); Minneapolis (4 hours).
Boards from Wave Rod, Naish, C4 Waterman, and Roberto Ricci Designs. Rentals include access to surfboards and mountain bikes, and run $300/week.
Baja Caviar (tuna-stuffed jalapenos) and a Baja Fog (Corona long neck with lime and a tequila floater in the neck) at the resort’s Chili-Bomb Cantina.
|Photo: Clare Barnaby|
CABARETE, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Get your Caribbean SUP game on at Swell, a new surf camp in Cabarete on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Located just 20 minutes from the Puerto Plata international airport, this all-inclusive experience fits a standup paddler’s pocketbook. Set inside a courtyard, with second-floor rooms offering views of both mountains and beach, the lodge offers weeklong stays starting at $425, which includes most meals. Suitable for standup paddlers of all levels, the main break at Encuentro features a long, easy right-hander and a shorter, more intense left. Cabarete Bay serves up plenty of small glassies and great touring options as well—grab a touring board and head up the coast, stopping at whatever beach suits your fancy. Afterward, head to a local restaurant (there are 10 within a five-minute walk) or settle into a home-cooked meal prepared by your hosts. Then it’s time to let loose, on the beach or in Cabarete, where you can chill in your flip-flops or practice your salsa and merengue moves. Info: swellsurfcamp.com, (809) 972-2406.
FLY DIRECT FROM:
New York City (4 hours); Toronto (4 hours); Miami (2 hours)
Includes Starboard 8’5″ Pocket Rocket; McTavish 9’6”; Naish 11’4”/11’6″; epoxy, wood and carbon paddles. $20/day, $100/week.
A cold Presidente beer at Onno’s and beach dancing ’til dawn to merengue band Moreno Negron.