North American SUP Destination: Dana Point, California

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Photo: Aaron Schmidt

North American SUP Destination: Dana Point, California

When Richard Henry Dana sailed from the East Coast and saw Dana Point in 1835, he called Capistrano Bay—what's now Dana Point Harbor and Doheny State Park—the most romantic coast in the world.

If you're not local, you probably don't know there was a world-class wave where the Harbor is now. It would hold a giant swell, any size, there'd be a wave there. They called it "Killer Dana."

My dad, Steve Boehne, would surf Killer Dana all the time and heard there was going to be a harbor put in but it was back in the day, before they really knew about wave dynamics and how structures would change the surf.

Construction crews dropped rocks for the jetty, and before they new it, the wave was gone. The surfers were like, "How did that happen?" They didn't realize what a bummer it would be.

The ironic part about it is that if we didn't have the Harbor, Dana Point wouldn't be the epicenter of standup that it is. So while it ruined Killer Dana, Dana Point Harbor brought life to the outrigger, and then SUP communities. It's now the busiest paddling harbor I've ever seen. Even on a weekday, you're guaranteed to see lots of paddlers—moms, renters, elite paddlers, cruisers, the whole community is right there.

That's just one part of the overall equation. Rainbow Sandals headquarters are here and they created one of the sport's most important events. The surfboard shaping history up the road in San Clemente is phenomenal, where guys like Ron House, my father, Gerry Lopez and Mickey Muñoz made some of the first standup boards—and continue to do so.

Any given day some of the best paddlers in the world—the legends of the sport—pass through town, often paddling at the harbor. You can't go to a local basketball court and run into Kobe Bryant. There are so many paddling options too: San Onofre, a super-consistent SUP break to the south, a legitimate downwind run from Dana Point to San Clemente when the wind blows from the northwest, flatwater training in the Harbor and mountain lakes and rivers not even a half-day's drive away. I don't know where else you can get that.
Dave Boehne is a board shaper, pro standup paddler and the face of SUP irreverence.

This article originally ran in our Summer 2014 Issue as part of the "Paddle Town Battle" feature.

The Paddle Town Battle was simple in concept: pick the best standup towns in North America and let you, dear readers, vote to decide the ultimate SUP city on our Facebook page.

But what makes a good place to live and paddle? Is it access to the water? Is it a nice place to live? Is it the people? We debated. There were so many questions to answer that we formed categories: proximity to types of paddling (ocean surfing, whitewater, flatwater, downwind, river surfing), community (races, shops, people), off-the-water amenities (breweries, eateries, yoga studios) and influence (what role this place has played in the sport). Then you spoke loudly and proudly. You told us why your town or city was the best place to be a standup paddler. In the end, the people of Puerto Rico rallied around beautiful and diverse Rincón to put it at the top of the bracket. We let the locals tell you why their town made our Top 10.

More North American SUP destinations here.
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