North American SUP Destination: Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho, North American SUP destination, Mike Leeds
Photo: Mike Leeds

North American SUP Destination: Boise, Idaho

Boise has always been a paddling town. Standup paddling has only added to its legacy. Of course I’m biased. I grew up in Boise, in a state with more road-less area than any other in the Lower 48 and more rivers traversing more wilderness than pretty much anywhere on Earth.

As a young punk, I ran as many of Idaho’s rivers as I could. I slept in my bivy sack in remote river canyons, piled way too many plastic kayaks on my beat-up truck and paddled enough whitewater to nearly flunk out of school. I lived a hand-to-mouth lifestyle simply to paddle all the time. I did it because that’s what my whitewater heroes who lived in Boise did. They’d go off to remote places and tackle the toughest rivers in the world on the money they made tending bar.

But they always came back to Boise when they were done, with its cool downtown, cooler music scene and fantastic distractions—like the ultimate Frisbee league—that just make summers in the City of Trees so much damn fun.

In Boise, families raft together, paddle kayaks and canoes together, and now, paddle standups together. Whitewater paddlers use inflatable SUPs to run the Payette River system an hour north of Boise, landlocked surf bums ride the waves on tiny epoxy standups at the Boise play park and fitness fanatics have measured out kilometers at a local pond where they compare their heart rates against their lap times. Drive more than an hour and the paddling options increase tenfold.

Paddling shops like Idaho River Sports help people get into the sport. Pubs like Bittercreek Ale House feed and fill them with suds.

But above all, this community cares for its own. Because that’s what good communities in good paddling towns always do. And Boise has always been a paddling town.
Joe Carberry is the editor of SUP magazine. He’s a reformed dirtbag.

Boise, Idaho, North American SUP destination,
Photo: Ryan Bailey

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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