This letter is from our Summer 2018 Issue, on newsstands now!

A short, sun-browned man approached as I was loading up after a recent SUP-surf session at San Onofre, just south of San Clemente, California. He wanted to talk cars. But what caught my attention was the massive tattoo that read "San Clemente" sprawled across his chest like heavy-gauge chain link. This guy obviously loved where he was from.

I can appreciate that kind of dedication to a place you represent. A place that shaped you. I'm definitely even a bit jealous, since I'm not technically a 'local' anywhere. I'm from a town on the southern Oregon Coast that certainly generates proud locals—and I'm certainly proud of growing up there—but I moved away at 18 and thus lost the privilege of ink-on-chest credibility.

Any traveling paddler can understand that it's hard to reconcile the desire to put down roots with an urge to keep moving. In years of traveling and calling different places home, I've been the brunt of bad localism, the classic "get-the-hell-out-of-my-surf-spot" encounters. But more often than not, locals have welcomed me with open arms. There's something special about standup paddling—a kind of no-ego tribalism that cultivates openness. I've been guided down hairy whitewater in the Sierra Nevada, shown secret surf spots in Tahiti and taught the intricate paths through reefs while downwinding on Maui, all by paddlers who were willing to share what they knew.

That give-respect/gain-respect brand of localism is one worth celebrating. And it's how we've always treated our travel content—rather than keeping secrets and closing off the best the sport has to offer, we work hard with locals to respectfully share knowledge as a way to open doors and provide access to new adventures and possibilities.

When SUP staffers Jack Haworth and Aaron Schmidt went to Puerto Rico, they took that exact approach: staying humble, listening and witnessing the people and the passion for their home and this sport. They flew back from the island with more than a feature on recovery from Hurricane Maria. The irrepressible paddlers they profiled did not turn their backs. Instead, they opened their homes, shared their waves and exposed them to a new way of seeing life and enjoying the water.

In that vein, we profiled the eight contenders of our 2018 Paddle Town Battle, the finalists determined by passionate paddlers from SUP communities around the world. If you're searching for places to become a local, these are good places to start (and if you already live in one, you're lucky).

Someday my wife and I will settle in and really belong to a local community. Until then we'll keep on relying on the friendly strangers and warm communities of fellow paddlers willing to share a taste of theirs. Thanks for the hospitality. —Will Taylor

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