North American SUP Destination: Charleston, South Carolina
Let's be honest, all the cities on this list have great waterways. What sets Charleston apart from the other locations is its southern charm. The city—founded as Charles Towne for Charles II in 1670—is almost 350 years old and infused with the sort of culture usually reserved for older nations. There are historical churches, colonial houses and Civil war remnants dotting the city. Then there's the food: the city receives foody accolades, such as prestigious James Beard Foundation awards on a yearly basis.
And there's the paddling. If you drive in any direction for five minutes you'll be in the water, whether it's the Atlantic, the Cooper River or Charleston Harbor. When you go tour on the river bring your fishing pole to chase redfish in the flats. Or walk up Center Street on Folly Island with your board and go SUP surfing on the user-friendly waves at Folly Beach. If you want to cruise with wildlife, check out the barrier island ecosystems in the estuaries that feature the rare Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins amongst the marsh grass. And there are multiple downwinders, from catching glides the five-mile length of Folly to runs up the rivers, launching from Battery Park in the southwest winds.
The paddling community is growing, too. I just held my sixth paddleboard race. The first one, I knew everybody. Now I'm seeing 45-50 participants and 9-10 kids each race. We also have the Chucktown Showdown, a September race which celebrates its second annual this year. Charleston is beautiful, it's historic, the pace of life is mellow and everybody is friendly and ready to paddle with you. You can't ask for more from a standup town. —"Big" Jon Ory owns Charleston SUP Safaris. He loves getting people outside in Charleston.
This article originally ran in our Summer 2014 Issue as part of the "Paddle Town Battle" feature.
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.