North American SUP Destination: Honolulu, Hawaii
Standup paddling started here. Uncle Bobby Ah Choy took pictures of tourists as a Waikiki Beach Boy standing up with a paddle. I remember being a little kid surfing Canoes and he'd be taking pictures of tourists and us kids. When I think of my childhood, I think of him standup paddling. Now, when you look at Waikiki, SUPs are everywhere. It's part of the culture.
We use SUP for everything here: fitness, fishing, diving, exercise, surfing. We're really fortunate because no matter where you live you're 15 minutes away from the water. It's really accessible. Standups are simple, light and now you see tons of women doing it too. I think there are definitely more women here paddling than other places. There are aunties, grandmas, grandpas and toddlers out there on stand ups!
Ala Moana is one of the calm, safe beaches where people can go paddle for the first time. On the weekend we have hundreds of people doing just that. I think SUP courses are even bigger than surf lessons now. Then you can move outside the reef when you're ready to surf. Back to Waikiki you've got Canoes, Queens, Pops for easy waves. There are so many places to paddle in Waikiki and Ala Moana. When you're paddling off the coast you look to your right and see Diamond Head and the mountains and when you look straight you see a big city. Having real life right across the street from our ocean—filled with turtles and dolphins—is really special.
The community is pretty interesting. You have guys that are doing the long distance downwind run from Hawaii Kai to Waikiki on the regular. Then you have the hardcore surf guys. A lot of us just squeeze it in where we can between work and our families. Some guys walk to the water from their apartments, paddle, shower then get into their suits and BMWs and head to work. There's a little something for everyone here.
–Jenny "Waikikilove" Lee is one of Honolulu's greatest purveyors of stoke, just check out her noserides.
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.