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Photo: Kevin Voegtlin

North American SUP Destination: Providence, Rhode Island

Check out a map. Providence is Rhode Island's only major city and is located at the head of Narragansett Bay. It's an eclectic, picturesque micro-city surrounded by flatwater and surf opportunities, all within a half-hour drive or less (even the downtown paddle is pretty damn cool). Two hundred and fifty-year-old Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design are the foundation of a thriving arts, intellectual and cultural community, which also makes it a city of foodies, full of excellent eateries perfect for pre- and post-paddling fuel.

It's called the "Ocean State" for a reason. Although Providence is part of the mainland, the state gets its name from several islands that make up a significant portion of its landmass. The fact that almost 15 percent of the state's area is comprised of bays and inlets, together with a significant coastline featuring some of the most consistent (if frigid) surfing on the East Coast, make it an easy SUP destination. Head south and you hit Warwick, an idyllic New England waterfront town with big paddling opportunities (visit the Kayak Centre for more info). Another 15 minutes south and you're in Narragansett, a beach town with excellent surfing, open-ocean cruising as well as multiple rivers and inlets for calmer conditions (check out Narragansett Surf & Skate or Matunuck Surf Shop). Hop over the Jamestown and Newport Bridges (where you'll see a myriad of paddling opportunities below) and you're in Newport in another 15. Probably the most famous destination in Rhode Island, Newport is an international sailing center, equally suited for SUP in both surf and flatwater (check out Island Surf and Sport). Looking for downwinders? On a north wind you can set a shuttle and go from Providence all the way down the bay towards the ocean, with ever-building seas underfoot. When the wind goes south, pick a point (say, Point Judith) and head north knowing you've got the safety of shore to your west contrasted with the raw, open Atlantic to your east. Looking for more culture with your paddling? Boston is a half-hour north with the Charles River, and whole new set of paddling options.
Jimmy Blakeney is the product/marketing manager for BIC SUP and a fixture in the RI SUP scene.

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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