North American SUP Destination: Wilmington, N.C.
You'll find surf, sun, flatwater, wildlife and always someone to paddle with on the Cape Fear Coast.
Wilmington is more of blanket term for the Cape Fear Coast, which stretches from Topsail Island and Surf City to the north, down to Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Bald Head Island and Holden Beach to the south. And while downtown Wilmington offers history, restaurants and nightlife, the epicenter of the Cape Fear paddling community is undoubtedly in Wrightsville Beach, home of the Cold Stroke Classic, the Surf2Sound Challenge and the Carolina Cup.
The Cape Fear Coast is the kind of place where if you have a flat tire, someone will stop to help instead of speeding past and pretending they don't see you. It's the kind of place where a long paddle is as easily followed by a healthy, delicious meal at Epic Food Company as it is margaritas, chips and salsa at Tower 7. It's the kind of place where a concierge at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort will literally take you shopping for the day. And a place where someone at Carolina Paddleboard Company will talk you out of buying a board that isn't right for you, instead of throwing typical surf-shop stink eye.
Here, it doesn't matter if you are a beginner or a badass, there's a place for you. The barrier islands offer secluded surf breaks, protected flatwater, wildlife, fishing and perhaps the most welcoming paddle community around. The best way to get instantly plugged into the paddle community is through one of the meetup groups or through Facebook. If you're part of the paddle family, you'll always find someone in Wilmington to take you out and show you the sights on the water. Or you can just show up and paddle out.
–John Beausang is an organizer of the Carolina Cup and the man behind Distressedmullet.com.
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.