Where is the best place to live and be a standup paddler? That simple, eternal question drove the latest iteration of SUP Magazine's Paddle Town Paddle. This year, we broadened the query to its logical limit: Where do the most professional opportunities meet the best SUP lifestyle potential? Naturally, we had to expand our scope beyond North America to the top cities across the globe. Our selection criteria was simple: Urban hubs where you can maximize days on the water and enjoy different types of paddling adventures within a day's drive. Narrowing down a nominee list to determine winners, however, was anything but. How do you define best? How do you judge culture? How much does community count for? Passion? 

So, we handed the reigns to our readers to decide. After thousands of votes cast on social media, with countless comments hurled (some profanity-laced), in the end, the following Elite Eight locales surpassed all others as the world's best cities to live and paddle now. Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing profiles on each of the readers’ choice for the top eight paddling hubs in inverse order, starting from eighth-place until we reveal the world’s top paddle town! Add them to your SUP bucket list.

No. 7 - Auckland, New Zealand

Take one look at New Zealand's largest city on a map and it's no surprise that Auckland and SUP are a perfect match. Large bays and inlets sprawl through the city that is sandwiched between the Tasman Sea to the east and the Hauraki Gulf to the west. For paddlers that like to mix it up, Auckland provides the opportunities to get on the water in countless ways.

For flatwater fans, no spot is more iconic or popular than Takapuna Beach. It faces the beautiful volcanic island of Rangitoto, which doubles as a blockade from South Pacific swells. Beginner paddlers can go easy in the sheltered and shallow waters of Point Chevalier, while both Mission Bay to the south and Castor Bay to the north are both popular among the paddling faithful.

Paddlers looking for a little more excitement only need to wait for the wind to rise, which it often does. That's why Auckland will be hosting the America's Cup sailing competition for the third time in 2021. Downwind paddling has exploded in New Zealand and depending on the wind direction, the Hauraki Gulf offers several different runs frequented by paddlers, most of which end in the Mission Bay area. Mainland runs include a trek south from Murray's Bay, a run north from Beachlands and a run back to the mainland from Waiheke Island's Huruhi Bay.

While New Zealand is world-famous for its waves, Auckland is protected from swell by the islands. The closest SUP-friendly wave is at Orewa, which is only a half-hour drive north from Auckland. Meanwhile, a 40-minute drive to the west coast will put you at the shifty sand bars of Muriwai, and within an hour, there are almost too many options to choose from.

With a friendly population, endless water and myriad landscapes to explore nearby, the City of Sails is enough to make any paddler swoon. --Jack Haworth

This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of SUP Magazine.

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