While the government grinds inside Washington, D.C., work life comes secondary to what flows within and just outside the Beltway: countless standup paddling options that don't jibe with simple associations about "the swamp."

The U.S. capital is nestled between two major rivers—the Potomac and Anacostia—in addition to an array of smaller lakes, rivers and bay tributaries. Put in at the Capitol Riverfront to paddle northeast along the Anacostia River, a scenic route that takes you past the historic Navy Yard, Kingman Island and through the national arboretum.

The Potomac provides paddlers a chance to either escape the head-turning news cycle with miles of lush shoreline, or just play tourist apart from the crowds—most notably by ducking into Tidal Basin for a different perspective of the world-famous cherry blossoms, Jefferson Memorial and National Mall. North of the Mall, Angler's Inn River Access offers an easy launch for the C&O Canal, which runs parallel to the Potomac and offers a narrower, more scenic paddling experience. For more advanced paddlers, the Potomac also offers whitewater and surfing opportunities below Great Falls. "There's a wave there that's off the charts, as well as a pretty strong river SUP scene," says longtime local SUP surfer and photographer Skip Brown. "You can stay on it for hours."

For those with the race bug, early June's Bay Bridge Paddle in Annapolis hosts close to 400 participants. "Next to the Carolina Cup, it's the biggest SUP race on the East Coast," says Chris Norman of Capital SUP, a shop that's grown into D.C.'s go-to for SUP gear, lessons and tours, serving over 8,000 paddlers a season. —JH

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

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