This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of SUP Magazine.
Let's address this first: It rains a lot in Portland. But what locals are less apt to admit is that summer and fall in the Rose City are ridiculously beautiful. And with at least 13 renowned places to launch within 20 miles of downtown, it's an urban paddling paradise--and that's not to mention the countless options for day-trips.
Portland paddling begins with the Willamette River, which runs right through the heart of town. Check out Gorge Performance for rentals, lessons, repairs and inside info, walking distance from the river (they even rent dollies so you can roll your board).
Put in at Willamette Park and take a spin around Ross Island with houseboats, personal watercraft and kayaks all taking in views of downtown. If you're feeling feisty you can even keep going downriver and head under Portland's famous bridges. This stretch of river is also the site of the Rose City SUP Classic in early September. Many more stellar launch sites lie upriver, where paddlers gather for the spring's Willamette SUP Cup at George Rogers State Park. Heading slightly farther afield only yields more paddling adventures on the Columbia, Clackamas and Tualatin rivers. Downwind, whitewater, scenic touring: Take your pick.
You can't talk Portland-regional paddling without mentioning Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge, only an hour drive from downtown. Home to one of SUP's major national races, the Gorge Paddle Challenge, this wind funnel of a town has some of the best downwind paddling on Earth. Check out Big Winds in Hood River for rentals and beta on how to get the best bumps of your life.
Did we mention that the raw might of the Pacific is only an hour-and-a-half from west of the city? Great surf, forests plunging to the sea and historic seaside towns stack a lifetime worth of exploration onto the case for Portland.