Best place in USA to live for a surfski paddler

4 years 9 months ago - 4 years 9 months ago #20480 by jo111
Where are some of the best places to live in the USA for a surfski paddler, besides Hawaii? If you enjoy the area where you live for surfski paddling, please let me know where you are so I can check it out.


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4 years 9 months ago #20481 by Pauli
The San Francisco Bay Area has year round paddling. Varied conditions from Ocean, open bay including surf beaches and down wind to protected inland waters both salty and fresh plus rivers big and small within a few hours drive. It also has a vibrant and active paddling community with many people actively training and racing. It is the home of the Wavechaser Paddle Series and the US Surfski champs and flat water competitions too. Plus a very active sea kayaking community and is the home of world class rock gardening
The following user(s) said Thank You: jo111

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4 years 9 months ago #20482 by jo111
Thanks! Where else is surfski paddling popular?

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4 years 9 months ago #20483 by goofish
Well, I would imagine that best place to live for a surf skier would be someplace warm and salty, however, the most active surf ski community in the USA is in Bellingham, WA on the Puget Sound (salty, but not warm!). Weekly week-night training racers, bigger weekend races almost every weekend during the spring summer and fall, year-round season, and close proximity to Vancouver, BC, (which also has a large surf-ski scene). You literally cannot drive through town without seeing a car with a surf ski on the rack. There really is no equivalent in the U.S in terms of concentration and opportunity. If you are more interested in climate than community then, yes, southern CA would be a better choice.

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4 years 9 months ago #20484 by Metro
South Florida is an ocean paddler's dream. Good wind, almost limitless place to launch and land and, maybe most importantly, warm water all year! Small but growing ski scene. South Florida would make an excellent location for a major race on the calendar.

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4 years 9 months ago #20503 by ergometer
There are lots of best place in USA for surf ski paddler like San Francisco,Hawaii and many others.

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4 years 9 months ago #20507 by Cryder
Good places listed so far. I live in Seattle, and travel a ton for my work. I like the Monterey / Santa Cruz area, Bellingham is really cool too with some very driven locals. Would also add Hood River as the downwind conditions that occur year round are top notch. Not a lot of locals to paddle with, but that's changes in the summer months. For pure beauty of paddling, Tahoe is great and so is Chelan.

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1 week 5 days ago #33502 by mickeyA
Based on this thread, the only active US Surfski communities are Bellingham, Vancouver (I know, Canada), San Francisco area, Southern California, and a small group in South Florida (I assume East coast).  I know New England ( is active, maybe Michigan (TC Surfski), though they were not mentioned.  Charleston, SC?  That it?  I think of “active surfski community” as a regular group with organized, regular weekend or weeknight paddles or race series, maybe a trailer to help with logistics, and ideally a paddle club that houses club-owned skis or your own ski.  I think these are very prevalent in South Africa and Australia, maybe Hawaii.  I would like to travel more (a week up to a full season) based on surfski availability and activity.  Gorge is only one I’ve been that mostly fits the bill (ski rental, shuttle, week long—not just a race).  Thanks.

Epic V12, V10Sport, Fenn Tarpon S, Stellar SE, Fenn XT, Twogood Chalupski, Findeisen Stinger spec, Huki S1-X, Burton wedge2, Fenn Tarpon

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1 week 4 days ago #33510 by MCImes
Places I know of that have a good ski community:

New England - although boat clubs are lacking, they have a 8 part race series and regular ski paddlers in the CT, RI, MA area

South Florida - I saw in anothe thread there is a good race series all over south florida. Not sure about boat clubs. South florida has the best used surfski market in the country by my estimation. 

Missouri (and surrounding area) - the MR340 ultra marathon has created a strong river racing community and many of them use skis. 2nd best used ski market in the country and best overall fast boat market in the US (there are tons of great Ultra marathon and Texas Water Safari boats made by Starbor and Starz on the for sale boards, as well as skis, canoes, and other oddities)

Newport Beach, CA has one of the few legit boat clubs I am aware of. Its a huge facility and is where the local pros operate out of. 

Seems like any city on the coast from San Fransisco up to Seattle has some paddlers around

Portland / the gorge, OR - the surfski chapmps are held there. Need we say more? 

Everywhere I've lived (Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California) has had a rather pathetic ski community. I rarely see ski's or ski racks on roofs driving around. Even in a 9 million + population  metro area like L.A., there are almost no used boats for sale and I rarely see another ski paddler on the water.

Current Boats: Old Fenn XT, Stellar SR g1
Past Boats: Epic V10 Gen0
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all" - God from Futurama

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1 week 3 days ago #33511 by mickeyA
Thanks MCImes, great info.  Chattanooga, I think, has a decent crowd as well.  Unfortunately, along the Florida panhandle, there do not seem to be many skis, although the water and beaches are world class.  Any other nice spots one could visit and be able to borrow or rent a ski for a regular group outing?  Thanks.

Epic V12, V10Sport, Fenn Tarpon S, Stellar SE, Fenn XT, Twogood Chalupski, Findeisen Stinger spec, Huki S1-X, Burton wedge2, Fenn Tarpon

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1 week 3 days ago #33513 by d0uglass
I live in SW Florida (Naples / Ft. Myers area).
We definitely have year-round warm / hot weather and a good paddling community. Lots of paddle races dominated by SUPs, but with increasing numbers of OCs and surfskis. However, we don't get consistent wind and waves, and sometimes we have toxic red tides exacerbated by our ever-growing pollution problems. East Central Florida from Ft. Lauderdale up to Cape Canaveral has better wind and surf condititions, with Jupiter Florida at the epicenter, but it's more crowded over there and they also have growing pollution problems. From May - October the winds are pretty light even on the Atlatnic Coast of the state. It's also tricky for downwinders because the coastline on both sides of Florida is predominantly North-South but our winds are more East-West.

Stellar SEI 1g

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1 week 3 days ago - 1 week 3 days ago #33514 by Cryder
Wow, old post. A lot has changed in the last five years sateside. 

For expample, four years ago I took a road trip from Bellingham to San Diego, and paddled every major section of ocean and stayed in every major town / city along the way. I didn’t see any other skis except for a few in San Diego and San Fran, and that is because the locals knew I was coming and made an effort to go paddle.

Flash forward four years, and I repeated the exact same trip and itenerary and was just blown away by the number of paddlers I saw (SS and OC) in all the coastal Oregon and California towns. Many of whom where youngish 20 / 30 something’s who’d recently discovered the sport. I hear similar anecdotes from the East coast, but on a smaller scale in terms of paddlers and open ocean conditions. Canada, in particular Vancouver BC and Keylowna BC have numerous paddling centers and clubs that are thriving, and producing promising young athletes. 

For example we we now have the Gorge Downwind Champs, attended by over 700 racers I think - many of whom are locals (US and Canada). Bottom line, the sport is just taking off stateside, in many ways it reminds me of cycling in the US in the early 90’s... when a strange niche sport rabidly loved by purist became a strange mainstream sport rabidly loved by purists.  

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1 week 3 days ago #33516 by Cerca Trova
Traverse City Michigan. Clear ocean like waters, consistent westerly winds. The big O will be teaching Downwind paddling in June, which I plan on attending.

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4 days 5 hours ago #33550 by Bipwap
To the extent that surfski racing is of particular interest, I may have some insight.  I run the SurfskiAmerica site, which provides a historical record of surfski race results in North America, as well as a calendar of future events.  At least, that's the goal.   It's easy enough to track the larger events that have been around a while, but more difficult to keep up-to-date on the new races that keep popping up.  I don't even attempt to include regional weekly events like Deep Cove's Tuesday Night Races, but try to include all yearly events that have a substantial surfski presence (say, of a half-dozen skis or more).  Some of these are primarily surfski events, but most include many other boat types. In all cases, however, I only keep track of surfski results (except for the occasional non-ski HPKs and FSKs). I don't track any multi-sport events or team events.  SurfskiAmerica is hosted by Wesley Echol's site, and can be found at:

With all this data available is that I can provide a conservative overview of the state of surfski racing in North America.  My data is far from comprehensive and suffers from any number of selection biases. I live in New England, for example, so my coverage for this area is more thorough.  So take everything with a grain of salt. Also, if you're from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, etc. - please don't make too much fun of us for our weak numbers.  We're working on it.

In 2018, my records include 1074 different people competed on a ski - about 10% more than in 2017.  This number includes several dozen international competitors from races like the Gorge and the Canadian Downwind Champs, but excludes all those who paddled in smaller races not in the database and those who I couldn't differentiate from kayakers (a particular problem for many of the flatwater river races, which often just have "kayak" or "long kayak" classes).  It's tough to estimate how many paddlers I'm missing here, but I'd guess at least a couple hundred.

If you count only paddlers who have competed in 3 or more races, the number of individuals drops all the way to 271.  At 5 races, we're down to 116. For anyone curious about the whole distribution: 1 - 1074, 2 - 469, 3 - 271, 4 - 181, 5 - 116, 6 - 71, 7 - 37, 8 - 24, 9 - 18, 10 - 11, 11 - 7, 12 - 3, 13 - 2, 14 - 1.  Looking at historical trends, growth of multi-race paddlers has been relatively modest in the past few years - an average of 2% or 3% a year for those doing a few races a year. The number of paddlers doing 6 or more races a year has stayed flat, however.

As to what part of the continent the paddlers are from, I have state/province data for 50% the paddlers in the database, and a much higher percentage for paddlers with multiple races.  It's no surprise that the Pacific Northwest wins the paddling crown. Looking at everyone who raced on a ski (and for whom I have state/province data), nearly 21% were from Oregon or Washington, with another 14% from British Columbia.  Compare this with 11% in New England, 11% in Northeast, 11% in Central US, 10% in the Southeast, 8% in California, 5% in Hawaii, 4% in the Great Lakes, and 3% in Eastern Canada. If you look instead at paddlers who raced at least 3 times in 2018, the breakdown is: 26% Northwest, 14% BC, 14% New England, 9% Northeast, 9% Southeast, 9% Hawaii, 8% Central, 7% California, 2% Great Lakes, 2% Eastern Canada.  At a minimum of 5 races, the breakdown is: 23% New England, 18% Northwest, 14% Hawaii, 11% Southeast, 10% BC, 9% California, 7% Northeast, 5% Central, and 1% Eastern Canada.

Unsurprisingly, the North American races with the largest ski fields tend to be the internationals - The Gorge (200+ skis), Canadian Downwind Champs (100+ skis), and Molokai (~60 skis, ).  A few years ago (and maybe again), the US Champs would be right up there (100+ skis at its peak). Of the remaining races, the Lake Samish race in Washington regularly pulls in around 60 surfskis, making it the most consistently well-attended "domestic" North American race.  Although there's some year-to-year variation, the next most well-attended races over the last few years have been the Lighthouse-to-Lighthouse (~50 skis, Connecticut), Chattajack 31 (~50 skis, Tennessee), Blackburn Challenge (~45 skis, Massachusetts), Shark Bite Challenge (~45 skis, Florida, now defunct), Dan Harris Challenge (~40 skis, Washington), La Conner (25-45 skis, Washington), Tour de Indian Arm (30-40 skis, BC, now the slightly smaller Indian Arm Challenge) and Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge (~35 skis, California).

From the perspective of race availability, it's tough to beat the Pacific Northwest.  Sound Rowers has a 14 race schedule, with an additional half-dozen races in the area (including the two biggest North American races).  For density of racing, Hawaii is tough to beat. Between the Kanaka Ikaika and Maui Paddling Hui clubs, more than a dozen races are offered.  New England has two long-standing point series circuits encompassing 12 different races within a 2.5 hour drive. For the future, I think Florida is likely the place to watch.  Races seem to be sprouting up there quite frequently.

Greg Lesher

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