Warm winds and seas plus flat bays and lagoons are the perfect conditions for stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP). What’s more, unlike SCUBA that requires training and certification or the skill and agility needed to kite-board, SUP’ing has an almost flat learning curve. Everyone from juniors to seniors – even four footed pets – can participate. Then, there’s the versatility. You can paddle parallel to a beach just for fun, take paddle tours, partake in paddle yoga, paddle race, and the list goes on. Best of all, the Caribbean is one of the best destinations in the world to SUP. This is thanks to climate and topography as well as the number of professional operators who offer everything necessary to SUP under the sun. Here are 8 top places to try:
1. Long Bay Beach, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands.
Calm waters due to shallow depths are a signature feature off this gorgeous 3-mile long island located on the island’s southeast side. The southwest end of Long Bay is where there are SUP rentals. WaterPlayTCI, for examples, offers paddleboards to rent by the hour or day, SUP yoga classes and 1.5-hour guided SUP tours of the nearby mangroves. There are also several rental houses along Long Bay Beach, many of which come with equipped with paddleboards. www.waterplaytci.com
2. Magens Bay, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Named one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, the nearly 1-mile long heart-shaped bay was hand-made by nature for SUP’ing. For one, “the offshore breezes makes the water as calm as a lake,” says Sharie Smyth, who runs the Yak Shak Rentals. Secondly, “Magens Bay is a nature preserve, meaning no motorized craft are allowed off the beach, which makes the area a perfect natural habitat for sea turtles, marine birds and an array of tropical fish. Lastly, the length of the beach makes for a one of a kind paddle boarding experience.” The Yak Shak rents Surftech boards by the hour. www.facebook.com/yakshakmagensbay
3. North Sound, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.
Located off the northeastern end of Virgin Gorda and bordered by four islands – Mosquito, Prickly Pear, Eustatia and Necker – as well as a connecting reef system, it definitely takes a big blow to create a ripple here. The Sound, measuring 3000-plus acres of sea, is a huge watersports mecca with resorts, marinas, bars, restaurants and rental shops dotting the shores. One of these, set to re-open this year, is the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC). “We will have as many as 12 boards and two different sizes (10’6” and 11’6”) for different sized riders,” says John Glynn, the BEYC’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We will also be adding 2 rigid Inflatable SUPs from our provisioning line as folks seem to really like these. We will also offer SUP Yoga two to three times a week and will have one annual SUP Yoga Retreat.” beyc.com
4. Cul-de-Sac Bay, St. Martin.
Pinel Island, situated about a mile off the mainland of French St. Martin, is a great destination for starting, stopping or sightseeing during a SUP excursion. “The island is part of a nature reserve and the marine park is amazing to explore from above, with a paddleboard,” says Oswen Corbel, who runs the Pinel Island-based, Caribbean Paddling. “On their way to Pinel Island, our customers can see our sea turtles and stingrays playing in the Caribbean Sea, and paddle next to them.” The company rents solo and tandem paddle boards, rigid and inflatable boards and offers day and week rentals. The latter works especially well when chartering a catamaran to explore St. Maarten and the nearby islands of Anguilla and St. Barths.
5. South Friars Bay & Cockleshell Bay, St. Kitts.
A two-hour going-with-the-current tour along the scenic shoreline of St. Kitt’s southern peninsula is definitely something special. “The rigid mountains along the shoreline, megayachts and expensive luxury homes are sights to see along the way,” says Jeff Andrade, who owns St. Kitts Water Sports. “This tour departs from White House Bay and finishes at our Carambola Beach Club location on South Friars Bay, where there’s great food, frozen drinks, beach chairs, snorkeling, etc.” The company also ½- and 1-hour SUP rentals from this as well as its Reggae Beach Bar location (Cockleshell Bay) at the peninsula’s nearly southernmost point. www.stkittswatersports.com
6. Carlisle Bay, Barbados.
This south-island bay, located near the island’s capital of Bridgetown, is a popular destination for sailors (both the Barbados Yacht Club and Barbados Cruising Club are located here), scuba divers (thanks to the bay being a marine park) and paddleboarders (flat calm waters). Paddle Barbados offers board rentals, lessons, guided tours, SUP yoga and combination SUP and snorkel and SUP and surf packages from its base on Pebbles Beach. There’s also a seasonal tour that features an exhilarating 5.5-mile downwind paddle along Barbados’ South Coast. “November through June are when the easterly wind creates perfect rolling swells for a great downwind run,” says Sarah Ruggieri, managing owner. www.paddlebarbados.com
7. Southwest Coast & Beyond, Grenada.
The Spice Island is a great place to paddleboard because of the variety of locations and conditions combined with a lack of crowds. “There is flat water behind barrier reefs and small outer islands on the Southwest Coast around Egmont, Calivigny, Woburn and Mt. Hartman these areas are suitable for beginners to do safe downwind trips,” says Derek Pickell, owner and manager of the Morne Rouge or BBC Beach-based SUP Grenada, which rents boards ranging from 10’ to 12’6”. “The rolling swells along the Southwest Coast from La Sagesse to Lance Aux Epine is an exciting downwind route for experienced paddlers to ride rolling swells. There is consistent waist to shoulder high surf at Prickly Bay; great for paddle surfing year round, and Cherry Hill has world class overhead barreling waves in the winter months in a north swell. Protected bays for safe paddling for beginners and families include La Sagesse, Egmont, Westerhall, and Prickly Bay. www.supgnd.com
8. Spanish Water, Curacao.
See mangroves, stunning scenery, exotic tropical birds and luxurious villas on a guided SUP tour of this large lagoon located 6 miles southeast of the island’s capital of Willemstad. “Curacao is a windy island, which normally wouldn’t create the best SUP conditions in the world, but because of the island’s angle to the wind and elongated shape it is a SUP downwinder heaven. In fact, you can do the whole 50-mile southern coastline downwind, passing about 40-plus different beaches including those not on any map,” says Ingmar Schnitzler, co-owner of SUPCuracao. supcuracao.com