The Sailing Center's Paddle Club makes borrowing boards easy. | Credit: Kevin Steele / Courtesy / Santa Barbara Sailing Center

The beauty of Santa Barbara, and its blending of the mountains and the ocean, is best seen from the water. Last Wednesday afternoon, I took out a stand-up paddleboard, or SUP, from the Santa Barbara Sailing Center and made my way down the canals of the Santa Barbara Harbor. I cruised past the bustling crowds at Brophy Brothers, the quaint houseboats and rugged fleet used by our commercial fishermen, and the crusty dredge that withdraws and deposits sand into the harbor’s channel. Tracing the channel that lines the breakwater, I eventually pass Sandspit and unlock my favorite view of the city, one that showcases famous landmarks while capturing our Mediterranean style. 

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I’ve spent countless hours exploring Santa Barbara’s coast via paddleboard, but the views never get old. During my time at SBCC, I was a paddleboarding guide and kids’ camp instructor with the Sailing Center. For beginners, learning how to stay balanced can take time, but the harbor is just as fun to explore as you learn. It’s also a great activity for kids, physical enough to keep them busy but low-key enough for them to socialize with their friends. 

With explosive growth over the past decade, paddleboarding is now a very popular recreational activity. On any given day, you can see people sticking out of the ocean and cruising along the coasts at spots like Devereux, Leadbetter, and Butterfly Beach. While it is possible to surf with paddleboards, they are large, bulky, and can pose a danger to surfers and others in the water if they get out of control. Those wishing to try should make sure that they’re doing so responsibly, and only if they’ve become highly comfortable on the board.

Several locations rent paddleboards in the Santa Barbara Harbor, an ideal spot for beginners, so long as you stay out of the middle of the channel and are mindful of traffic. The S.B. Sailing Center ([805] 962-2826;, Paddle Sports Center ([805] 617-3425;, and the nearby Cal Coast Adventures ([805] 628-2444; at West Beach all rent paddleboards. There’s also a Paddle Sports Center at Goleta Beach. The Sailing Center is offering memberships for a “Paddle Club,” which allows boards to be borrowed at any time.

“This is a great way to get some exercise and get out on the water,” said the Sailing Center’s Arianna Kamp. “There’s really no better place to be in Santa Barbara than out on the ocean.”


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