Tips & FAQs

Getting a little more into paddling?  Have some specific questions?  Bored and need something to read?  You  are on the right page!

Is there a Crazy Swan that chases Stand Up Paddleboarders?

Yes, it is true. The swan is white with a black neck and lives in an out of the way spot in Newport Harbor. The swan is crazy because it will chase anything on the water. This adventurous bird will chase sailboats, powerboats, ferries, kayaks, and of course Stand Up Paddlers! I haven’t seen the swan actually get up on anybody’s board or kayak yet, but I have seen the swan paddle right behind someone for up to half a mile. Imagine a dog that chases cars and substitute the swan for a dog and that is pretty much what you have!99% of paddlers will not come in contact with this crazy bird. He (She?) lives in a location in the Harbor that we only go to on our tours or during lessons. The location is protected water and sort of out of the way. So if you are renting a board, don’t worry about running into the loco bird.

How tall should my paddle be?

Paddles should be about 8 inches taller than you are. The paddle you get when you rent from us is adjustable. While super easy to adjust, just ask one of our staff and they can set it up to the perfect height for you to paddle.

Does wind affect stand up paddling?

YES!!! Wind is very important. Because you are standing up while paddling, you present a lot of surface area. A common mistake that beginners make is to take off in the direction the wind is blowing. They paddle for a while, and everything is going great. However, once they turn around to get back, they are in trouble! They have to go against the wind and the paddling is 4-5 times as slow and 4-5 times as hard. On windy days, I have literally seen people trying to paddle up against the wind, but they are going backwards! Moral of the story: pay attention to the direction the wind is blowing and paddle against the wind at the start of your paddle while you are still fresh. Then when you are ready to head home, you can have a leisurely paddle with the wind helping you get home.

Where are the best places to rent a Stand Up Paddleboard in and around Newport Beach and Orange County (besides Island Paddleboard)!?

Here is, in our humble opinion, the shops that offer the best Stand Up Paddleboard rental experience around Newport Beach and Coastal Orange County.  These places offer the best combination of equipment, customer service, owners that are active stand up paddlers themselves, and location:

  1. Paddleboard Bliss – Best place to launch in Laguna Beach, active owner, offers SUP yoga too!   Usually has rental SUP boards right on the beach ready to go!
  1. Paddle Power in Newport Beach – They rent top-notch Surftech Universals and NSP paddleboards, easy access to the water, been there since the beginning.
  1. Newport Aquatic Center – think you have to be a member here, but great spot for all kinds of aquatic activities besides paddleboarding.
  1. La Vida Laguna – These guys offer all sorts of guided tours.  Great attitude, and fun website.  Offer SUP tours, as well as Kayak tours, and bike tours.  Great way to get outdoors in Laguna Beach.
  1. Stand Up Paddle Co in Laguna Beach.  Their shop is in the south part of town, they have a strong sales program, rental paddle boards, and you can surf pretty close to the shop.  They sell their own branded boards and apparel.The only draw back is for beginners, you have to launch through the surf and are paddling in the open ocean. This type of paddling is best done after you have developed your skills in the protected Harbor waters first!
  1. Bonus!  Best place to rent a paddleboard  in Los Angeles – Tarsan paddleboards. Strong social media presence, owners are into it, and carry high quality gear.

A boat is coming right at me, help!

Don’t panic, and don’t play chicken either! Make sure you are close to the shoreline. Remember both you and the other boat should veer right, so that the boat will pass you on your left, or port, side. After the boat has passed you should try and angle your board so that it is headed straight into the boat’s wake. This is the easiest, most stable direction to take on the little waves that the boat creates as it goes by.

Do I need to know how to swim to go Stand Up Paddleboarding?


How cold is the water/Do I need a wetsuit?

The water in Newport Harbor is a few degrees warmer than the water in the open ocean. In the winter, the water temperature in the Bay can be as low as 55 degrees. In the summer – during July and August, the water can get as high as 78 degrees! Most commonly the water is somewhere in the mid 60’s. Here in Newport Beach, we paddle all yearlong without wetsuits, and it is pretty uncommon for people to fall in when they are paddling in the bay. So as far as needing a wetsuit, the answer is no, not necessary for paddling in Newport Harbor.

What is the best route for a paddle?

A lap around Balboa Island is always a good option.  If you start on the beach closest to our shop on the Grand Canal, you can head out to your left.  After a few minutes you will exit the Grand Canal and make a left  following along the North Bay Front of the Island.  (It is usually better to go this way because you will be starting out paddling against the prevailing wind.  This will make the second half of your paddle easier as the wind will be at your back)  Cross under the Big Island Bridge and continue along North Bay Front until you get to the top of the island, tiny Collins Island will be to your left.  Just continue along keeping the Island on your left and you will do a 180 degree turn to start going back down the bay.  (The wind will usually start being your friend at this point!)

Straight ahead is the historic Balboa Pavilion and the Balboa Island Ferry which shuttles between Balboa Island and The Balboa Peninsula.  This is also the busiest part of the trip so keep on the look out for boats and ferry traffic.  Make sure you stay close to the shoreline on your left hand side.

Once you pass the ferry you will be heading straight down the channel by the South Bay front of Balboa Island. After about a half mile or so, you will come to the other side of the Grand Canal (where you originally launched).   If you have had enough at this point, cut the trip short by making a left into the Canal.  Continue through the Grand Canal, go under the Little Island Bridge and keep an eye out for the dock that you launched from on the left.

If you are up for the longer version, continue along the shoreline of Little Balboa Island.  In about 5 minutes, you will get to the end of the Little Island where you will make a sharp left turn to start heading along the east side of Little Balboa Island. To your right is the Balboa Yacht club and a little further along, the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

Keep going and in a few minutes you will see the Bridge linking Balboa Island with the mainland.  Just before the Big Bridge is the Grand Canal.  Make a left back into the Canal and keep an eye out for the dock you launched from which will be on your right.

Pull into the beach and congratulate yourself, you just paddled 3 miles!

What is the difference between a planing hull board and a displacement hull board?

At it’s most basic, the planing hull board has more rocker (curvature) and the displacement hull board is flatter.  Planing hulls are more common and better for surfing.  Displacement hulls are the choice for flatwater paddling, especially if you are going to be racing.  For a more in depth explanation – see the video below…

How many islands are there in Newport Harbor?

 Eight!  They are:

  1. Big Balboa Island
  2. Little Balboa Island
  3. Collins Island
  4. Bay Island
  5. Harbor Island
  6. Lido Isle
  7. Linda Island
  8. Newport Island

You can paddle around all of them, but it would take most of a day to navigate them all!

This is my first time Stand Up Paddling, should I take a lesson?

Many people begin stand up paddling without a lesson, although those people are usually the ones you see drifting out to sea on the outgoing tide…  Just kidding!  A lesson is not required to learn how to stand up paddle. However, our expert instructors have taught hundreds how to properly SUP, and everyone has reported being glad they took the lesson, and that they got more than they thought they would out of it!  Lessons cover safety, conditions, SUP equipment, proper stance, maneuvering, water entry/exit, and of course paddling technique.  At the end of a lesson, our students are more knowledgeable and have better technique than 90% of paddlers. By starting with a lesson, many of the bad habits that people pick up as they learn the sport themselves are avoided. Plus, you can avoid falling into the water!  Which brings us to the next question…

I’ve never been Stand Up Paddling before; will I fall in the water?

Maybe.  People definitely can and do fall in when they go for a paddle.  Sometimes they want to, and sometimes they don’t.  The conditions are always changing with the tides, wind, and boats going by; it is possible that you will lose your balance and fall in…. that’s part of the fun!!  We recommend dressing as if you will fall into the water, and that includes removing any watches, jewelry, glasses, etc. that you wouldn’t want to fall off or get wet.

That said, Our Surftech Universal and NSP boards are the most stable boards available.  The board’s stability combined with the very flat and calm water that we paddle in off of Balboa Island’s North Bay front makes it a great place to go for a SUP and not fall in!

Where are the best places to stand up paddle or kayak in Orange County?

It depends on what you are looking to do.  For a calm, relaxing beginner experience, family paddle, or a fast flat-water workout, it is hard to beat paddling around Balboa Island.

For Stand Up Surfing, one of the best places in the works to learn is Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. Blackies in Newport Beach or San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente are also good spots to learn.  If you go down to San-O make sure you stay south of the dog-patch.  There is a designated stand up paddleboard only area.  Anytime you SUP surf, please respect the traditional board surfers and stay in the designated SUP area.

For a beautiful scenic paddle and wildlife experience, the coast off Laguna Beach is a gorgeous place to paddle and see many forms of wildlife like dolphins, seals, whales, kelp forests, and birds. If you decide to head down to the Laguna, the safest place to launch is Fisherman’s Cove.

What is California’s state fish?

The Garibaldi.  There is one spot in Newport Harbor where these bright orange fish live and when the water is clear you often see many!

What is the one most important thing to know about Stand Up Paddling?

The weather and water conditions play a huge role in your experience.   Winds, waves, and tides are all going to affect your paddling experience.

Where do I place my feet on the board?

There is a handle in the center of the stand up paddleboard.  It is best to stand on either side of this handle, with your feet spread almost as wide apart as the board will allow.  This will ensure that you are centered on the board, not too far forward and not too far back. Next, one foot should be a couple of inches in front of the other in a slight “stride stance”.  This will provide front to back stability, while having your feet spread hip distance apart provides side-to-side stability.

Do I need to bring anything with me on the water?

Yes,  as in life, the #1 thing to bring with you is a good attitude!  Aside from that, you don’t need to bring anything other than sun protection.  A hat/visor, sunscreen, and sunglasses are recommended.  Falling in can result in your sunglasses falling off, so consider eyeglass retainers like Croakies.  Floating Croakies are available at the shop.

Is there a better time of day to go Stand Up Paddling or Kayaking?

Mornings are generally best.  There is a typical afternoon sea breeze that comes up in Newport Beach, so if you can be done paddling by around 1 PM you can generally miss the afternoon winds.  Paddling in calm winds allows one to explore anywhere in the harbor.

In the winter months, Santa Ana conditions are common which can make for perfectly glassy and windless days at the coast.

Fortunately for us, the area we launch from on the North Bay Front of Balboa Island is on the lee side of the Island and is protected from the wind.  There are a couple of channels around that allow us VERY protected paddling, and we have even taught lessons without out any problem during small craft advisory winds using these protected channels.

Is the bay water clean enough for a swim?

Yes.  The water in Newport Harbor is tested regularly.  If there is a problem, the bay will be closed. Click here to get updated reports of Newport Harbor’s water quality in various locations.  (A green mark means all clear)

Can I take my baby with me Stand Up Paddling in a baby carrier? How about my toddler?

Definitely do NOT take your baby with you Stand Up Paddling.  While we have seen it done, it is not recommended.  Besides, will your 6-month old really enjoy themselves?  If your older child is interested in sitting on the board with you AND they know how to swim, you could let them sit on the front board while wearing a life jacket while you paddle.

I want to bring water/sunscreen/food/clothes on the board with me, is there a place to store it?

I wouldn’t take anything that can’t get wet.  There is a bungee system on the board that will hold a few items like flip-flops, a water bottle, and sunscreen.

Can I Stand Up Paddle to lunch anywhere in Newport Harbor?

Yes, there are number of restaurants that are on the water in Newport Harbor.  Better yet, grab a lunch to go from Hershey’s Market, and paddle over to Pirate’s Cove, or China Cove and have a picnic!  We can tell you how to get there…

I’ve rented a few times and have decided that I am ready to get a board. How do I get started? What sort of equipment do I need?

Paddleboarding Gear

You need just a few key pieces of equipment to enjoy this sport:

  • Stand up paddleboard: This is by far your most significant gear investment. Sizes are based on the paddler’s weight and experience. More experienced and lighter paddlers can choose narrower boards. Novice paddlers should choose wider, flatter boards, which offer more stability.
  • Paddle: Most Stand up paddles have an angle or “elbow” in the shaft for maximum efficiency. Choose a paddle that’s roughly 8” to 10″ taller than you are.
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device): The U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand up paddleboards as vessels, so they want to see that a PFD is on the board whenever you’re paddling navigable water.

What size paddleboard is best for me?

The choice is determined by a combination of paddler weight and skill, your intended use and the local conditions. Call or email us and we can help with choosing the right paddleboard for you.

Why does the paddle have an angle?

The elbow in a paddle provides a more powerful, effective stroke. When you’re paddling, the elbow causes the paddle blade to align straight up and down as it comes alongside the paddleboard.

How do I transport the board on my car?

You can transport your paddleboard on the roof rack of a car. It’s best to use a bar pad on the rack in order to protect the board. Be sure to stack the board on the roof with the fin up, towards the front.

Can the fins on a paddleboard be removed?

The fins on underside of the board help with navigating through the water. They can be removed for travel and storage, but you won’t want to paddle without them.

Can I take a paddleboard in rivers?

Yes, you can paddleboard almost any navigable body of water.

What does a full paddleboarding setup cost?

Depending on which models you choose, the cost of a good board and paddle ranges from about $1,100 to $2,100.