My love of paddle sports is a recent thing. Fuelling a thirst for adventure led me to try skydiving, bungee jumping, deep-sea fishing, and finally, kayaking. When moving to New Zealand – the adventure capital of the world – trying out white-knuckle action sports that lead you to think about whether you’ve had a good life up to that point, is almost a rite of passage.
However, there’s only so much heart-jacking adrenaline you can handle until you settle on a hobby that lies closer to your comfort zone. For me, that hobby was kayaking, but there are many other paddle sports out there to try too!
Recently, during a day trip to the beach where sunbathing lost its allure, I also discovered stand up paddleboarding – a mix between surfing and kayaking. I was hooked. I spent the rest of the day on a rented paddleboard trying to ride the surf.
I’m fortunate that I have called New Zealand home for the past five years, and I have an abundance of lakes, rivers and coastlines to explore. However, my wanderlust isn’t entirely satisfied, and I dream of worldwide paddling adventures. So, without further ado, I present to you, my bucket list of places I want to paddle around the world.
Hawaii is at the top of my list because it is the birthplace of paddleboarding. Obviously, the sun, sand, and surf have a slight influence as well 😉
There are loads of great paddling locations in Hawaii, but I’m itching to try Kealakekua Bay on Kona. The water is a mesmerizing turquoise and is teaming with tropical fish and dolphins. The famous Captain Cook Monument is inaccessible by road, but you can get a great view of it from the ocean.
There is adventure aplenty in Hawaii with Keauhou Bay, Kona, offering beautiful sea caves and a famous spot known as the ‘End of the World’.
Bali is perfect for paddleboarding beginners. The water is calm, and if you head to the beaches in the north, you will not be fighting for space amongst the gentle waves. After a hard day’s paddleboarding, you can hit the bars and relax with a few glasses of local beer.
If you’re the more adventurous type, you can head inland and book a couple of days hiking in the bush where you’ll enjoy kayaking and river rafting in whitewater rivers followed by elephant trekking.
Perth, Western Australia
Home of the big wave, Perth is on my hit list for a spot of paddleboard surfing. Traditional surfing is big in Australia, but as I’m the more laid back type, paddleboarding is where it’s at.
For beginners, you may want to try Swan River in Perth where the water is calm and tranquil and perfect for learning how to balance on a board. If you want some gentle waves, try Cottesloe Beach. But watch out for sharks, the area is notorious for them.
Lake Tahoe, California
I’ve always dreamed of driving from coast to coast in the U.S. in a Cadillac or Harley. But Route 66 may have to wait as I’ve recently discovered Lake Tahoe.
The clear, tranquil waters of Lake Tahoe offer unrivalled opportunities for watersports, especially paddleboarding. The best time to paddleboard is in the early morning, before the sun is too hot and the waters become congested with jet skis and motor boats. The water is like glass at that time of day, and you can explore the shoreline at your leisure.
The Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
Game of Thrones fans will relish the opportunity to check out the rugged landscape of the Emerald Isle. The weather might not be as hot as Bali, Australia, or Hawaii, but the waters are relatively calm during the summer, and you can explore numerous hidden caves along this beautiful stretch of shoreline. You can also visit the Giant’s Causeway.
Scotland’s West Coast
One of my biggest regrets is not exploring my own backyard when I had the chance. Now that I’ve left Scotland, hearing tales of adventures in the Highlands leave me feeling down and envious.
The West Coast of Scotland is an achingly beautiful place to paddle. There are numerous sea lochs and jagged inlets, which are inaccessible by anything other than a sea kayak. Just don’t plan your trip for late August, as you will be eaten alive by midges.
Johnstone Strait, Canada
Orcas are the most majestic creatures on the planet; at least in my opinion. The Johnstone Strait is the best place to observe these amazing creatures as you paddle and is totally worth making the trip to Canada for. Visit in summer and observe orcas congregating to feed on migrating salmon. I would die a happy man if I could tick this one off.
Milford Sound, New Zealand
Like Johnstone Strait, Milford Sound in New Zealand was carved out by a glacier millions of years ago. The cliff faces are vertical, with torrents of water cascading down into the fjord. The scenery is breathtaking, even otherworldly – and it’s easy to imagine yourself in Middle Earth as you paddle through these waters.
Selinda Spillway, Botswana
Going ‘on safari’ has never really appealed to me, but the Selinda Spillway in Botswana is definitely on my bucket list. A kayak is the best way to travel through this oasis of wildlife, and with hunting in the area banned for many years, there is ample wildlife to observe.
Glacier Bay, Alaska
Kayaking in Glacier Bay, Alaska, will blow your mind. Muir Inlet is the most popular destination for kayakers. It is also perfect for novices, as the inlets of Prince William Sound are nicely sheltered from the elements and a wonderful place to paddle.
Where’s Next on Your paddle Bucket List?
Many of you reading this will have your own bucket list that may include all these locations and many more. If you know of top destinations for water sports, please share them in the comments below.
My parting advice would be to just go for it! Chase your dreams and tick off everywhere on your list. And if you can, have a little fun in the water and with a paddle. Exploring the world by your own little boat, and being captain of your adventure, will leave you with unforgettable memories.
After leaving Scotland six years ago with nothing but a backpack and a craving for adventure, Jamie travelled through South-east Asia and Australia before finally settling in New Zealand. He soon after discovered his passion for kayaking and paddle sports and is now on a mission to explore as much of New Zealand by kayak as possible. He shares his knowledge and adventures on his blog, PaddlePursuits.com
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