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Southbound to the Border and East through the Desert: an Unforgettable SUP Adventure

Our latest bit of shenanigans was one we are sure not going to forget. Leaving San Francisco on November 28, 2015, we hopped in the van and made our way down the California Coast on a trip that would lead us all the way to San Diego, the Salton Sea, Lake Havasu, then to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam… We experienced amazing sunsets on the coast, massive cliff roads bordered by 1,000 feet of vert in Big Sur, vast desert landscapes and the ever so humbling Hoover Dam. In this blog, you will receive a little taste of our latest journey and we hope this will inspire you to take off on one of your own.

Day 1 San francisco, CA to Morro Bay, Ca

We started our trip in San Francisco and like any good locals, we grabbed fresh cups of coffee and began to make our way down the Coast. After plowing through busy SF streets, we made it to scenic Highway 1 where the views really begin. Fifty miles South of SF, we arrived at our first destination; Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which has guided mariners since 1872… After checking out the lighthouse, we pointed direction for the historic city of Monterey which is home to Sea Otters, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. This entire area is a total must see with its never ending attractions, crystal clear water and great food.  Paddle the harbor, visit the aquarium or hang out on the beach to make your day in Monterey perfect. Don’t stay too long because another amazing destination is right around the corner; Big Sur!  

Once we had exhausted our time in Monterey, we steered towards Big Sur, driving through Carmel and Pebble Beach to get there on the 17 Mile Drive which is a $10.00 toll road worth every penny. Once through Pebble Beach, we entered Big Sur which features incredible cliffs, tight roads and the infamous Bixby Bridge which is one of the only places where it is encouraged to pull out your selfie stick and capture the moment. Once back in our car, we bombed towards Morro Bay where we would stay for the night. On the way, we continued to be in awe as the sheer cliffs, endless ocean and multiple whale sightings kept us amused. We also encountered Happy California Cows and Zebra’s hanging out and grazing all together along Highway 1. Quite something to see when you sure don’t expect it! After multiple stops, we finally made it to Morro Bay where we caught an epic sunset paddle on the Bay and found our hotel.  

Day 2 Morro bay, Ca to newport beach, ca

On day two we woke up in Morro Bay and caught the perfect sunrise over Morro Rock. We grabbed breakfast and hopped in the van to head 2 hours South towards Santa Barbara which features great surfing and flat water paddling. Once we arrived, we got right in the water right at Stearns Wharf and paddled towards the Santa Barbara Harbor to check out the boats and catch a few waves at the entrance of the harbor. After a great paddle in Santa Barbara, we geared 70 miles south towards Malibu for a sunset SUP surf session. This placed a cap on an already amazing day and left us fully content. This stretch of coastline offers numerous point breaks so you are always guaranteed to find a wave to get on. Leaving Malibu right after sunset, we made it to the Santa Monica Pier to catch a few roller coaster rides prior to arriving in Newport Beach where we spent the night.

Day 3 newport beach, ca to san diego, ca

Waking up in the morning, we saw a chance for great flat water paddling in Newport Harbor and made our way to our favorite launching spot at the Blue Water Grill. We hopped on our boards, toured the bay and paddled the area for quite some time. Newport Harbor always makes for an awesome time onboard a SUP and is a total must paddle when you are in the area. Realizing the day was going by faster than we imagined, we rushed off towards Dana Point to try and catch a few waves before the daylight was gone. We made it right in time and surfed at Doheny State Beach for a good forty five minutes prior to wrapping it up for the evening. Doheny State Beach offers a great casual break and the harbor next door is home to great restaurants, bars, harbor paddling and the annual Tall Ship Festival, not to mention the Pacific Paddle Games... After an awesome time in Orange County, it was time to head to San Diego to catch a late night dinner with a friend in Encinitas and to grab a hotel for the evening.  

Day 4 san diego, ca to lake havasu city, az

Encinitas brought hopes of SUP surfing at Cardiff State Beach but we arrived late and could not find one bit of parking for our oversized van. We accepted defeat and headed onwards to Coronado Island to surf in front of the Hotel Del Coronado which lies just west of San Diego. We did just that and realized it was time to head off to our next destination at the Salton Sea.

While you are in San Diego, grab some killer taco’s, SUP surf in the ocean and flat water paddle under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge towards an exclusive superyacht marina and amazing US Naval Ships.

Leaving San Diego around noon, we set the GPS for the Salton Sea, a once desert oasis in the Coachella Valley which lies 234 feet below sea level and 185 miles East of San Diego. After driving for what seemed like days in the desert, we arrived at the Salton Sea Yacht Club which was once a great vacation spot to many stars like the Beach Boys, Sonny Bono and the Rat Pack whom all kept boats at the club. We dropped our boards in the water about thirty minutes prior to sunset and paddled the untouched Salton Sea until after dark. We could not believe how quiet the area is and the sunset we watched was easily the best one yet. If you do not know about the Salton Sea, we highly recommend you take the time to learn the history and visit. From being a once incredible vacation spot to now a nearly desolate location, it is both shocking and beautiful. When you visit the Salton Sea, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to tour the area and venture through the abandoned structures which boarder the entire waterline. Once the sun had set, we left the once “California Riviera” and made tracks to Arizona for a morning paddle on Lake Havasu.  

Day 5 lake havasu city, az to las vegas, nv

We had another long drive ahead and arrived late in Lake Havasu City but were stoked to wake up in the morning to incredible weather and a fairly warm temperature that was perfect for padding. We dropped our boards in the water at a park nearby the famous London Bridge and paddled the waterway towards the bridge. Paddling on Lake Havasu, we quickly realized how great of a location this is for any and all watersports and we are already planning our next visit. Known for its scorching hot weather in the summer and crazy Spring Breakers, Lake Havasu can either be a peaceful vacation or one that is packed with party after party. Fortunately, we arrived in the off season and had the lake to ourselves. At the right time of year, Lake Havasu can be a perfect paddlers destination so if you like heat and warm water, this is a must go to lake. Once we had paddled enough on Lake Havasu, we placed the boards back in the van and set direction to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead which sits right outside of Las Vegas, NV.

Arriving at the Hoover Dam late in the afternoon, we got out of the car and walked across the Hoover Dam Bridge. Not only is the Hoover Dam massive but the bridge itself is taller than it looks… Once we had taken in our surroundings, we decided it was time to paddle so we entered the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and found a good place to launch our SUP’s. We hopped in the water and toured the area. Being the water level was so low, it was quite shocking to see how impacted this area is by the drought. Currently, Lake Mead sits at its lowest point since the 1930’s! Although the water level is extremely low, the area still offers incredible fishing and is a great watersports destination for the Las Vegas area. With ample room to explore, you can enjoy rivers, the underwater towns now exposed due to the drought and find many great fishing spots to enjoy from your SUP. After a great day of adventure, you can make your way into Las Vegas for a night on the town…

day 6 Las vegas, nv Back to san francisco, ca


We woke up bright and early in Las Vegas after an uneventful night of sleep and realized we had quite the drive ahead of us… Hopping in the car, we grabbed breakfast and began the long ride home to San Francisco along the I-5. After 1,902 miles of driving in heavy wind in a van way too tall for its own good, we finally made it home with a story book of memories. The drive home sure was uneventful but the rest of the trip will not be forgotten and is definitely going to be made again. From paddling along the California Coast to adventuring the Salton Sea and then to Las Vegas, we had quite a trip and sure hope this post will inspire you to do the same. If it does, send us some pictures of your adventure on board your Desolation SUP’s!