It’s time to try the newest board sport: stand-up paddleboarding.

Photo by Sam Dean

What may be the fastest growing watersport in America, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), is a whole new way to enjoy the water and shed stress. Those at the forefront of the sport are using their paddleboards to navigate whitewater rivers, surf waves in the ocean, increase their fitness, and practice yoga. These are some of our favorite places in Virginia for a SUP experience!

Rudee Inlet, Virginia Beach

Learn to SUP in the inlet’s calm waters, and then incorporate some speed with real surfing out in the ocean! One of Virginia’s best SUP outfitters, Rudee Inlet Stand Up Paddle, offers surf lessons as well as SUP fitness and eco-tours. The 1st Street jetty at Virginia Beach, near the mouth of Rudee Inlet, is Virginia’s most popular place to catch a wave. 

Details: Sunnyside Cafe and Restaurant off Atlantic Avenue does a great brunch. Enjoy waterfront dining at Big Sam’s Inlet Cafe and Raw Bar. The Comfort Inn and Suites Virginia Beach offers quality oceanfront lodging at a reasonable price. 


Rugged and remote with, perhaps, the most scenic paddling in all of Virginia, the John Flannagan Reservoir features 50 miles of hardwood forest shoreline, peaceful mountain views, incredible fishing opportunities, and pristine water clarity (20- to 40-foot visibility is common). It is a hidden gem for those willing to make the journey. Head to Flannagan Marina & Powersports to rent a paddleboard, kayak, canoe, or pontoon boat, and then enjoy exploring the many narrow inlets and coves that comprise Flannagan’s shoreline. 

Details: Roo’s Grill at the marina is a convenient spot to grab a bite to eat. Main Street Pizzeria and Grill in Haysi is also worth a visit. Breaks Interstate Park offers camping, lakefront cabins, and a lodge near the river gorge. Closer to the reservoir, try the Sleep Inn and Suites in Clintwood.


Home to two of the nation’s leading high school SUP development programs, an annual adventure festival featuring kayak surfing and SUP events, a diverse river that provides expert and beginner paddling opportunities, and an urban whitewater community unlike any in the country, Richmond is the place for SUP adventure and instruction in Virginia. Talk to Richmond’s newest outfitter on Brown’s Island, Waterfront, for all your SUP gear and instructional needs. Owners Michael Stratton and Ben Moore are skilled paddlers with experience on rivers near and far, but they are also, arguably, the state’s most experienced SUP instructors.

Details: Check out Lucy’s for farm-to-table creations, Proper Pie Co. for savory and sweet treats, and The Answer Brewpub or Legend Brewing Company for creative beers. The Quirk Hotel and Rooftop Bar is Richmond’s trendy spot for sunset drinks and contemporary rooms. 

Albemarle County

Two of our favorite spots for trying stand-up paddleboarding for the first time are only 20 minutes from Charlottesville. Beaver Creek and Walnut Creek lakes are surrounded by forest, stocked with sunfish and largemouth bass, and have scenic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Take lessons, schedule a full moon or sunset paddle, or connect with your breathing and balance in a whole new way as part of a paddleboard yoga class with Mango SUP and Yoga Adventures. If you’d prefer a board rental for a day of self-guided exploration, head over to Rivanna River Company.

Details: Misty Mountain Camp Resort is six miles from Beaver Creek Lake. The Inn at the Crossroads, a national historic register bed and breakfast, is another favorite. Grab a pizza at Crozet Pizza and some delectable scoops from Crozet Creamery. 

This article originally appeared in our WaterLife 2019 issue.

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