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Woman and Dog Paddleboarding on Spring Lake

Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Sonoma County

Stand-up paddleboarding — often referred to as “SUP” — is one of the nation’s fastest-growing outdoor activities. It’s certainly popular in Sonoma County, where the Russian River, several lakes and Bodega Bay provide diverse adventures for paddleboarders.

Some of the best paddleboarding adventures can be found within Sonoma County Regional Parks:

Paddleboarding on the Russian River

Paddleboarding Steelhead Beach

John Menth, owner of a local paddleboard tour business and a Sonoma County native who grew up playing in and on the Russian River — believes that these locations are among the county's best spots for stand-up paddleboarding from late May to early September.

"Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach is a convenient summer location perfect for beginners — they love that area, with the wider stretch of the Russian River and buoy lines. It’s close to the parking lot, too, so it’s a quick walk down to the water," Menth said. 

Sonoma County Regional Parks recommends paddleboarding the river in summer only (late May-September) when recreation dams are in place and the water flow is slower, warmer and conditions are better assessed for safety.

On the lower Russian River, paddlers need to know that the stretch between Steelhead, Forestville River Access and Sunset beaches is busy on weekends with visitors who float between points on inner tubes. Paddleboarders will prefer to visit these parks on summer weekdays for a quieter, less-congested experience.

See Regional Parks' Paddling the Russian River page for paddling distances and times. 

Paddleboarding at Spring Lake

Another of Menth's paddling recommendations is Spring Lake Regional Park, with its placid water and beautiful views of northeast Santa Rosa. (See photo at top of page.) Spring Lake is ideal for beginning paddleboarders because of its convenient location and compact size. 

Paddlers at Spring Lake likely will share the lake with other SUP'ers and kayakers, which gives beginners peace of mind. Seasonal paddleboard rentals are available at the concession near the park's swimming lagoon (Violetti Road entrance) daily through the summer. 

If you have your own paddleboard, Spring Lake can be a destination for year-round paddling.

Paddleboarding on Bodega Bay

Ocean paddleboarding

Menth recommends Doran Regional Park on Bodega Bay for more experienced paddlers only. Doran is on a long spit of sand with the open bay on one side and Bodega Harbor on the other. Paddlers can ply their craft on either side. Menth said some might prefer the harbor side because it offers destinations like the marinas, the mudflats and Bodega Bay's businesses and restaurants.

Paddlers considering Doran Beach should pay careful attention to the weather. “Paddlers need to be informed about wind, tide and surf conditions. All must be favorable and calm to have an enjoyable experience. The ocean temperature demands a wetsuit for the beginner, but an experienced paddler who doesn’t intend to spend a lot of time in the water probably won’t need one in summer and early fall.”

Bodega Bay Surf Shack is another local outfitter for paddling Bodega Harbor, and its paddleboard rentals include wetsuits and lessons. 

  • For more information about visiting Sonoma County's lakes, river and coast, go to the Find a Park page
This post was written by Suzie Rodriguez, a Sonoma-based writer, editor and lifelong outdoors enthusiast.
Published in 2016; Updated in 2024.