Stand Up Paddling (SUP) is a popular way to while away the day in Austin, and with a steady influx of outdoor enthusiasts visiting the city, the beginner-friendly sport has gained even more steam in Central Texas. With an abundance of rivers and lakes, perfect for flat-water paddling, you'll discover plenty of places to get your SUP on.
Paddle Board Rentals in Austin
The best place to start is at a local outdoor rental shop; see our full list of recommended shops in the area. The people at these stores can get you up and out with all the essential gear and tell you where to go. Check out spots along Lady Bird Lake to learn from local experts and convenient access points. Options like Epic SUP, the Rowing Dock, Live Love Paddle and others offer affordable gear by the hour or by the day.
Where to Go Paddle Boarding in Austin
Many of Austin's nearby lakes, rivers and creeks are navigable to SUPers where other larger, deeper-draft crafts aren't allowed (Lady Bird Lake included). The spring and early summer are great times to explore smaller waterways by SUP, when regular rains keep the creeks flowing. Year 'round, there are plenty of large bodies of water that are prime paddle boarding hotspots that remain consistent.
Lady Bird Lake. Courtesy of the Austin Rowing Club.
Lady Bird Lake Paddle Boarding
Lady Bird Lake is the hub for all sorts of paddle sports and, due to its proximity to downtown Austin, its popularity among paddle boarders continues to grow. Relatively calm waters, great views of the city, easy water entry and a central location make it one of the best spots for paddlers by far.
According to the paddling experts at Austin Canoe and Kayak, Lady Bird Lake is certainly a local favorite. It's a no-powerboats lake, so it offers the most protection when it comes to rough waters.
Whether you buy your own board or rent from one of the docks, Lady Bird Lake is a great place to get your feet wet, especially for first-time SUPers.
Spring Lake Glow Tour. Courtesy of Tour San Marcos.
San Marcos & Spring Lake Paddle Boarding
Formerly known as Aquarena Springs, the site for an old water theme park, Spring Lake in nearby San Marcos provides a truly unique paddling experience because it is one of the clearest bodies of water in Texas. And because of its environmental sensitivity, it's only open to the public through guided tours from The Meadows Center and REI Outdoor School (both SUP and kayaking are available).
Spring Lake also has a special history. In addition to its current protection as a research site for the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and its recent past as a theme park, findings suggest that this lake has been a water playground for humans in the area for at least the past 12,000 years. So, to say the least, a SUP tour of Spring Lake is definitely worth it.
Paddle boarding on the Colorado River in Bastrop. Courtesy of Visit Bastrop
Bastrop & Smithville Paddle Boarding
On the Lower Colorado River southeast of Austin, the section between the towns of Bastrop and Smithville is an excellent stretch for stand up paddle boarding. The river here is quiet and its natural state is preserved. The scenery is lush with native Central Texas trees and grasses, which harbor all sorts of wildlife, not to mention the abundant aquatic wildlife. You will often have this stretch all to yourself, so it's a great reward for a short drive outside of Austin proper.
The Bastrop-to-Smithville paddling trail also offers more than one launch-to-exit option, so if you prefer a shorter paddle instead of making the entire section between the two towns, you can do that. Just check out the ramp locations on the paddling maps at each launch site.
Lake Travis SUP. Credit Everstream and Co.
Lake Travis Narrows Paddle Boarding
A lesser-known SUP route, the Narrows, lies in a secluded section of Lake Travis. Located just west of the town of Spicewood, the Lake Travis area is popular with boaters and other water sports enthusiasts. But because this specific section is so narrow (hence the name), boat traffic is lighter than on other parts of the lake. This keeps the water chop down to manageable levels for paddle boarders.
As Austin Canoe and Kayak adds, "Anglers enjoy this spot during certain times of the season, but it's often overlooked by recreational paddlers. Plus, the views are nice and wildlife is abundant." So if you don't mind driving just 45 minutes out of the city, the Narrows offers a nice SUP trail with excellent exposure to one of the Austin area's best water playgrounds.
There are even more paddling routes in and around Austin that are great for SUP, especially when creek and river water levels are decent. But with relatively easy access, nearby amenities and fantastic scenery, the four locations above are great options for all levels of paddle boarders.
For more paddling trails, SUP guides, tours, gear rental and board purchases near you, check out these retailers:
Austin Canoe and Kayak
If you are looking to buy a paddleboard be sure to check out these experts. They have a great selection of boards and can help find the one that's perfect for you.
Birthed in Malibu and raised in Austin, SUP ATX is now the #1 paddle board maker worldwide. Find their rentals at the Texas Rowing Center, and many other shops around town.
Contributed by Dave Brown, Roots Rated Austin. Photo above courtesy of the Rowing Dock.