Top Tips for SUPpers at Mission Bay

Following my adventures in Marina del Rey, I headed south to San Diego with my board. The weather in San Diego was warm and sunny but more windy than I expected, so for my first paddle I headed over to the sheltered waters of Mission Bay, a large man-made saltwater lagoon.

I had already seen seals and sea lions in Marina del Rey, but here they came right up to the board – which was both amazing and terrifying at the same time! I spent quite some time sat on my board watching them (and failing to take photos of them – they are very camera-shy).

The area for paddling extends from Sail Bay in the northwest corner to Mission Bay Drive bridge in the south and Ingraham Street Bridge in the east. Curiosity led me to paddle under the Ingraham Street Bridge and I quickly realised my folly as the water was very choppy behind the bridge and lots of waterskiers were zipping past.

I really enjoyed my paddle here, calm water and great views. I would recommend it for a leisurely paddle and picnic (there were also restaurants around the bay). It is also perfect for beginners and I came back later with a friend who hired a board from the friendly guys at the Aquatic Center and was quickly out on the water for her first paddle.

If you want something to eat before or after your paddle, I had a fantastic brunch at Olive Cafe on the corner with Mission Boulevard and they were able to deal with my rather awkward dietary requirements. Recommended.

Practical Information

Free parking outside the Mission Bay Aquatic Center at Santa Clara Place. There was enough space to pump up my board here. The car park is right next to a beach area and it was easy to step out off the grass, onto the sand and into the water.
Toilets and showers There were toilets on the other side of the car park. They were clean but not great. There were no showers.
Drinking Water There are water fountains outside the toilets and I was able to refill my water bottle here.
Board Washing I was here on a quiet weekday, and the kind guys at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center let me use their hose to wash my board.
SafetyOther water traffic
You must give way to sailing boats in the bay. The aquatic centre is also a sailing and windsurfing school so bear in mind that learners may be concentrating on other things rather than looking for paddleboarders.
There were also jetskis which were very fast, they will get out of your way, but do leave quite a wake.

Buoyancy Aids:
Under USA Harbour regs you need a life saving device onboard. Whether you choose to wear it or clip it to the front of your board is up to you. I did see harbour patrols in the bay, so expect to get stopped if you don’t comply.

I was told there were sometime stingrays in the bay but I didn’t see any and others were happily swimming in the water.

Paddle Information

Water ConditionsGenerally flat, however high the surf is on the other side of the lagoon. It did get more choppy towards Ingraham Street Bridge. The beach coves are perfectly flat for beginners.
Distance 5.3km (3½ miles) in total from the Aquatic Center to Ingraham Street Bridge.
Time1hr 45 mins with a long stop for sea lion photos.
Sights Wildlife:
On my first visit I saw lots of sealions in the south cove close to
Ingraham Street bridge, but none when I went back.

Other Views:
There are great views over to SeaWorld gondola in the south cover and beautiful San Diego skyline views looking north.
As there were several hotels in the bay and beaches to stop at, it was quite an interesting paddle.

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