Stand up paddleboarding in Morro Bay and on the Central Coast is an amazing experience. The Central Coast has some of those most pristine waters in California and is home to an array of coves, points, beaches and bays. It’s the perfect area for stand up paddleboards (or SUP’s).
Description: Morro Bay estuary offers the most approachable flat water paddling along the Central California Coast and offers some of the most scenic paddling of any harbor along the California coast.
The bay is a large marine and bird preserve providing views of Morro Rock, a sand-spit with some dunes that are over one-hundred feet high, with scenic tributaries flowing into the bay. Paddling from Morro Rock to the back-bay community of Baywood is a four mile journey (one-way; approximately eight miles round trip) with lots to see along the way.
Paddlers will have the opportunity to see an abundance of wildlife including rays, halibut, seals, otters, herons, pelicans as well as various species of migratory birds. There many paddling options and areas to explore along unpopulated sand dunes and beaches. Morro Bay is an ideal paddling destination for families, those new to paddling, and experienced paddlers looking for new areas to explore and distances to travel by paddling.
Local Knowledge: The bay is a safe environment with calm waters. However, there are times when the wind and tide can impede a leisurely paddle. Before paddling, it’s always a good idea to check local tides and weather before heading out.
Winds along the Central Coast usually blow from the northwest and typically come up around noon. If you are planning to launch at Morro Bay and are planning to paddle south toward the back-bay tributaries, the community of Baywood, or other locations, it’s best to do so early in the morning if the forecast calls for winds above 5 knots.
On extreme tides, the current can flow up to two miles per hour (~3.2 KPH). As the bay is not sheltered from North or Northwest wind, you can get into situations where you are battling strong wind and current- e.g., paddling north into the wind while fighting a strong incoming tide.
If you plan to explore the back-bay back tributaries, it’s best to do so on a three foot or higher tide. Follow the flood tide into the back-bay and make your way back as the tide drops, otherwise you may get stuck in thick gooey mud.
Boats and other vessels
The bay is a working harbor, which means you will be sharing a portion of it with commercial fishing vessels, sport fishing vessels and pleasure craft of all types. Please be considerate, aware, and observe all rules.
Water Conditions and Tides: Water in the bay is a few degrees warmer than the ocean. Water temps in the bay range from low 50s Fahrenheit (~5 Celsius) in the Winter/Spring to upper 50s low 60s Fahrenheit (~14-18 Celsius) in Summer/Fall. Water in the bay is typically calm but can get choppy and white-cap depending on wind. Strong tides produce swift currents.
The tide influences everything in the bay. If you are planning to explore back-bay estuary, tributaries, dunes, or the quaint community of Baywood, you will want to pay attention to tides. As noted earlier, you will want a tide that is at three foot or above.
Air Temperatures: If you are an early morning paddler, temperatures can range from the upper 40s Fahrenheit (~8 Celsius) to upper 50s Fahrenheit (~14 Celsius) in the Winter months (December-March). In Spring, Summer, and Fall, morning temperature range from low 50s Fahrenheit (~11 Celsius) to low/mid 60s Fahrenheit (~17 Celsius).
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. This is a great place for beginners, novice, and expert paddlers to explore, train for races, practice yoga, and learn how to downwind in a protected environment. The harbor is very approachable with numerous accessible launching points.
Suggested Board Types: All around cruising, touring, racing or inflatable boards like the Naish Alana, Glide or Air series, the Kuhimana, Lono series from Takayama, as well as Typhoon, El Tiburon, and Yoga series boards from Boga . Visit the The Paddleboard Company for more details, SUP gear, fitness/Yoga classes, and rentals.
Other Gear: Personal Flotation Device (PFD), leash, and whatever keeps you comfortable on water. The Harbor Patrol is strict so make sure you have your PFD.
So you know the gear to use and the basics. You know where to rent the stuff. Now the biggest question of all.
Access and Parking: There are four key locations to launch when you’re stand up paddleboarding in Morro Bay. Parking is free at each location.
1) No-Name Beach:
This is located by the harbor entrance next to the jetty breakwater at the base of Morro Rock on the harbor side near the harbor mouth. There is a nice beach and easy take-off spot. Restrooms are a short five minute walk. Parking is limited.
2) Colman Beach or Mother’s Beach:
Next to Coleman Park at the north end of the Embarcadero. This is a small strip of sand with easy access to the water. Restrooms are near-by. There is a mixture of dirt and paved parking
3) Tidelands Park:
This is on the south end of the Embarcadero near the boat launch. There is grassy area with a play area for young children with restrooms, tables, and BBQ facilities. You can launch off a dock. There is a small parking lot and parking on the street.
4) Morro Bay State Park Marina:
Located near the Morro Bay golf course and next the Bayside Café, the Marina offers a convenient launch location to explore the back-bay and estuary and sand dunes. There is a public restroom and ample parking. This location can get muddy and rocky at tides lower that two feet.
Morro Bay has a wide variety of restaurants, hotels and camping options. Each have their own attributes that make them great. If you are visiting Morro Bay for the first time, we recommend the following:
Front Street Inn
Morro Bay, CA 93442
Morro Bay, CA 93442
The best thing to do when arriving in Morro Bay to go stand up paddleboarding is to stop at The Paddleboard Company located on the Embarcadero or waterfront of the Morro Bay Harbor. The shop is located at 575 Embarcadero at the southern end of the waterfront across the street from Thai Bounty restaurant.
The Paddleboard Company is Morro Bay’s local stand up paddleboarding headquarters and is a great place to buy, or rent everything you need for a great stand up paddleboarding experience in the bay. Of course lessons are available as well for those that are beginning and also for those that may want to improve their skills. For some, just a quick 15 minute lesson will suffice, but most like the full 1 hour and 15 minute lesson to really get a good understanding of the paddle board.
There are two main uses for stand up paddleboards. They’re either for surfing waves in the ocean, or they’re for cruising flat water or paddling over long distances. The Paddleboard Company also offers yoga classes on stand up paddleboards. Most people enjoy stand up paddleboards on flat water in lakes bays and rivers, and Morro Bay is ideal for this.
A perfect day cruising around the Morro Bay Harbor and estuary starts at the Paddle Company’s dock. You’ll launch and either go north toward the harbor entrance, or south toward the back bay. The tide swings can be quite large and the corresponding current can be significant. So depending on the tide and how hard you want to work, you’ll make your decision on which way to go.
Morro Bay is the perfect place to try both riding waves and cruising the bay. Just to the north side of the Morro Rock there is an excellent beach to learn to ride waves as long as the waves are small. Riding waves on an SUP is not recommended at all for someone that has never surfed before. Learning to surf on a regular surfboard before trying it on an SUP is a better idea.
A Picturesque Day on the Morro Bay Estuary for a Paddle
For surfers that want to try surfing an SUP, the best idea is to practice several times on flat water to “find your balance”. Then once you’ve mastered the paddleboard in the bay, you can try riding a wave. However, many days during the winter, the waves at the Rock are much to big to try to learn to stand up paddleboard. Trying to learn even when the waves are just head high can be extremely difficult, so make sure to ask the staff at the Paddle Company what the conditions are like if you are thinking of trying to surf a stand up paddleboard. Also, it’s important to take your SUP out as far away from others as you can in order to minimize the risk of a collision.
With respect to flatwater paddling, Morro Bay estuary is an amazing place for an all day adventure, or just a short cruise. If a longer excursion is your choice, it is a great idea to pack a lunch and head deep into the back bay. This can take you through some amazing wildlife viewing areas where you’ll see otters, seals, rays and skates, as well as a myriad of bird species.
If you are planning to paddle far back into the bay, you must be VERY cognizant of the tide. Make sure to plan your paddling around high tide in order to maximize the amount of water in the bay. The Morro Bay estuary is very large, but very shallow. Even on high tides, the bay is only a few feet deep. At lower tides most of the bay is exposed and the bottom is a very silty mud which is not fun to try and walk through!
There are a few deeper channels but you have to know where they are in order to navigate them well on lower tides.
On higher tides, its great fun to stand up paddleboard over to the dunes on the sand spit. There is approximately 7 miles of dunes on the thin sand spit reaching north from Los Osos all the way to the Morro Bay Harbor entrance. This peninsula is only accessible by watercraft or by walking or horseback. This makes this area very pristine and remote which is great if you are looking for some adventure and some solitude.
Once you reach the sand spit, its best to hop off your paddleboard and to drag it up onto the sand dunes so the tide does not take it out!
When you are done hiking and or picnicking, and you’ve timed your adventure around the high tide, you and your friends will be able to have a leisurely paddle back as you ride the gently out flowing tide.
For more information on stand up paddleboarding in Morro Bay, make sure to call the Paddleboard Company at