Updated June 2022. Santa Barbara has year-round sunshine and sits right on a beautiful stretch of coastline, making it ideal for water sports lovers. Whether you’re into swimming, sailing, surfing, kayaking, or paddle boarding, here is your guide to Santa Barbara water sports. We have it all, and staying at The Eagle Inn makes it convenient. We are a quick walk to the beach, wharf, and harbor.
You’re in California, so you want to surf? There are a number of places in Santa Barbara! The best beginner’s place is Leadbetter Point; which is just west of Santa Barbara Harbor, across the street from Santa Barbara City College. Other more advanced beaches are Rincon Point, which is known as “The Queen of the Coast,” and Campus Point.
If you want lessons, there are many choices:
- Santa Barbara Surf School has both private and group lessons. Your lesson will include a board, wetsuit, and time with an instructor for an hour and a half. They also have rentals.
- Santa Barbara Adventure Company offers two lesson times and includes a board and wetsuit. A minimum of 4 people is required for a two-hour lesson.
- iSurf offers private, semi-private, and group lessons. They also have a weekly “Intro to Surfing” class on Sundays. Isurf also has rentals.
There are many places to paddleboard in the Santa Barbara area! It is much easier to learn than surfing and fun for all age levels. The coastline along Santa Barbara has some extraordinary views, and you can find some quiet secluded places. Suggestions for locations? How about Stearns Wharf; here are some tips for the area. Another interesting beach is the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area, especially in summer when the college is off. A third option is Butterfly Beach; you will need to paddle out beyond the waves, but then the view of Hammonds Reef is worth it!
If you want lessons note that most places recommend lessons in the morning, when the water is calmer:
- Paddle Sports Center has both lessons and rentals. Their lesson includes a guided tour once you are on your feet and paddling.
- CalCoast Adventures has private, semi-private, and group lessons (and rentals). They don’t promise, but you may see dolphins during your class!
- Santa Barbara Surf School has private, semi-private, and group lessons (and rentals). They often take classes out on Stearns Wharf.
Have you ever wanted to learn to sail? Santa Barbara’s predominant NW wind makes it easier to learn basic sailing techniques within the Harbor before venturing beyond. If that seems too daunting, then you can charter a boat (with a captain and experienced crew) and enjoy the adventure from the deck.
- The Santa Barbara Sailing Center has options for group tours, individual charters, and lessons for both beginners and experienced sailors. If you feel ambitious, you can get ASA certified!
- Sail Channel Islands is a smaller outfit, with several sizes of sailboats, which can be chartered (Captain Dan can officiate weddings!), or used for sailing lessons.
- Sunset Kidd has group and private tours (but no lessons). The tours are smaller (max 16 people), and no beverages or food are served (you can bring your own).
If you love kayaking and have your own, you can launch from many of the local beaches. Like paddleboarding, you may want to try Stearns Wharf for some calmer water, and views of the harbor. You may be able to paddle over and see the sea lions sunbathing on the rocks! Another gorgeous area for kayaking is the Channel Islands, but they are accessible only by ferry.
To rent a kayak, or go on a guided tour, consider:
- Paddlesports Center says that lessons aren’t necessary; they will train you for one of several tours. Try a Wildlife and History Tour, a Moonlight Paddle, or Sunset Harbor Paddle. They rent kayaks, as well.
- CalCoast Adventures has several private and group tours. They will take you near seals, pelicans, and sea lions and underneath the pier. Calcoast has rental kayaks.
- Santa Barbara Adventure Company has guided Harbor Tours, and a number of tours on the Channel Islands, including a Sea Cave tour for experienced kayakers.
If you would rather be under the water, Santa Barbara has some fun places for scuba enthusiasts. There is an interesting reef to explore just offshore from the Santa Barbara Biltmore. The Channel Islands National Park is known as the “America’s Galapagos” because of the diverse species (more than 2,000). Channel Islands is known as one of the world’s top ten diving destinations.
If you are looking for diving lessons, tours, or gear, consider:
- Dive Santa Barbara has classes for certification and rentals. They can also set up a private trip diving in the Channel Islands.
- Santa Barbara Aquatics also has classes for diving certification.
- Channel Island Expeditions has several tours to explore the Channel Islands; these are for experienced divers.
Are you ready now to head out to the water? Our guide to Santa Barbara water sports has made it easy! Don’t wait; book your room today! You can be out on or under the water before you know it!