Anywhere there’s relatively tame whitewater: the beauty of stand-up paddleboarding is the short learning curve. Nevertheless, I’d strongly recommend you take a lesson or two from a knowledgeable instructor first, even if you’re an experienced kayaker. If you’re looking for beginner-friendly spots, these three would top my list.
Colorado's Best Whitewater Paddleboarding: Salida
Kayakers and raft guides have long flocked to the rapids of the Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado. Now, the area is starting to draw paddleboarders too. Practice your technique on one of the river's many flat sections, then head for Salida's legendary whitewater park, where you can test yourself on two standing waves. The Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center offers half-day river lessons for $120.
Colorado's Best Whitewater Paddleboarding: Glenwood Springs
With long stretches of flat water interrupted by forgiving Class II riffles, this cocoa-colored stretch of the Colorado is an ideal place to start learning to paddle. It doesn't hurt that it's also near the Glenwood Whitewater Park, which draws SUPers from around the country who try their luck on its powerful standing wave; The high-profile park has even hosted the Whitewater Stand-Up Paddling Championship. Alpine Quest Sports teaches full day lessons for $259.
Colorado's Best Whitewater Paddleboarding: Pueblo
The half-mile-long Pueblo Whitewater Park on the Arkansas River was born seven years ago through the grassroots efforts of passionate local kayakers. Little did the folks in this gritty southeastern Colorado town know that a short time later it would also become a paddleboarding magnet. The graffiti-covered concrete walls running along the bank gives the experience a city feel, but the thrills—especially when the river is running high in mid-summer—are untamed and pure. Go in late spring and early fall, when the ride is more forgiving. The Edge Ski, Paddle, and Pack offers two-hour lessons for $50