Winner: Bend, Oregon
A funny thing happened in Bend recently: the town, long a hub for skiers and climbers, became a certified SUP boomtown. The sport is so popular here that you can build your own board with Eager Beaver Surf Company (from $1,600; eagerbeaversurfboards.com). The reason for the surge is simple: variety. The Cascade Lakes of the Deschutes National Forest, about 30 miles southwest of town, offer prime flatwater paddling under the icy gaze of 9,065-foot Mount Bachelor (board rentals, $45; supbend.com). Or head to River Bend Park and work your way downstream through the Old Mill District, where plans for a new whitewater park are under way. The Tetherow Hotel (from $149; tetherow.com) opens in April and is located near 15 craft breweries. You can sample most of their offerings at the Lot, an open-air food-truck court and beer garden.
Runner-Up: Bahía Concepcíon, Mexico
For oceangoing purists, Bahía Concepcíon has 30 miles of calm waters on the Sea of Cortez side of the Baja Peninsula. Rent a board from Harker Board Company (from $8 per hour; harkerboardco.com) when you fly into La Paz, then drive to your base camp at a two-room casita at the Playa Frambes Lighthouse Resort in Mulegé (from $150; mulege.org), and paddle into the sunrise on glassy-flat seas that see little morning wind.