Miami SUP & Kayak Paddle Guide
Miami is blessed with year round 365 days a year paddle conditions. It's not a super windy place but during the fall/winter/spring there is enough wind to make things entertaining for doing downwinders, etc. During the summer, we rarely have any wind.....it will be very hot with the wind rarely over ten mph with very high humidity..... great for flat water training in either the ocean or the Bay. But you don't want to be out in the middle of the day in the summer....this is mornings or evenings only for sure! Wildlife is awesome.....manatees, rays, dolphins, turtles, and sharks can all be seen in the Bay or the Ocean anywhere. Sharks are really not much of an issue at all but they are fun when you see one once in a while.
Let's look at the basic layout of Miami and Miami Beach:
Miami Beach is to the upper right, with northern Biscayne Bay on the backside of Miami Beach. The main part of Biscayne Bay is below the causeway connecting the mainland to Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Let's start in the main part of Biscayne Bay and work our way north with regards to the spots to paddle.
Not too far from the University of Miami is the Coral Gables Waterway. A great place to paddle, particularly on windy days when you want to get out of the wind, most paddlers launch at the Cocoplum Circle, site of the famous Cocoplum Navy Paddle Group.
The Navy paddles every Tuesday and Thursday from the Circle at 7am sharp. An interesting fact is that it NEVER rains at 7 in the morning on the Navy...even though we wish there WAS some rain sometimes, particularly in the summer. If you zoom in on the map some, you can see the possible routes.....you can paddle all the way onto the University of Miami campus if you want to and all the way around the back of the Cocoplum housing development.
It's a Fun Spot: high rock walls, cool boat garages, bridges, tons of mangroves lining the waterway and lots of manatees hanging out in the main channel of the waterway. This is one of the most popular paddle spots in Miami.
Coral Gables Waterway
Matheson Hammock Park is a nice place to paddle from, you can cruise up into Gables Estates, check out all the fancy spreads in there or go back inside behind Matheson. Lots of fish in the area between Matheson and Gables, a nice leisurely paddle.....as long as the wind is not up.
Matheson beach to the left of the pond at right edge....Gables Estates to the left
Paddlers leaving the start of the Miami Paddle Challenge from Matheson
For those who need to go shopping while they paddle, below is the route to paddle to the Dadeland Mall. Why fight the parking hassles of the holidays when you can just paddle up and leave your car behind? Kind of a neat route, you can take it all the way to the Snapper Creek Parkway and beyond (lots of turtles out here). You do have a portage at the Dam but other than that, a pretty easy ride.
Paddling into the back of the Dadeland Mall, no traffic here, parking your board not a problem either.....)
Now, let's head to the other side of the Bay, over on Virginia Key. The Navy paddles around VK on Saturday mornings, this is a nice ride and can be very challenging if the breeze is up as you have a lot of current in Bear Cut and some waves off the ocean side. Summer conditions are usually quite flat however.
Paddling under the Bear Cut Bridge
But nice scenery, including the Seaquarium, occasional porn shoots on the beaches in Bear Cut (not joking), beautiful Fisher Island (don't land there, they will kick you out as it is a private island...but you can look)
Fisher Island with Virginia Key in the background, upper left and the Miami Marine Stadium, an architecturally significant landmark that is hoping to be renovated and used again. At the time of its construction, it was the largest cantilevered concrete roof in the world.
Miami Marine Stadium
Now, let's head south, onto Key Biscayne, which has a couple of interesting spots. There are two good launches, one at NoName Harbor, which is a great place to explore from, and also Crandon Marina, which works good also.
The launch at NoName Harbor, great place to paddle from and eat when you are done
From NoName, you can go into the houses area and see some very exclusive homes from your board or your kayak, and even though you are technically not allowed to enter it, there is a really cool little mangrove area right next to NoName that can be examined at medium and higher tides.....not very accessible at low tides though. Check out the video here. The south tip of Key Biscayne is Bill Baggs State Park and the entry into Stiltsville, a really cool flats area with some old houses that have survived many hurricanes, sitting on stilts in the middle of the water.
Only do this paddle in calmer conditions as the current is quite strong sometimes south of Bill Baggs State Park (south tip of Key Biscayne with the Lighthouse), you have to pay attention to what the tide is doing and how much wind you have....if the tide and wind are against you here, you will not make it around the corner to the ocean side!
Lighthouse at Bill Baggs, the southernmost tip of Key Biscayne--looks calm here but watch out for the current when wind and tide are both working the same direction.
The paddle from NoName is shown above.....here is the Stiltsville area below
Of course, you can go all the way around Key Biscayne from Crandon Marina also, this is around 11.5 miles for those more adventurous.
Crandon Marina, best launch to the left of the boats, with Bear Cut in the background and the tip of South Beach at top left
This is a good training paddle for the Key West Classic, which is held every May down in Key West....approximately the same distance and similar conditions, a mix of ocean, downwind, upwind, crosswind, flat and choppy.
Let's jump back up to the Brickell/Vizcaya/Mercy area
You can launch from the US Sailing area, right next to the fence, off the dock and paddle all the way up to Brickell Key and the mouth of the Miami River. The river itself is not the most clean location to paddle honestly, but the waterfront along Vizcaya and Brickell is spectacular. This works particularly well on NW Wind days as you will be in butter flat conditions in the lee of the land and the giant high rises along Brickell. Vizcaya was one of the first major building projects in Miami, built at the turn of the century and is very interesting to look at from the water.
Vizcaya....and just a little further down from here....Brickell Waterfront with Brickell Key in the foreground, below. Old and new all on the same paddle!
Take note, on a strong easterly, this is exactly where you do NOT want to be, lot of mess along the walls, etc.
Downwinders in the Bay!
For most of Florida, downwinders are kind of tough since the breezes are all easterly.....so there is nowhere to go unless you take off in a boat far out in the ocean. But here in Miami, when we have honking conditions, we have space and a very defined system for doing all the DW's. Since we always end up back at the Cocoplum Circle, we just adjust the course based on the wind direction. The Courses are broken up 0-6 based on the angle of the easterlies. The swell is not huge in the Bay, but sometimes will reach waist high when it is really blowing. We can get solid 50 yard rides sometimes in nice wind.
We have mostly standup paddlers on the DW's but occasionally have kayaks also. Contact Sandy Point Progressive Sports Miami (305) 860 0888, the day before if you are interested in coming on a DW....we only let people with DW boards or Raceboards on the DW's as you will be too slow otherwise and we do wait for everyone so we can drive all the gear back.....so no 10'6's or 11'6's please. The Navy has been doing DW's for about 5 years so the angles and courses are all well defined at this point. We sometimes do DW's in the ocean also, but we will discuss this later in the Miami Beach section.
Downwind Crew back at the Cocoplum Circle after a mission across the Bay
We have many visitors to Miami Beach during the winter and it is a fun spot to go. For some surf, you can go to Third St and have old guys who can barely surf yell at you.....but the days it is good are rare, you really need a legit storm swell from somewhere and either no wind or light westerly wind to really make it clean. Check Magic Seaweed for the forecast for wind and swell so you don't miss it as it can come and go very quickly.
World Famous Miami Beach at Third St
But when it is good, it is really good....but we do not have anywhere near as much swell as two hours farther north up the coast.... where the swell is not cut off from the Bahamas.
Hurricane Sandy swell
The good news is when it is happening, anywhere along Miami Beach can work, you do not have to be at Third with the locals....but Third does has the cleanest conditions. When you have strong easterly wind, there will be surf....but it will be a big mess for the most part with a really tight period and a lot of closing out. If it's windy....do a DW instead, it's more fun than a closeout mess at Third.
Purdy Avenue is a popular launch spot, on the Bay side of the Beach, and you can do the loop over to the Miami Yacht Club, eat lunch there, and paddle back by Star Island on your way back to Purdy.
The Miami Yacht Club, a popular paddle destination--you can eat there and you don't even have to be a member....boardshorts and bikinis welcome! Stand Up for the Cure particpants heading towards Miami Beach
You can check all the Moviestar's houses on Star and also the cool homes on Palm and Hibiscus on your way back. A fun paddle with a fair bit of variety in the scenery and plenty of spots to get out of the wind also.
Star Island, Miami. Miami Beach is to the right, Palm and Hibiscus to the left
You can also take off at Purdy and go north, through Dade Blvd, and into Indian Creek. This is a great paddle if you have a ton of wind off the ocean as it is super flat in there and you can hit Surprise Lake on the way through to the Bay. The fine people at Miami H2O Sports.com also have a rental site on Indian Creek, right near a lot of the hotels. Indian Creek is a nice spot to paddle from when visiting Miami Beach.
Indian Creek, Miami Beach.....a good place to escape ocean sea breezes during the winter: Superflat all the time!)
If the wind is the juuust right angle, straight North or a NNW or NNE....we can do downwinders in the ocean, parallel with Indian Creek, which is really fun. But unfortunately the angle is not right for this most of the days. But if we get a strong northerly....get ready, it will be on!
You can throw your board into the Ocean almost anywhere if it is calm but you may find conditions challenging if there is some seabreeze which can create an unpleasant shorebreak. We do have a lot of variety with regards to the conditions....it tends to be windy for a few days, then be calm for a few days and switch back and forth in the winter. Summer is very calm for the most part, the ocean is almost always easy during the summer months.
And of course you can just paddle straight up and down the Bay anywhere.....but again, since most of our breezes are easterly, you can find yourself in a lot of sidechop if you are not paying attention to the forecast.
Looking forward to seeing you in Miami for some fun paddling!
Sandy Point Progressive Sports Miami
2484 SW 17th Ave.
Miami, Florida 33145
305 860 0888