From expansive, glassy lakes to rolling whitewater, Chattanooga offers a smorgasbord of paddleboarding opportunities. Ben Friberg, a native Chattanoogan and the first person to stand-up paddleboard from Cuba to Key West, said, "There are some pretty significant bodies of water in the area, so you’re pretty unlimited in the things you can do with a paddle and board."

Spending 20-plus years floating the region’s waterways, Friberg made the switch from kayaking to paddleboarding about four years ago. Hardly a day passes where he isn’t on the water for at least an hour, drinking in Chattanooga’s distant mountain views while massive gar, turtles and catfish swim beneath his board.


His love of the sport compelled him to organize the ChattaJack 31, a 31-mile SUP and kayak race from downtown to Nickajack Lake. As part of Chattanooga’s RiverRocks Festival, the October 26 event will attract enthusiasts and elite paddleboarders from across the country.

But even if you’ve never set foot on a SUP before, you can jump right into the sport with little to no experience. Here’s how to max out your Chattanooga stand-up paddleboarding experience without getting all wet.

Where to Begin:
First things first, you’ll need a board. Newbies (and those who don’t want to schlep their board to town) can rent from local retailers like River Canyon Kayak and Paddle Adventures.

Another outfitter located about 10 minutes downriver is River Canyon Kayak and Paddle Adventures, which offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to paddle through the Tennessee River Gorge, aka Tennessee’s Grand Canyon. Expect to spot bald eagles, osprey, herons, deer, turkey and beautiful scenery as you paddle downstream to a sandbar in front of Pot Point. Rentals include lifejacket, paddle and a pontoon ride back (total of 3 hours).

The typical paddleboarding season in Chattanooga is April to October, and it’s always important to dress for the elements. Generally a synthetic shell is adequate to protect you from cool breezes. You’ll also need to keep an eye out for boat traffic, particularly the barges that frequent the Tennessee River. Finally, a waterproof case for your phone is always recommended in case of emergencies.

Hit the Water:
The most common routes are loops around Maclellan Island and downstream through the Tennessee River Gorge. Both are accessible through L2 Boards and River Canyon and Kayak Adventures, but if you have your own board you can do some further exploring. You’ll want to confirm access points either with Outdoor Chattanooga or by tapping into the local paddleboarding community through the SUP Nooga Facebook page. Member Dottie Hodges has created this convenient map for paddle put-ins.?
    •    Williams Island Loop, approximately 4 miles
This scenic section meanders through Baylor School, so expect to share the river with local rowers. Public access is upstream about one mile at the Suck Creek boat ramp.

    •    Chickamauga Lake, various
Chickamauga Lake offers various scenic loops. Access by the dock at Chickamauga Dam/Marina or at Booker T. Washington State Park’s public boat ramp.

    •    Chickamauga Dam to Downtown, approximately 7 miles
Access at Tennessee RiverPark or the dock at Riverwalk (off Amnicola and Lost Mound Drive).

    •    Downtown to Chickamauga Dam and back, approximately 14 miles
Access at Coolidge Park and get ready to paddle – you’ll be fighting current half the trip.

    •    Downtown to Nickajack, approximately 31 miles (Chattajack course)
This grueling 31-mile route rewards you with arguably the prettiest section of the Tennessee River. Begin at Coolidge Park or Ross’ Landing and take out at Hales Bar Marina. For a shorter trek, put in at Suck Creek boat ramp and take out at Raccoon Mountain boat ramp. You’ll need to coordinate dropping a vehicle.

Special Events:
RiverRocks SUP Race, October 5, 2 – 3 p.m.?The finale to Tennessee’s SUP Championship Series, this six-mile race will host athletes of all abilities.

ChattaJack 31, October 26, 8 a.m.
Take on Chattanooga’s longest race with this grueling 31-mile trek through the Tennessee River Gorge. The race kicks off with a mass start in Coolidge Park, and shuttles are provided.

SUP Yoga & Fitness Classes, times/dates vary
Namaste like no other with this on-water yoga class. Contact Waconda Bay SUP Yoga for more details. Classes are by reservation only.

Guided Excursions with L2 Boards
Book a guided trip with L2 Boards to enhance your experience. Weekly paddle/hiking excursions to Maclellan Island offer both a river and land tour of this Audubon Society landmark.