Taylor Anderson tries stand-up paddle-boarding in California, and finds a holiday destination that ticks all the boxes
As a California ex-pat living in London, I was excited to get back to Huntington Beach to experience the seaside town where I grew up, with my tourist hat on. Known for its white sandy beaches, surfers and lively pier that hosts street entertainers and weekly farmers markets, it’s a quintessential Californian beach town. And a main street directly opposite the pier lined with chic boutiques and swish seafood eateries means a trip here walks the line between upbeat cityscape and mellow beach getaway.I’ve come to try stand-up paddle-boarding, or SUP, and while you don’t have to journey halfway around the world to give it a go, coastal California offers the perfect setting with 350 days of sun a year and calm, wavy waters. It’s where Jennifer Aniston practises, too, which is good enough for me. A complete beginner, I’m relieved when my instructor, surfer dude Rocky, tells me my lesson is in Huntington Beach harbour, a calm outlet surrounded by sleepy beach cottages. With Rocky’s tips I’m soon on the board, balanced, with dry hair and off across the harbour, core and thighs firmly engaged. We pass kayakers and pottering boats and, despite the fact that the harbour is busy and I’m working up a sweat, floating there is so peaceful – more relaxing than any spa. I guess this is why surfers are so chilled.The boarding gives me an appetite for shrimp tacos and a cheeky margarita at Sandy’s Beach Grill on the boardwalk. Mexican fare here is second only to Mexico itself, thanks to California's large Hispanic population and their shared border.Huntington is one of the only California cities that allows controlled fires on the sand, so after an afternoon of boutique browsing, we pack our S’mores ingredients – graham crackers, toasted marshmallows and chocolate – to enjoy by firelight. The crashing waves and crackling flames create a calming chorus that competes with the music drifting out of the beach bars. Here in Huntington, there's no need to choose between sandy beaches, world-renowned dining and shopping, or lively nightlife – you get it all.
For more information go to surfcityusa.com and www.shorebreakhotel.com
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