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Hobie SUP ambassador April Zilg is one of the top stand up paddleboard racers in the world, a consistent top-ten finisher in elite level pro competition. She lives to SUP and SUPs to live. Recently, she shared her favorite hometown North Carolina spots, most of which are suitable for paddlers of all skill levels.

5. The Loop
One of the “go-to” places to paddle in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach is the Harbor Island Loop, lovingly referred to as just “The Loop.” The 3.5-mile course takes you around Harbor Island in the town of Wrightsville Beach. It goes under the main drawbridge to WB, and under two other bridges connecting Harbor Island to the Beach Island. Whenever you don’t have a long time to paddle, you can hit the loop for a really quick, no-frills session. When the weather is hairy, the loop is usually a safe bet. Plus, its an easy loop to turn into a run-paddle workout combo!

4. Masonboro Island (back side)
Right behind my neighborhood lie the marshlands of the 9-mile protected reserve island: Masonboro Island. Whenever I paddle from my house, I usually explore the maze-like marsh creeks at high tide. This area often has no other paddlers or boaters and is filled with wildlife. Its a beautiful place to paddle, and definitely one of my favorites. It is easy to reach for visitors from Wrightsville Beach and Trails End public boat ramp.

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3. Masonboro Island (front side)
One of my favorite places to surf is the ocean side of Masonboro Island. Because Masonboro Island is a part of the NC Estuarine Research Reserve, no part of it is developed. There’s also no other way to get to the island other than by boat (or swimming), which means its not crowded at all. There are sand bar breaks all the way down the island, and you can always find a fun peak. This is one of my favorite places to surf, and its even better for mini surf-camping trips!

2. Cape Fear River
If you travel inland a little ways, you’ll find the fresh waters of the mighty Cape Fear River. The river is a beautiful and calm place to paddle, lined with old-growth cypress trees and cooters resting in the sun (cooters are a local species of turtle). It’s a nice change of pace from the salty ocean. If you get up early for a paddle, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of an American alligator. I grew up swimming and playing in the Cape Fear, so its always an enjoyable trip for me.

1. Mason’s Inlet
My #1 favorite place to paddle is in Mason’s Inlet. Its the opening from the marsh to the ocean between Wrightsville Beach and Figure 8 Island. The sandbars cause the waves to break out really far from shore and it is where you get the longest rides. The surfers don’t like it because its a really long paddle, but on stand up you get there in no time. This is my go-to surf spot most mornings, and I do a lot of workouts here with in and outs in the surf and beach runs in between.