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9 Extreme Water Sports to Try in California
Health & Fitness

9 Extreme Water Sports to Try in California

There’s no better way to beat the heat in sunny California than by trying a water sport you never have before. Are you ready?


5 min read

May 27, 2021

For some people, a perfect day by the beach consists of tanning, relaxing, collecting seashells, going on sunset strolls—and did we mention relaxing? But for others, every trip to the ocean is a new opportunity to try extreme water sports. You’ve been whitewater rafting in California’s best rivers, surfing at the state's top spots, and scuba diving in the most unique destinations. But if you thought that was all California had to offer, you’re in for a surprise.

The Golden State offers adventures to satisfy thrill-seekers of any kind when it comes to unusual water sports. With the weather warming up, there’s no better way to beat the heat than by trying a water sport you never have before. Who knows? You just might discover a new passion that'll keep you active all summer long.

Extreme Water Sports Opportunities in the Golden State

There are two water sources at Castaic Lake. Canoes and non-power boats are allowed on the lower lake. Sailors and jet skiers love the upper lake.

1. Jet Ski in Castaic Lake

If you’re new to extreme water sports, jet skiing is a good place to start. Often described as motorbikes on water, jet skis give you enough control to feel safe without cutting back on the excitement. Once you master the basics, you can move on to extreme jet skiing and start practicing tricks and freestyle moves.

Sounds like your kind of sport? Head over to the beautiful Castaic Lake in the Sierra Pelona Mountains to show off your skills. A favorite spot for water recreation among SoCal residents, this top California lake is full of wakeboarders, boaters, and fishers. Rent a jet ski from Invert Sports and have fun riding off into the sunset.

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2. Wakeboarding in Lake Tahoe

Wakeboarding is what you get when you combine water skiing, surfing, and snowboarding. Believed to have originated in Australia, this extreme water sport is essentially riding a board connected to a motorboat and performing tricks at the average speed of 30 miles per hour. The shorter your rope is, the more control you’ll have over your board.

Try your hand (and feet) at wakeboarding at Lake Tahoe, where your ski adventures already take place. Trust Tahoe Boat Rides to make your first wakeboarding experience the best it can be, and let the waves take you on an adventure like no other.

Expert paddlers find top-level challenges on the upper stretches of the North and South Forks of the American River during spring runoff.

3. Extreme Kayaking on the American River

You’ve heard of kayaking, now get ready for the extreme version. While regular kayaking can be rather tranquil over calm bodies of water, extreme kayaking takes it up a notch by leading you over Class V whitewater. Only recommended for experienced kayakers and rafters, this extreme water sport is a no-go for novice paddlers.

The American River has enough top-level challenges to make your extreme kayaking adventure worthwhile. Allow California Watersport Collective to build your on-water confidence and rowing skills. With programs designed for kayakers of all levels, you’ll be in good hands as you take your first step.

Shasta Lake is a go-to wakesurfing escape because it has enough room for all. With 365 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty to explore on a visit.

4. Wakesurfing in Shasta Lake

Similar to wakeboarding, wakesurfing is also a unique combination of two (or more) fun sports. In this case, the thrill of surfing is combined with boating, resulting in an unusual water sport that’s equal parts fun and adventurous.

So, where would you go for the perfect introduction to wakesurfing? The incredibly scenic Shasta Reservoir, of course. With 365 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty of room to enjoy wakesurfing at its finest. If you feel like you need a lesson or two before you wakesurf on your own, the Shasta Wakeboard School will help you get there.

Experience the thrill of floating through the air in Newport Beach and fly with the birds in the sunny skies of Southern California.

5. Parasailing in Newport Beach

Parasailing is when a boat tows a person attached to a parasail wing high up over the water. Perhaps the most relaxing extreme sport on the list, parasailing is a popular holiday activity that doesn’t require much experience. The most extreme part of this water sport is the height. But once you get over the initial stage of fear, you’ll enjoy scenic views from the blue California skies.

With California Parasail, you’ll be able to fly over your favorite spots in the Golden State such as Newport Beach, Long Beach, Lake Tahoe, and more. 

6. Kneeboarding in Huntington Beach

Somewhere in the middle of tubing and wakeboarding comes kneeboarding, which is basically wakeboarding on your knees. After facing a few wipeouts, you’ll come to love the excitement of kneeboarding as you glide closer to the water. 

Huntington Beach is a popular spot among kneeboarders, so much so that the 2019 U.S. Qualifying Kneeboarding Titles were held here. If you want to see the pros at work, this is where you need to be.

Windsurfing in Lake Hodges is more than just an extreme water sport to try. It's said to be the home of an alleged lake monster known as "Hodgee."

7. Windsurfing in Lake Hodges

Also referred to as sailboarding or boardsailing, windsurfing is a water sport created in California in the 1960s. Windsurfing gained enough popularity around the world in the 1980s that it became an Olympic sport, especially in places where surfing was already popular. A combination of surfing and sailing, this unusual water sport is when the rider balances on a board rigged with a sail on the water. 

Try your luck at windsurfing on the beautiful Lake Hodges, about 31 miles north of San Diego. Make sure to plan your trip on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays—these are the only days when the extreme water sport is allowed on the lake.

Paragliding, surfing, windsurfing, skating, snowboarding, and wakeboarding are all combined in kitesurfing.

8. Kitesurfing in San Mateo

Kitesurfing (aka kiteboarding) is considered extreme for its rather complicated nature; but, this fun water sport is relatively safe to practice. When kitesurfing, you’ll combine elements of paragliding, surfing, wakeboarding, and even snowboarding. The kiter uses the wind and a large power kite to pull themselves across the water. The result is nothing short of fun.

Glide over the blue waters of San Mateo with Wind Over Water, a premier kiteboarding and surfing school in the Bay Area. You’ll be accompanied by professionals and learn the ins and outs of this unusual water sport from the best instructors. 

The flyboard is connected to a jet ski—or similar type of personal watercraft—by a long hose and attached to the flyer’s feet.

9. Flyboarding in San Diego

Perhaps the newest extreme water sport on the list, flyboarding was invented less than a decade ago in 2012. Essentially a hoverboard you can use on water, flyboarding involves getting attached to a watercraft and propelled upwards of 50 feet. While it might seem complicated at first, most people get the hang of this extreme water sport in 30 minutes or less.

Head to San Diego, where adrenaline junkies of all kinds go to splash around and try the coolest unusual water sports. With Mission Bay Sports Center, you’ll get the lessons, gear, tips and tricks, and the best flight experience in town. Ready to feel like Iron Man? Book a class now and fly like the superhero you’ve always wanted to be.

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