Hit the West Virginia water— hard

You can take part in just about any watersport that you can think of in the Mountain State.

Whether you’re looking for tranquil solitude or adrenaline-pounding adventure, there is sure to be some way you can cool down in a West Virginia river or lake this summer.

So grab your sunscreen and don’t forget your required PFD (personal flotation device). Here are some of West Virginia’s coolest water sports:

1. Wakeboarding

You may have tried water skiing, but wakeboarding uses a bigger, snowboard-style board. The versatility for freestyle tricks and jumps is limitless as you carve back and forth, jumping over your motorboat’s wake.

The best wakeboarding is at dawn, when winds are lowest and the water surface is glassy smooth. Fortunately, West Virginia’s summers guarantee comfortable temps even in the wee hours of the morning.

Check out Summersville Lake in the south, or Cheat Lake in the north for the best wakeboarding.

Summersville SUP WV

2. Stand Up Paddleboarding

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is one of the newest and most accessible sports to hit the US and West Virginia in the last few years.

Learn by paddling around a small lake (watch out for motorboat wakes!) or flatwater river. Once you’ve got your balance dialed, you can move onto rivers with light currents, or eventually even whitewater rapids if you want. SUPs can even be outfitted for multi-day expeditions, and SUP yoga is becoming a hot new trend.

West Virginia has even been the epicenter of a burgeoning surf scene on SUPs– many of our whitewater waves on the New or Gauley rivers have reverse currents that allow you to surf just like in the ocean, except you stay in one place as the river moves past you.

For SUP instruction and rentals, contact either Adventures on the Gorge or the ACE Gear Shop, both near Fayetteville.


3. Whitewater Rafting

What can we say about one of West Virginia’s most classic and oldest forms of water recreation? Some of the earliest commercial whitewater rafting companies took to the Cheat and New rivers, and the Mountain State has been a premier destination for rafting tourism since the early 1970s, drawing people from surrounding states and all over the world.

Perhaps the coolest thing about West Virginia rafting is that it takes a lot of skill and equipment, but is still remarkably accessible for the “average Joe” thanks to our dozens of river guide companies that lead you through the rapids.

Grab a guide and head down some of the nation’s most thrilling whitewater rivers like the New, Gauley, Cheat and more.


4. Kayaking

Kayaking is probably the true test of skill and commitment for whitewater junkies.

Kayakers in West Virginia can have fun on all of our regular rafting rivers, and hit up our dozens of small creeks and waterfalls that swell with heavy rain. These creeks truly make the Mountain State a mecca for hyper-advanced creek boaters.

If you are not an elite kayaker bent on plummeting off of 30 foot waterfalls, don’t worry! West Virginia’s mellow rivers and tranquil lakes are perfect for flatwater “sit on top” kayaks or inflatable “duckie” kayaks.

Gear shops and outfitters near most of our big lakes rent these fun, easier-to-master boats.

5. Riverboarding

Ok, so this is a very niche sport, but one that quite a few folks in West Virginia love. You simply perch your chest on a beefed-up boogie board, kick your swim-fin clad feet into the river, and experience our world class rivers from 6 inches above the whitewater (you’ll also want a helmet, goggles, possibly a wetsuit, and definitely a PFD).

This might sound insane, but seasoned riverboarders swear that it is one of the safest ways to see extreme whitewater, especially in high levels where rocks are well underwater. Plus, it’s less expensive, with less gear than kayaking or rafting. One of West Virginia’s best spots to get into whitewater riverboarding is Fayette Station rapid, right at the bottom of the New River Gorge. Its easy access and big huge roller coaster waves will have you doing this 200 yard run again, and again, and again.

Fishing at Stonewall Lake

6. Fishing

There might be no better way to connect yourself to West Virginia’s mountains, forests, and streams than by wading into a coldwater trout stream to flyfish, drifting down a flatwater river or sitting lazily on the side of a tranquil fishing hole.

Fishing spots in the Mountain State are too numerous to list– Glade Creek near Babcock State Park and the Williams and Cranberry rivers are regularly stocked with trout, the scenic Greenbrier River has smallmouth bass, and reservoirs like Stonewall Jackson Lake have great numbers of channel cat, largemouth bass, and yellow perch.

7. Scuba Diving

With the clearest waters East of the Mississippi, Summersville Lake is the perfect place to go underwater exploring.

The shorelines are lined with jagged cliffsides, and deep in its depths, those rock formations tangle together to create a stunningly rugged landscape— and you can see it all in these crystal clear waters.

Sarge’s Dive Shop’s certified divers are more than happy to take you for a dip into this untouched underwater paradise.

Find water thrills >

This post was last updated on March 16, 2022