Your Best SUP Experience Needs a Plan

Paddle boarding knows no seasons. It can however present challenges that beginners might not be aware of and many experienced stand up paddle boarders have learned about the hard way. So today, I thought I’d take a look at some of the obvious things you should consider before you stand on liquid.

The Plan

While that spur-of-the-moment-hey-let’s get-our-boards-wet is the basis of your summer paddle boarding plans, there are things you should consider in advance of going or at least give a second thought. Your skill level is an important consideration at any time of the year. Beginners, who have yet to master their paddle or stance in a calm water situation should carefully think about how much time they are willing to spend in the water. Partner up and if that’s not possible, go another time. Even intermediate skill levels should never paddle board alone. In every situation, in every season, you should consider not only your skill level and asking a friend to go along, but also telling someone where you are going and for how long.

The Conditions

Lava Lake, Oregon

Lava Lake, Oregon

There are two things that kill a good day on the water. The first is the weather. It changes. I can’t tell you how many parts of the country I have heard this expression uttered by locals: “don’t like the weather, wait an hour.” You have to be able to cancel your outing if the weather changes. Inland lakes and reservoirs can intensify a small change in the weather. Even if you check it before you leave, be prepared to call it quits. The National Park Service publishes information about lake weather, depth and water temperature.

Beginner tip: The wind is probably the biggest issue facing any paddle boarder. There may little to no breeze at your house but once you get where you are going, the strength of that wind needs to be considered. The wind can create all sorts of havoc, even making waves that are moving in the opposite direction of the current. Some wind events can create unmanageable waves. An old timer once told me the weather could be predicted by the wind was in the tops of the trees. Once again, be prepared to sit the day out.

The second consideration before you go is the water temperature. Lakes can having varying degrees of cold even in the summer. Inland waterways or bays can particularly cold year round, even if the air temperature is topping 80 degrees. Hypothermia can come on quite suddenly. Dress for the temperature of the water, not the air.

The Precautions

In the previous post I talked about the equipment you would need to have a successful off-season SUP experience. But there are some real common sense items you should consider as well. This should go without saying but make sure you stay hydrated and warm. You accomplish this with a CamelBak Baja Hydration Pack. This handy pack holds 70 ounces of water, a paddle holster, a whistle and plenty of watertight storage. And always wear a personal flotation device.

This pack is equipped to carry a good breakaway paddle. The Boardworks SUP 3 Piece Hybrid Adjustable Paddle can be used as a main paddle or a back-up. It’s got an 8 inch blade to give you enough meat in the water and can be used without the center section. One last thing: never remove your leash.

You might want to consider some emergency stuff for your car such as extra food and warm clothes. As I said earlier, these are common sense precautions to make you SUP experience a good one, even if things turn bad.

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