Exploring a new SUP location can be an exhilarating experience that breathes new life into your paddling outings. However, before heading out, there are several things you should check in advance to make sure your new adventure goes smoothly.
Here are some essential questions to ask before paddling at a new SUP location:
Know where you can park and how close to the water access you can get. Plan to drop off your board and gear near the boat ramp or shoreline before parking your car. If the paddling spot has limited parking spaces, have a plan for what to do if the parking area is full.
In some tourist spots, parking for beach access can be designated as 'residents only' or 'private access permit required for long stretches of the coast line, so you may need to look for specific public access parking areas.
Many lakes and waterways are within parks that require a permit for boating, which may include paddle boarding, depending on local regulations. Check online in advance or look out for signs upon arrival to see is a permit or pass is required.
It is best practice to carry cash with you as many location are staffed at a booth that doesn't have credit card facilities or use a drop box system. In some cases, you can purchase a day permit online prior to arriving.
Be aware of requirements for safety gear such as lifejackets, leashes, and helmets, which vary by location. Most places require by law some form of personal flotation device (PFD), either to be worn or to have on board with you. Leashes are not usually mandatory but are highly recommended to prevent separation from your board. If paddling in whitewater, a helmet may be required.
As a general rule of thumb, complying with all rules that apply to boating at new location is usually a safe bet, as the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) considers SUP boards used outside of a surfing, swimming, or bathing area to be vessels and subject to many of the same rules.
Some parks or water access areas where other types of paddling, such as kayaking or canoeing, are permitted do not allow paddle boarding. In addition, some paddling locations allow paddle boarding but not swimming, in which case you’ll need to stay on your board as much as possible.
Depending on the waterway, there could be various hazards to look out for, such as submerged rocks or tree limbs, dangerous currents, or downstream dams. In ocean or bay areas, be extra cautious of rip tides or strong currents that may not be visible.
On rivers, know the locations of any rapids, shallows, or dangerous hydrological features that may be unsafe for your skill level. Asking an experienced paddler or a park ranger what to look out for is a good way to get familiar with any hazards.
If the paddling location is inside a park, check for a posted closing time, which may vary with the season. Look for a specific time or for a guideline, such as "closed after sunset," to avoid overstaying your welcome or getting locked inside a gated area.
Taking the time to research and prepare for a new SUP location will help ensure that your paddling experience will be both enjoyable and safe. By familiarizing yourself with parking options, permit requirements, safety regulations, SUP restrictions, potential hazards, and park closing times, you'll be well-equipped to try any new waterway with confidence.
Embarking on new paddleboarding adventures is a fantastic way to explore the outdoors, meet like-minded enthusiasts, and add variety to your paddling outings. So, get out there and expand your paddling horizons, while always keeping safety and proper preparation in mind.
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Check out our 2023 Inflatable Paddle Board Buying Guide or A Beginner's Guide To Choosing A Paddle Board where we further discuss board uses and shapes, features and accessories that are essential to your SUP experience.
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