With the arrival of the novel COVID-19 virus resulting in stay-at-home orders and widespread adoption of voluntary precautions to prevent the spread of illness, social distancing, also known as physical distancing, has become a new part of our vocabulary and collective psyche. While some aspects of social distancing, such as keeping six feet distance from others and wearing masks in public places, are clear cut, others are less certain.
The safety and social acceptability of stand up paddle boarding at times when distancing is either required or recommended is one area where some clarity is needed. Going out on your SUP board and being outside in the fresh air, with no need to get within six feet of anyone else, seems like a healthy activity that shouldn’t violate the principles of social distancing. However, there are some issues that must be considered when making the choice to venture out on the water on your paddle board:
In some states and local jurisdictions with social distancing rules or stay-at-home orders in place, paddle boarding and kayaking are specifically allowed as forms of outdoor exercise, even when boating is not. In other locations, paddle boarding may fall in an undefined grey area that needs clarification. If in doubt, you should check with local authorities to make sure that going out on your SUP while keeping a distance from others is a permitted activity.
Even if paddleboarding is permitted as exercise, boat ramps or launch spots might be closed or not permitted for use, so it is important to understand all the regulations when considering potential paddling locations. Specific rivers, lakes, and beaches might have different access rules in the same jurisdictions, so due diligence is required.
It is a moving target, but here is a list of restrictions by state, which is of course subject to change as the situation evolves.
Going out for a paddle on flat water in calm weather should be safe, but more adventurous activities, such as whitewater paddling, could get you in a situation that requires a personal rescue and expose your rescuers to infection. If you get injured and require medical care, you could also take up medical resources that are needed for coronavirus patients.
So if you go out, it is important to stay safely within your comfort zone and not take any risks by pushing the limits of your ability. The time to progress your skills and take on bigger challenges will come soon enough. For now, be grateful that your SUP board is your ticket to enjoying the fresh air, exercise, and all of the stress relief benefits of getting out on the water.
If you are going to a busy put-in or boat ramp or if there is a narrow path to the water, be mindful of how close you could potentially get to other paddlers while going back and forth from the parking area. Avoid any temptation to stop and chat with others along the way, unless you can stay at least six feet away, or more depending on the wind speed and direction. Be particularly cautious in parking areas and avoid congregating with others.
Scientists believe that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can live for hours and even days on smooth surfaces. As a result, if you are kind enough to carry someone else’s board to the water, you could be inadvertently spreading the virus by skin contact. Do you want to let a friend try out your new carbon fiber paddle you are so excited about? It will, unfortunately, have to wait until the epidemic is under control.
Passing through a local community in your car to get to the water without stopping should not be a problem, but if you stop to pump gas or buy snacks, you could be exposing people in a small local community to the virus. You could also be depleting a very limited local food supply. So before you start your trip, pack your own food and gas up your car near home so you can go directly to the water without impacting local residents.
If you do plan to engage in a permitted group activity, ask questions in advance to ensure that precautions are being taken to avoid spreading the virus. Participants should be reminded to stay at least six feet apart during any land-based instruction. The simple act of an instructor handing out paddles or lifejackets could entail some risk, so find out what action the instructor is taking to lower the risk of spreading the virus by contact. Sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizers can alleviate this issue somewhat, but there needs to be a plan to minimize the risk.
Enjoying the outdoors on a paddleboard is one of the greatest pleasures and stress-relieving activities that we can continue to enjoy while social distancing measures are in place and many other recreational activities are restricted.
Many of the thought processes that we have developed collectively in response to COVID-19 will continue to serve us with a new consciousness of healthy and socially responsible practices that will endure long after the epidemic has passed. With proper care and preparation, going out on your SUP can be done in a way that both complies with rules that are in effect and maintains healthy habits that will be necessary going forward.
Want expert advice on choosing an inflatable SUP board? Check out our 2020 Inflatable Paddle Board Buying Guide or The Best Inflatable Paddle Board - Reality vs the Internet
Pumped Up SUP is an online store specializing in high-performance inflatable stand up paddle boards and accessories. We're always happy to answer your questions - just give us a call at 1-877-777-1769.