Calm mirrored water, stunning silhouettes against the sunshine and the freedom to explore solo or with friends; stand up paddle boarding (SUP) oozes summer vibes. More people are taking to the water than ever before, with popularity in SUP soaring thanks to it being welcoming for all ages, abilities and fitness levels.
But before you take the plunge, what do you need to know? Here's Wiggle's guide to a summer of SUP.
Tide times and wind
When planning your next paddleboard adventure to the coast it is best to check the local tide times. You'll want to avoid crashing waves and dumping shore break and aim for calmer waters. For the majority of beach locations, where you can walk straight into the water with your board, ‘Slack tides' are an ideal time to get out. This is when the water is most likely to be calm and is usually found two hours either side of low and high tide.
If it is blowing a hooley, it is likely to make the water more choppy and less easy to balance on your board - proceed with caution. The wind will also affect the current of the water, meaning you are likely to drift in one direction quickly. It may also mean it easy to paddle in one direction, but not so easy when you turn around. Typically, wind speeds less than 15 knots (16mile/hour) provides perfectly flat water conditions for SUP.
Keeping warm on the water/ what to wear paddleboarding
When the sun is shining and temperatures reach their peak in the summer, many paddle boarders tend to wear their swimming costumes or shorts, sometimes accompanied by a t-shirt. If this is your plan, be sure to apply a generous amount of sun cream, as reflections from the water will increase your chances of getting sun or windburn.
In the lead up to summer, other seasons of the year or if you often feel the cold, a wetsuit is advisable. This will keep you warm whilst on the board as well as if you fall in the water! Being warm will enable you to paddle for longer too. For many, it is their feet that feel the cold, so water socks or water shoes that have a grippy sole are a great purchase. They will also protect your feet when walking down to the water with your board.
Water etiquette and safety
It's important to understand a few rules before diving in, to keep yourself and other watersports enthusiasts safe at all times.
- Both inflatable and hard boards under 3.5m in length are classed as 'recreational equipment' and are required to stay within 300m of the shore when at the beach.
- Your leash is your primary safety device and should be worn at all times. Wearing a leash attached to your ankle and the board ensures your SUP can't drift away from you if you were to fall off. If you are unattached, your board can easily float off, leaving you in the water at risk to the elements. There are slightly different rules that apply to the ocean, canals and lakes than fast-flowing rivers. In fast-flowing rivers, British Canoeing advises that rather than wearing a standard coil leash, it's best to wear a quick release leash. This is because if you become snagged on an obstacle and the current is strong, you will easily be able to detach yourself from the board.
- A buoyancy aid is also recommended for newbies to SUP
- Taking a mobile phone is a good idea incase you need to call someone if you get in trouble, remember to put in a waterproof bag and keep in your buoyancy aid
As mentioned above with looking at tide times, also be sure to check the weather before getting on the water
If paddling inland be aware that a 'waterways licence' is a often a requirement and without one you run the risk of getting fined. A licence is really easy to get and comes as part of an overall membership package through British Canoeing, giving you instant access to over 4,500km of waterways.
- Whether in the sea or a river, larger sailboats or barges have right of way in the water due to being harder to manoeuvre. Be sure to move out of the way as quickly as possible
- In regards to etiquette when it comes to other paddleboarders, the SUP boarder approaching from the right has the right of way, so move out of the way where you can
- If you are taking a step up from calm waters to SUP-surfing, be sure to follow surfing rules whereby the surfer who is closest to where the wave breaks has priority over other surfers
Paddleboarding equipment you'll need
Your SUP board should come with a leash to attach to your ankle for safety you'll also need an adjustable paddle to be able to glide through the water and change direction. If your paddleboard is inflatable, you'll also need a pump to blow it up.
Wetsuits will keep you warm on the board and in the water, so you can enjoy your paddle adventure even if the sun is not shining.
Avoid sunburn and stay protected when out on the water. Waterproof, long-lasting sun cream is a must when paddling.
It's essential to wear a personal floatation device or life jacket. In the event that you do fall off your board, this will help bob you back to the surface and keep you afloat before you can get back on your board.
How to set up your paddleboard
Learning the basics
If you’re looking for new places to paddle take a look at PaddlePoints, a paddle specific interactive map that has information on access points, trails and routes for paddlers of all abilities. A great resource to help you save time planning your SUP trip and finding extra facilities like campsites, cafes and pubs centred around great paddling locations.