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December 14, 2021 8 min read

Choosing Where To SUP

Couple paddle boarding on a river

Stand up paddle boarding allows you to explore the great outdoors from a different perspective. It opens up nature so you can see places in a new light. Whether you hit up a lake, explore a river, or take on the ocean with your stand up paddle board, you’re guaranteed to have fun!

However, it’s crucial that you choose an appropriate location for your ability. Over time, experienced paddle boarders gain the skill of recognizing good SUP locations. They take into account safety, environment, accessibility, and more, all within a glance of a spot. 

Are you not quite ready yet to be determining what makes a paddle board location great yet? No worries! Lucky for you, we are here to give you a helping hand and share our paddling knowledge. 

Top 5 Things That Make A Paddle Board Location Awesome

Ideal paddle board locations are made up of an amalgamation of things. Paddle boarding is a versatile sport, and you can take it just about anywhere, as long as there’s water. 

But there are five key things that make a location awesome: 

  1. Safe access
  2. Great view
  3. Clear Water
  4. Wildlife
  5. Friends

Get a good balance of these five things for your paddle board session, and you’ll be winning. But how do you go about choosing where to SUP?

Types of SUP Locations

The first consideration for choosing where to SUP is deciding what type of location you want to explore. Flat water paddle boarding is one of the most popular choices for beginners and anyone wanting a relaxing experience. However, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Where will your adventure take you?

Flat Water

Woman paddle boarding on Lost lake

Lakes, ponds, harbors, and calm bays often provide calm and flat conditions. Flat water is great for first-timers and beginners. The calm water allows you to focus more on your balance and paddling technique, and less on what is going on around you. 

Flat water isn’t just for beginner paddle boarders though. 

Some days you may want to just go for a peaceful float, soak up the beauty around you, and stretch your paddle stroke into the water. Maybe you want to give SUP yoga a try, or SUP fishing is calling you to cast your line. The possibilities are endless.

Flat water SUP locations tend to be safe and require less concentration on the conditions. This doesn’t mean you should completely switch off to what’s going on around you; always be aware of other people out on the water and any hazards that are in the area.   

Moving Water

Moving water adds an additional element to your paddle boarding session. Not only do you need to think about your balance and paddling, but you also need to be aware of the flow of water. 

Rivers are the most common places to encounter moving water, but you can also paddle in the ocean or on large lakes that have tides and currents to think about. 

Flow speed varies due to several factors:

  • Water depth
  • Rainfall
  • Width of the river (narrow sections will have faster flowing water than wider sections)

If you choose a SUP location with moving water, make sure you plan your entrance and exit points accordingly. Some places may even require you to have a crew vehicle meet you downstream after your expedition.  

Whitewater

Man paddle boarding on ocean near a mountain

Whitewater paddle boarding is slowly gaining traction throughout the SUP world. This is an adrenaline rush with a SUP and is best suited for the more experienced and adventurous riders. You need to have good balance skills and be confident at negotiating moving water with your paddle.

You can find whitewater rapids on some rivers, or you can take on the whitewater waves in the ocean. The breaking water is created by the bottom of the river/ocean becoming shallow, causing the moving water to crumble and create waves or rapids. 

SUP surfing is super fun and tests your board skills. Remember to stay within your limits and don’t paddle out into some killer swell unless you are capable.

Technical Aspects To Factor In When Choosing A SUP Location

Once you’ve decided what type of water conditions you want to paddle on, you can then start thinking about other factors to help choose where to SUP. 

Use these next points as a mental checklist for yourself when determining if a paddle board location is great and suitable for you.

Environmental

Environmental factors can make or break a SUP location. Make sure you research the area so you can prepare accordingly.

  • Water quality– how clean is the water? Obviously, we all want to avoid pollution and blue-green algae. The better the water quality, the better your SUP experience.
  • Wind – is the water sheltered or exposed? Wind can change a paddle boarding session in just a gust. Some places are notoriously windier than others. Bear this in mind when choosing where to SUP.
  • Waves – can you handle choppy water and breaking waves? This will test your balance. The good thing is, most waves tend to be easy to identify and generally are consistent in where they break.
  • Sun– will you be exposed to excessive UV, and can you deal with that? Or will there be tree canopy coverage to protect you? Be sure to wear sunscreen and rashguards when needed. 
  • Trees– low-hanging branches and tree roots can be extremely hazardous in some situations. If you plan to paddle board through mangroves or on remote rivers, this could be an issue to be aware of. 

Accessibility

Woman walking towards the ocean while carrying her iSUP

A great paddle board location has good accessibility to the water and is also open to the public. Ideally, big and open launch and exit sites are the best so you have the space to navigate both in and out of the water. 

Sandy access points are also desirable as they are comfortable to walk on, and you’re less likely to damage your paddle boards. If you are looking to explore a rocky destination, an inflatable SUP is always a good idea. They also tend to be lighter than fiberglass paddle boards, so are easier to get in and out of the water. 

As you explore more remote areas, you may find the access points are narrower or are harder to find. This could be a turn-off for more novice paddle boarders, while also being an attraction for the more adventurous. 

Remote vs. Busy

Sometimes seeking out a super remote place to paddle board can be appealing. However, you do need to weigh up the pros and cons. As tempting as it can be to seek out remote destinations, if you get into trouble then there is no one around to help you. This is why paddle boarding with friends is one of the things that makes a destination awesome. 

Going to a more populated area does have its benefits. There is the safety in numbers factor, but you may also meet new people with similar interests. 

Skill Level

When choosing where to SUP, you must keep in mind your own skill level. It’s no good picking an expert standard paddle boarding location if you’ve only just got to grips with standing up on the board. 

Moving water, rapids, and waves tend to be more challenging. Flat water is generally a good place for beginners to start. That being said, you can find suitable intermediate locations for you to push and develop your skills further. 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to your comfort zone and how far you’re willing to push it with a SUP. Again, this is where paddle boarding with friends comes in handy, especially if they can give you tips along the way. 

Safety Considerations For New Stand Up Paddle Board Locations

Woman paddle boarding on a clear water

Along with beautiful scenery and idyllic views, you need to keep in mind safety when hunting for new paddle board locations. With these considerations taken into account, you’re sure to find a great new place to paddle!

Moving Water

Moving water requires additional preparation and can be dangerous if not correctly read. Both the direction and speed of flow are important to take into account before launching your SUP. 

With moving water also comes potential debris or obstacles in your path. You need to be vigilant when paddling locations like this. 

When paddling a river, we recommend you don’t use a leash. With moving water and shallow sections, your leash could get stuck on rocks or roots below, which can be an extremely dangerous situation.

Rips And Currents

If you are planning to take your paddle board out on the ocean, be aware of rips moving back out to sea. Contrary to popular belief, rips are not super dangerous as long as you know what to do if you get caught in one: paddle parallel to the beach towards the breaking waves, then use the breaking waves to push you back to shore. 

Currents can be hidden from sight and take you severely off course. Paddling the open ocean can bring risks of strong currents. Be sure to check with locals to get in-depth guidance before heading out.

Hazards

A paddle board location could have various hazards present. It’s important that you can identify these and assess whether it’s still safe to take your SUP for a ride. 

  • Wildlife
  • Low hanging branches
  • Overhanging trees
  • Roots and submerged vegetation
  • Rocks and reef
  • Water quality
  • Other people on the water

Life Jackets

Exploring new waters is great, and a life jacket will give you extra peace of mind in the event of an emergency. Some states across the USA even require anyone on a paddle board to wear a suitable USCG-approved PFD. So be sure to check the rules for where you’re planning to paddle. 

Read more: Best Life Jackets For Paddle Boarding

Swimming Distance

Being able to swim is not a requirement for paddle boarding, however, it is useful in case you fall in the water and lose your SUP. When discovering new places to stand up paddle board, try to keep within a safe swimmable distance to land when you first start off.

Wrap Up: How To Choose Where To SUP

Group of friends paddle boarding on a river

So, what makes a paddle board location great? Good friends, idyllic views, and clear waters are a good place to start. Throw in some safety considerations and technical aspects for good measure and you are sure to find a fantastic SUP location. 

Choosing where to SUP can be difficult. We know! Be sure to check out our detailed paddle board location guides for recommendations on where to go, complete with SUP rental suggestions and other cool activities to do in between sessions. 

FAQ’S

🏆 Can I paddle board anywhere?

As long as there is water, then there is a good chance you can paddle board it! Be sure there are no state regulations against SUPs on where you plan to paddle. And always check the suitability of the location against safety and environmental aspects required for good paddle board locations. 


👍 Do I need to be able to swim to SUP?

You don’t need to be able to swim in order to SUP. However, it could give you more confidence when paddling out on deeper water. We all fall in, it’s part of the fun! So you need to be able to get back to your paddle board without panicking when this happens. 


🏝️ How can I discover new places to stand up paddle board?

The best way to discover new places to stand up paddle board is to talk to friends, ask locals, or maybe even book a guided tour. Local knowledge is priceless and can lead you to some of the best-kept secrets in the country. 

Some of the more remote destinations can be found by simply stumbling across them. If you are an adventurous person and avid paddle boarder, this may be how you go about discovering new places and choosing where to SUP.


❓ What type of paddle board is best for exploring new destinations?

Inflatable paddle boards are the best type of SUP for exploring new destinations. They are versatile and durable, so can handle any bumps from unknown obstacles along the way. iSUPs are also lightweight and can be deflated to hike further afield to discover new places to paddle board.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

Surfer, paddle boarder, and ocean lover. She loves traveling and discovering new destinations all across the world. When she's not writing, she's exploring the outdoors and enjoying fresh air.


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