I’m going paddle boarding for the first time, what should I bring?

paddle boarders

Paddle boarding can seem pretty scary especially if it’s your first time. If you are going on your first SUP trip, then you better suit up and take all the necessary safety equipment, accessories, and protective gear you need to make sure your trip is a safe, fun, and convenient experience.  

 

So what do I need?

You need to take a number of items with you depending on what kind of paddle board you are using so before anything else, take a closer look at your paddle board and assess how it works and if there are any quirks or damage that you’ll need to watch out for. As a standard, you can include a pump (if you have an inflatable paddle board), extra fins, and even a repair kit just in case.

Here is a list of items you should keep in mind so you don’t get into a tight spot in the middle of your adventure:

1. Lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD)

This may be the most important item you can bring with you – a life jacket that works. When you are still starting out with paddle boarding, a life jacket can keep you safe while out in the water. Even if you do know how to swim, you’ll want to wear one because of the ever changing conditions and other factors that may affect your safety. Whether you like it or not, being in open water means there will be sudden changes in the weather or surprise cramping that may put you in danger. That being said, we recommend even advanced paddle boarders always wear a lifejacket!

As published in the “Choose It, Wear It: RNLI guide to lifejackets and buoyancy aids”:

 “Every year, up to 200 people die on or around the coast of the UK and Ireland. These tragedies happen to people taking part in a wide range of water-based and waterside activities. Research has proven that wearing a lifejacket can increase your chances of survival by up to four times if you’re immersed in cold water. Whatever your activity, wearing a well-fitted, well-maintained and suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid could save your life”. 

lifejacket

The guide provides very useful information on the following subjects:

  • Choosing your lifejacket
  • Information on automatic or manual lifejackets
  • Choosing a buoyancy aid
  • Lifejacket features
  • Fitting and fastening your lifejacket
  • Fitting and maintaining your buoyancy aid
  • lifejackets for children
  • Maintaining your lifejacket

Download a full copy of the guide here.

With all this being said, the best tip would be to make sure you bring one and wear one when you’re out in the water. Don’t risk it even if you are confident about your swimming skills. It’s not even a matter of being able to swim or not. Just bring one and wear it properly when you go out into open water.

 

2. Paddle

It’s not paddle boarding if you don’t have a paddle with you. So make sure you bring your SUP paddle and, bring an extra just in case. Actually, one of the first lessons to learn is how to fall or “wipe out” correctly without injuring yourself and less risk of losing your paddle. Here’s a quick tip published in the Men’s Journal: 

“Wiping out is a skill in itself. To avoid losing your paddle and getting injured, learn to wipe out like a pro.

When you feel a fall coming on, jump away from your board and land flat on the surface of the water. Hold your arms out away from your head and grab your paddle with both hands if you have to. Stay calm and let the chaos of the plunge subside, then surface with your arms above you to protect your head from hitting your board.

paddle

Take a deep breath, take your time and remount your board, paddle in hand.

But while you’re not an expert in wiping out at recovering your paddle board yet, it would be best to bring an extra. Accidents do happen, moreso when you’re just starting out so if you lose or even break your paddle, then at least you’ll have an extra to learn with. 

 

3. SUP Leash

You might think that an SUP leash is just another accessory but it’s more important than that. An SUP leash is also safety equipment that can help you stay connected to your board which also acts as a floatation device in case you fall into the water. Choosing the right leash and length also matters as if it is too long it can get caught in the current or any debris in the water.

Like the life jacket, you need your leash to keep you safe. Especially since you’re just starting out, you need all the safety equipment you need when you go into open water. There is too much uncertainty the moment you get on your board even if it’s in flatwater. So, make sure you have a leash and you’re well-supervised the first time you paddle board in water.

sup leash

4. Hand Pump

If you’ve packed an inflatable paddle board, chances are you will need to bring along a pump so you can fill it with air, making it hard enough to use. This one’s pretty much necessary if you have an inflatable board. You simply cannot use an inflatable paddle board without air in it.

You can pump it manually but that can become a bit of a drag over time. So, you can opt for an electric SUP pump that can get your paddle board ready to use within minutes. If you plan on paddle boarding frequently and for a long time, then it’s important to get a good quality pump that can serve you for a long time. 

hand pump

5. Headlamp

If you’re heading out to paddle board later in the afternoon when the views can be most beautiful, it would be smart to bring a source of light as it gets very dark very quickly when you’re out in open water. 

headlamp

Make sure to pack a headlight when you go on your trip, especially if you plan on paddle boarding through the sunset. It could take a while to get back to shore especially if you’ve gone way out into the water. Night time can catch up quite quickly depending on the time of the year. Your headlight will make sure you can see your surroundings and navigate safely through the water, spotting debris that may get in your way.

6. Safety Whistle and First Aid Kid

We always want to emphasize the importance of having safety gear in case of unprecedented events that may put you or others in danger. This is why on your SUP trip, we recommend you bring a safety whistle with you and a first aid kit. Most SUP venues would have staff onsite to make sure they have that covered but if you’ll be going in nature areas lacking supervision, you better bring your own.

first aid kit

Of course, no one wants anyone to be in danger but this safety gear can really save lives. Keeping a safety whistle on you can allow you to alarm others in the event that you are in danger. Especially in open water, this can happen considering the uncontrollable environment. Also, having a first aid kit at bay will help you take immediate action in case someone does get injured, as you wait for further medical assistance. So, add these to your checklist especially if it’s your first SUP trip. Remember: safety gear saves lives.

 

7. Water bottle

Even if you’re surrounded by water while paddle boarding, you can’t drink that when you get thirsty. This is a non-negotiable if you’ll be on the paddle board for long periods of time: bring a water bottle with drinkable water. How ironic would that be if you get dehydrated in the middle of the lake or sea?

water bottle

Remember, dehydration can be a real pest and cause other health issues. You need to keep yourself in good condition when you paddle board and sometimes, the weather can be ruthlessly hot even if you’re in the middle of open water. It is also riskier since you’re so focused on paddle boarding, you wouldn’t notice how dehydrated you really are. So take your water with you and stay mindful.

8. Suncream

Remember, dehydration can be a real pest and cause other health issues. You need to keep yourself in good condition when you paddle board and sometimes, the weather can be ruthlessly hot even if you’re in the middle of open water. It is also riskier since you’re so focused on paddle boarding, you wouldn’t notice how dehydrated you really are. So take your water with you and stay mindful.

suncream

According to an article published in Harvard Health Publishing, “there are excellent studies that sunscreen protects against all three of the most common skin cancers: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The degree of protection that sunscreen provides is directly related to the degree to which ultraviolet radiation is associated with the formation of skin cancer. For instance, in prospective studies of sunscreen, the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma is reduced the most—as much as 40% over four years.”

So if you feel like wearing sunscreen seems lame and troublesome, think of the risks. That should be enough motivation to protect your skin.

What do I need to wear when paddle boarding?

Paddle boarding gear can vary depending on the skill level, venue and preference but there are recommended protective clothing that you should wear the following:

1. Swimsuit

Any bathing suit you prefer should work especially if it’s a nice day and the water is just the right temperature. It’s definitely more about what you want to wear and what you’re more comfortable with. It is recommended to wear a suit you can move in and it should fit you well enough. For a water sport that involves a lot of extra movements, maybe pass on the restricting straps or sleeves. For this sport you need to prioritize comfort over fashion.

 

2. Rash Guard

This one is most recommended solely because it can provide more coverage against the sun. On top of that, rash guards are made to wick water and dry quickly, making it perfect for any water sport. This is most recommended especially if your skin is sensitive to sunlight. You may have sunscreen but this is an additional protection that covers more without compromising your range of motion.

 

3. Waterproof footwear

When you go paddle boarding, you will encounter rocks, corals, and other sharp objects that may be in the water. That is more than enough reason to avoid paddle boarding barefoot even if some prefer it that way. Waterproof footwear is readily available at any swimwear or athletics shop. Prices can range from extremely cheap to very expensive so make sure you find one that is reasonably priced, durable, and comfortable.

 

4. Wetsuit

If you’ll be paddle boarding on cold water, a wetsuit might be the better option. It basically traps water in the suit that is then warmed by your natural body heat so you have some insulation even if you’re wading through cold water.Or, you could just choose a warmer place to paddle board but if you don’t really have much choice, then wear one.

 

5. Hat

This is very much optional but your skin will love you for wearing one especially under the sweltering sun. You wouldn’t want to deal with sunburn after your trip so take note of this. It’s an added protection for your skin and there are hats especially made for water sports such as SUP.

 

And lastly, make sure you wear your life jacket. Remember that safety should always be the top priority so it’s a must!

paddle boarders

How do I prepare for my first paddle boarding experience?

There are 3 things you can do to prepare for your first ever paddle boarding trip:

 

1. Learn the basics in a controlled environment

You don’t need open water to practice the basics: getting on your paddle board, falling off, and even balancing. You just need maybe even just a small pool that fits you and your paddle board to practice these so that attempting these for the first time in open water will be easier.

 

2. Stay updated on weather conditions

Once you have a venue where you can paddle board, the first thing to do is check weather conditions and other factors that may affect the locale. Bad weather means danger so make sure you check weather updates as often as you can before the trip. Also, make sure to be informed with any flora or fauna in the area that may affect your paddle boarding so you can plan accordingly.

 

3. Understand your skill level and stay within your limits

Although trying a new thrilling activity like paddle boarding can be exciting, you still need to check your skill level and stay within limits. Attempting anything too advanced when you’re just starting out can end badly and you definitely don’t want to leave the venue injured. So, be smart and practical. Any new sport is a learning experience so don’t go rushing to learn things you’re not capable of yet. Trust the process and stay safe.

 

What can I expect during my first paddle boarding experience?

The number one thing you can expect from your first paddle boarding experience is that you will fall off the board a lot. You may have practiced on a pool but open water can be way different and it will take a while for you to get a good grip of balancing and maneuvering. But don’t worry, you’ll get it and once you do, it would be all worth it. 

There is so much satisfaction in learning a new sport and as long as you’re well equipped to have a safe and fun trip, you’ll already be planning the next one on your way home. 

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