When you first start paddle boarding, you’ll have lots of questions, and you’ll certainly want to know what the best conditions for paddle boarding are. There is no simple answer to this as a lot depends on what will you be using your SUP for and how experienced you are.
There are many ways you can use an SUP and every activity will require different conditions. Let’s take a look at the best conditions for some of the most popular activities.
Waves / fast water
If you want to use your paddleboard for surfing or downwinding, then the best conditions are obviously good waves good swell and good surf. Whether you venture out on larger or smaller waves is very much up to the experience which you have on your SUP, and when you first start out you’re obviously better off with smaller waves. Downwinding also requires a decent wind behind you, so you do need to check the weather conditions before you go out.
If you have the wrong type of paddleboard, however, then the conditions won’t matter. A good surf SUP will have a good amount of volume to help keep you steady, but the board will be slightly narrower and with a pointed front. This makes it easier for you to maneuver the board through the surf and keep it stable. If you try to use a touring board, for example, you will find it very difficult to surf freely.
There are also lots of activities you can use your SUP for in calm waters.
These conditions are excellent for beginners as they help you to practice balancing on the board without being buffeted around by the water around you. Calmer waters are also ideal anyone looking to practice yoga on their paddleboard, as it will be extremely difficult to move around and maintain a yoga pose if the water around you is choppy.
Calmer waters and lakes, rivers and even on the sea are also a relaxing way to use your SUP for touring. The type of board you use in these waters is generally slightly wider and larger to give you more stability and to help you stay upright.
Even racing SUPs can benefit from calmer waters, but that doesn’t mean the racers won’t also appreciate a little wind behind them in the right direction.
There are, of course, many other factors which you need to be aware of if you’re looking for the best conditions for paddle boarding.
This is something which varies from person to person, but when it comes to working out what’s best, it is often down to your own preference. Just remember that being on the water on a sunny day can make the water feel warmer, and similarly, if there is any kind of wind, that can make it feel cooler than it actually is.
As a general guide, here are a few suggestions about the temperature of the water.
- 85 degrees plus. This is the best and most popular water for beginners. When you start out on an SUP you end up in the water – a lot, so warmer water is always nicer to land in. If you know you’re going to end up in freezing water each time you fall, there’s a good chance you’ll tense up and this won’t help you learn how to balance.
- 80 degree range. These temperatures are popular with intermediate paddlers, as they don’t fall off quite so often. You’ll also find that the hotter the day, the more uncomfortable it can be to stand on an SUP.
- 70 to low 80 degrees. Advanced paddlers like a nice, comfortable temperature to be on and in the water. This range is not too cold if you fall in, and not too hot to be out on the water.
- 60 to low 70 degrees. This is preferred by expert paddle boarders. The more experienced you are, the more aggressively you paddle so you will generate a fair bit of body heat as you go. If the water is too warm, that will make you feel too warm.
Keeping an eye on the weather is very important for more than one reason. You may have started out on a bright, sunny day, but the weather, particularly around water, is prone to change. It’s always best to check the forecast before you leave and there are a number of weather apps you can use to check as you go.
While you’re out paddling, keep an eye on the conditions and if you think they are likely to change for the worse, don’t venture too far from the shore, or at least make sure you have a good route to get back quickly.
Wind speed and direction
As a beginner to paddle boarding, it’s very important to know your limits. Venturing out on a windy day could put you in danger and put you off using your SUP again.
Those new to paddle boarding should stick to days with minimal wind, and this will help you learn how to control your SUP a lot quicker. More experienced paddlers, particularly those looking to surf or race, may favour windier conditions, but they still need to be aware if the wind is too strong. The best way to gauge whether or not it is too windy for you is to know your own abilities. If you feel uncomfortable on the water, head for shore.
Obviously the wind is more of an issue on certain waterways, such as the sea, so always ensure you can get back to dry land if it changes direction or picks up speed. Remember, the wind also affects the speed of the water itself, and you may find yourself having to paddle harder to get back.
Here are some great tips for paddle boarding in strong winds.
Other weather conditions
Tides and currents: If you stick to the same place for your boarding, you will soon get to understand these, but doing some research before you start, or if you go somewhere new, can prove invaluable. The surface of the water doesn’t always reflect what’s underneath, so if you are aware of currents, you can keep yourself safe. Don’t forget that tides go in and out, and this also affects the depth of the water.
Fog: Not everyone feels comfortable going out in fog, or even at night, but some people do enjoy the challenge, and if you’re touring you may not be able to avoid this. Be aware that fog and darkness not only hinder your visibility, but that of anyone else on the water. If you carry a light with you, it will make it easier for you and anyone else around you.
Lightning: If you find yourself out in a lightning storm, head for open water. You don’t really want to venture out if a storm is forecast, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Before you head off and to find best conditions for paddle boarding, prepare yourself with as much information as you can.
When you start, stick to somewhere quiet, where you know you can practice without too much interference from tides or surf. When you get used to balancing and paddling, you will venture further afield and become more adventurous. As you do this, here are a few tips to keep you safe.
- Always check the weather of the area you are visiting before you set off. This gives you the chance to find another location if the weather is likely to be bad.
- Download a weather app and take your phone with you. Don’t take any chances with this and have a fully waterproof bag to keep everything in.
- If you are going to be paddling for a few hours, or touring, take a life vest with you and some warmer clothing in case the weather turns.
- Use the right board for the conditions. If you try to tour on a surf SUP, you won’t get very far no matter what the conditions are.
- Let someone know where you are going to be, and check in with them, particularly if you are trying out a new area.
- Keep yourself alert as you paddle. It can be so easy to get engrossed in your time on the water, that you don’t notice changes as they happen. If you keep your eyes on the clouds, and notice changes in the wind, you can react in advance.
- If you plan on travelling on the sea or rivers, educate yourself on tides and currents for that particular area. Charts and maps are available, as are apps for your phone.
The most important thing you can do, is know your limits. The best conditions vary for everyone depending on their activity, strength and stamina, so as long as you know your own limits, and make sure you don’t go out in the wrong conditions for you, you will not only stay safe, but you will enjoy your time on your SUP a whole lot more.