Paddleboarding is both a peaceful way to explore waterways and a full-body workout. When I’m planning a paddleboarding trip, whether for a few hours or an entire day, I know I’m going to need to bring along some gear and personal items.
For smaller items like keys, snacks, or sunscreen, I use a waterproof bag secured to the deck with bungee cords or D-rings. I use a smaller pouch around my neck for my phone, cash and ID. This way, my essentials are easily accessible and safe from water damage.
I don’t typically take heavy items, but if I do, I strap them down near the middle of the board. Usually just in front of my feet, since I’m the heaviest thing on the board. The key is to keep the weight balanced.
When I prepare for a day on the water, I focus on selecting the right gear and locking it down so I don’t lose it. You’ll want to find your own balance between being well-equipped and avoiding overloading your paddleboard.
If I plan to paddle board at night, I attach navigation lights to the front of the board. The lights in that post help with overall illumination, but a waterproof flashlight is also a good idea.
Choosing the Right Gear
Everything that you want to take with you when paddle boarding should be waterproof and float. If it doesn’t float, things like your phone, a camera or a small cooler, you can attach a float to them and/or make sure they are tied down well.
Necessary items include:
- A SUP leash to tether the paddleboard to my ankle, for safety.
- A rescue whistle for emergencies.
- A headlamp or flashlight when paddling in the evening or at night for safety and to comply with regulations.
- Dry bag for larger items
- Small waterproof pouches
In warm weather, I wear either a slim life jacket or an inflatable belt style PFD. We have jet ski impact jackets, water ski life vests, and simple over the shoulder emergency vests. Find what works for you. Thin inflatable vests are popular with some paddleboarders.
Over the years, my wife and I have accumulated several different sizes of dry bags for our water sports. One or more of those can come in handy for paddle boarding.
When we use cameras, we attach floats. For phones, small clear waterproof pouches around our neck work, or we attach the pouch to the built-in straps on the board. Phones and pouches typically don’t float. Some pouches are large enough to hold a phone, a credit card and ID, and a some cash in case you end up at a marina that sells ice cream, for example.
When we want to carry more gear, we use dry bags that we acquired for scuba and snorkeling trips over the years. You can toss a towel, a dry shirt, your wallet and some cash in the bag, and secure it to your board’s straps.
Methods of Carrying a Paddleboard
We usually carry our boards fully inflated. You can also leave the board in its storage backpack, carry that to the water, and inflate your board there. In addition to the backpack method, which is self-explanatory since your board probably came already packed in one, you can try any of the methods below.
Using Carry Handles
Most paddleboards have a built-in carry handle located at the center of the board. I find this the most straightforward way to transport my board. I simply grip the handle firmly and lift, keeping my back straight to avoid strain.
By keeping the board’s weight balanced using the carry handle, I prevent it from tipping over and make maneuvering through crowded areas much easier. I have pretty short arms, and I’ve never had any problems.
Tuck the paddle under the built-in bungee straps on your board for easier transport. Or you can carry it in your other hand. If you are carrying a hard paddle board, you may need two people. If you have 2 boards, you can try stacking them and strapping together with their leashes or bungees. Then each person grabs one end, and you can get both boards in one trip.
Shoulder Strap Techniques
For longer distances or when the board is too cumbersome to carry by the handle alone, I use a shoulder strap. This strap attaches to the board and helps distribute its weight across my back and shoulder, making it significantly more comfortable to carry.
To use the shoulder strap properly, I ensure it’s adjusted to the correct length so the board sits just above my knees (along my thigh) and doesn’t drag on the ground. This method works well for hard boards when you don’t have help.
Head Carry Method
When I need my hands free for other items, I use the head carry method. This also works well for hard paddle boards, but carry them upside down to pad your head with the softer surface material.
I lift my paddleboard and balance it on the top of my head, firmly holding onto the strap for stability. This technique provides a good balance point and evenly distributes weight, minimizing pressure on any single point of my body. It’s important that I make certain the board is centered on my head to avoid any neck strain.
Transportation and Vehicle Loading
When I transport my paddleboard, I ensure it is secure and safe on my vehicle. Proper loading and attachment to a roof rack are essential to prevent any damage to the paddleboard or vehicle, and for safe travel.
Securing to a Roof Rack
When using a roof rack, I place foam blocks on the crossbars to cushion my paddleboard. I center the board on the rack and use cam straps to tie it down, threading the straps over the board and under the rack bars, ensuring that the buckle doesn’t rest on the board to prevent indentation. I also use a hood loop strap at the front of the vehicle for additional stability, attaching it to a secure part of the vehicle, often underneath the hood.
Don’t rely on soft or loose bungees. The board may fly off the car and end up damaging your car or causing someone else to wreck.
Using a Paddleboard Cart
A paddleboard cart is a helpful tool. Just set 1 or more paddleboards on the cart and secure with tie-down straps to prevent any shifting. Use the leash if you don’t have any other straps.
The cart typically has rubber wheels that handle rugged terrains, making it easy for me to transport my paddleboard from my vehicle to the water, even if I’m parked a considerable distance away. Keep in mind you’ll need larger wheels for sand than you would for concrete or gravel paths.
Safety and Comfort Considerations
Board Shorts and Rash Guards: I always choose clothing that can handle getting wet while providing protection. For sunny days, a rash guard or surf shirt is helpful. Dependable board shorts offer both comfort and freedom of movement. If it’s windy or cold, a wetsuit is great for maintaining body heat. There is a wide variety of types and thicknesses.
Disclaimer: I’m not much of a bad weather paddle boarder or jet skier. For me, wetsuits are usually just used for scuba. Be sure to carry a dry bag with a change of clothes if you’re out in bad weather. It makes the drive home better.
Personal Flotation Devices
No matter your skill level, a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) is a necessity. It’s a mandatory safety component that could save your life. Even a minor fall can leave you shaken for a minute or two.
You don’t want to have to fight to stay afloat after an injury, no matter how small. And hitting your head on a hard paddle board could lead to a concussion. If you’ve watched any sports where athletes have ended up a little confused after a hit, then you know what I mean. The last thing you want is to drown because of a minor concussion and no life jacket.
By taking these safety and comfort considerations into account, I help ensure that my paddle-boarding outings are not just fun, but also safe.
Handling Weather and Water Conditions
All watersports enthusiasts recognize that safety and fun on the water are affected by weather and water conditions. Weather can change drastically in a short period of time, as anyone with boating experience will tell you.
Maintaining Stability in Wind
To maintain stability in windy conditions, my approach involves a low center of gravity and adjusting my stance. Spread your feet wider apart on the board for better balance. Sit or kneel down if you have to.
When facing increased wind resistance, take shorter paddle strokes. This helps keep directional control and stability. Here’s what I keep in mind:
- Paddle Technique: Shallow, quick strokes on either side to combat the wind’s push.
- Gear: A heavier paddle can provide more stability and control.
Navigating Cold Water Safely
Navigating cold water requires careful preparation to ensure safety. I always wear a proper wetsuit or dry suit, which provides insulation and buoyancy. Additionally, I never forget the importance of protective gear like a hat or a hood to prevent heat loss through my head. Safety measures and equipment I prioritize include:
- Clothing: Neoprene wetsuit or dry suit, depending on the temperature.
- Protection: Layering with a thermal hat or hood for added warmth.
It’s essential that I monitor the weather before heading out to anticipate any changes. I remain vigilant of water temperatures, always opting for my safety and comfort first.
When I head out to paddle board, I consider all of the factors above to decide which board I want to use, how I’m getting to the water and what I want to take with me. Every time you go out things are different.
Taking into consideration everything I’ve outlined above should hopefully make for a better paddle boarding experience for you, your friends and any family joining you. Remember above all else, safety comes first.
If wind, weather and other conditions don’t look acceptable to you, there’s nothing wrong with changing your plan, cutting your trip short or canceling altogether. But for those many good days that you do get to enjoy a day out on the water, keep my tips above in mind.
Stay safe and happy paddling.