There's something about the smell of fresh PVC, right out of the box. It's the smell of adventure. When you pull your new paddleboard out of the package, you can't wait to inflate it and take it out for a spin. The problem is... not all locations, or conditions, are ideal for an SUP expedition. If the wind and the current and the temperature aren't just right, you're likely to have a bum ride.
Optimal SUP Weather
If you want to have a good time on your SUP, low wind and agreeable temperatures are ideal. Even a 10mph wind can send you careening clear to the other side of the lake and have you walking all the way around to get back to your car.
Wind is a bigger concern if you're going to be out in an exposed location, a big, wide-open lake or on the ocean. If you know of a nice little pond or swimming hole tucked away in a cozy valley, you can generally expect that moderate wind conditions will blow right by without knocking you off course.
In any event you're going to want to take a look at the water before hopping on the board. If it looks too choppy, pack it in and free up an afternoon the next time the forecast calls for lighter wind.
As long as we're not talking wintertime conditions, temperature is largely a matter of comfort. Some of us won't take our boards out unless it's at least in the seventies, but as long as you're not risking hypothermia in freezing weather, it really come down to whether you're able to have a good time in the mid-fifties.
And while we're on the subject of weather, it's a good idea not to venture so far out that you can't easily swim back. The weather can turn on a dime and one heavy gust can send you out a little farther than you'd planned to go. No matter how experienced you are at paddleboarding, you can't fight the weather, so don't hesitate to head back to shore and wait it out if the things start getting choppy.
Finding the Perfect SUP Location
If you're an adventurer, you may hear the call of faraway places, secluded ponds and rivers without another soul for miles. If you're going to head out to the middle of nowhere to do some paddleboarding, bring some friends, and take turns on the water. It's just like hiking: It's best not to go alone, and you need to make sure that someone knows where you'll be, just in case.
Ideally you're looking for a place with some people there. Beaches, lakes, ponds and creeks with some fellow outdoors enthusiasts hanging around. What you want to avoid is anywhere with high boat traffic. You can't always control where your board is going to go, and some boaters never learned how to manage their wake in a considerate way. If you're at the beach, for example, walking a half mile or so down from the wharf, but still in sight of your fellow adventurers, isn't a bad idea.
Creeks, Oceans, Rivers, Ponds, Lakes
For beginners, small bodies of water are best for practice. Ponds, swimming holes and even pools. You're just trying to get the hang of the board for now.
If you're heading out to the ocean, look for small waves, nothing higher than your waist. Anything bigger than that and you might as well just get yourself a longboard to surf on.
Lakes are great, especially those surrounded by hills, woods or rocks that can block the wind. Just remember that SUP boards aren't really a long-haul means of transportation. It's not a boat, so don't try to paddle clear across even small lakes unless you've got a lot of experience under your belt.
Now if you can find a creek or river with low current, sheltered from wind by heavy forestation or rock walls, that's about as good as paddleboarding gets. Cruising along, spotting the flora and fauna along the way, it's like zen meditation without having to close your eyes.
So if you want a handy bullet pointed guide, here's what you're after:
- Comfortably warm temperature
- Big cliffs, trees and hills to block the wind If you're at the beach, waist-level waves
- When you're starting out, the best advice we have is to make sure you can see your reflection in the water. Once you get some experience under your belt you'll be able to hand a bit of current and choppiness, but for now, play it safe, and have a good time.