One of the best things about stand up paddling is that it doesn’t require quite as much gear as kayaking. Another perk of the SUP world is that if you’re already a kayaker who’s just looking for a new way to enjoy the water, you’ll likely already have all the gear you need.
Obviously you can’t do much paddling without a stand up paddleboard and an SUP paddle, so we’ll just assume you already have those. If you haven’t already invested in a board and paddle, be sure to do some research in order to find the perfect match for you. This equipment isn’t cheap, and you don’t want to end up with a board that won’t do what you want or a paddle that’s the wrong size.
The third essential item for stand up paddling is a PFD. If you already have one for kayaking, you can certainly use it. However, be aware that some are definitely better than others. Make sure that your PFD doesn’t inhibit your stroke; otherwise, you’ll be really uncomfortable and will probably end up a little chafed by the end of the day. Arguably the best PFD option for stand up paddling is an inflatable one—these are worn around your waist like a fanny pack and quickly inflate with a pull of the cord when needed.
When it comes to stand up paddling, once you have a board, paddle, and PFD, you’re pretty much good to go. But there are several other pieces of SUP gear that will make your time on the water safer, easier, and more enjoyable.
i) An SUP leash does exactly what its name implies: keeps your paddleboard tethered to you. In the event that you fall off your board, the leash will keep it nearby, which is particularly useful in moving water.
There are several models to choose from—some attach to your ankle while others attach to your calf, some are coiled while others are straight—so it just depends on your personal preference.
ii) Some stand up paddleboards have a softer, grippier material on top to make standing for long periods of time easier and more comfortable. For boards that do not, you can buy aftermarket traction pads.
Traction pads have a strong adhesive on the bottom and attach to the deck of your board like giant stickers. They come in sections for easy handling and quickly create a standing area that is more stable and comfortable.
iii) • As an alternative to deck traction pads, a good pair of water shoes will provide the extra grip you need to stay on your feet. They’ll also keep your feet protect your feet from rocks, shells, and feisty water-dwelling critters when launching, landing, or any other time your feet end up in the water.
iv ) Just as with kayaking, it’s a smart idea to have a whistle or horn with you while stand up paddling. Other safety gear—like lights, mirrors, or reflective tape—is also good to have on board, especially when paddling in water that has a lot of other boat traffic or if you’ll be paddling in the early morning/late evening when there isn’t as much sunlight.
Believe it or not, people really do head out for multiday trips on their stand up paddleboards. The whole process isn’t quite as easy and streamlined as kayak touring, but with the right equipment it can be done.
Most boards that are designed with SUP touring in mind will have “deck inserts” near the nose that you can use to attach bungees. (If your board doesn’t have inserts, you can buy adhesive “plugs” that stick to the deck and serve the same purpose.) Once you have your deck rigging set up, you can stow a surprising amount of gear.
When loading up your board for an overnight (or longer) trip, make sure you have everything you’ll need—which won’t be much different from what you’d bring on any other extended trip in the wilderness: shelter, sleeping bag, camp stove and food, extra clothes, flashlight and/or headlamp, etc.—and make sure it’s all packed properly into dry bags. Gadgets like weather radios and GPS devices are also good to have with you when embarking on longer water journeys.
Since you’ll most likely be dealing with direct sunlight when you’re out on the water, things like sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are particularly important to have. And while wearing a bathing suit is tempting, you may also want to consider wearing a lightweight, long sleeve rash guard and board shorts instead for extra sun protection (after all, if you get too hot you can always just jump in the water to cool off!)
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