What could be a better break from the real world than being on a SUP? And what’s better than that except spending all day on your board in the company of fellow paddlers? That waterway lies before you, beckoning. Fun as it is, long distance paddling trips require planning. They aren’t the kind of excursion where you can just hop on your board with a bottle of water. Even if your trip is only a few hours, you’re going to have to take care of yourself differently.
If something goes wrong, have contingency plans. Where will you take shelter if a thunderstorms hits you? Where will you land if the wind becomes too strong? If you’re traveling along the beach getting out is easy, but in some areas takeout points are few and far between. Bring some basic first aid like bandages and ibuprofen. You don’t want your expedition ruined by something as minor as a blister.
Board design and distance paddling
When paddling distance, your board’s design is important. An all-around hull will obviously be slower than a board with a performance design. My general rule of thumb is (in good conditions) you’ll be traveling close 3 MPH on an all-around board with less advanced paddlers. More advanced paddlers on performance hulls will push closer to 4 MPH. Keep in mind too that you’re only as fast as your slowest member. It’s great to be with a group, but your team needs the skill to do your distance. You don’t want to lose someone. Beginners can get very excited about this sport, but paddleboarding is strenuous. If a person doesn’t have the ability, it’s better for everyone to keep the person on shore.
What to wear when distance paddling
Protect yourself against the elements. Put on sunscreen and bring extra. (I know. I sound like your mother. She was right.) Some SUPers wear long-sleeved rashguards, even in the summer. These are great to protect your arms, as long as you don’t get too hot. (You can solve that by getting wet.) Wear a hat.
Your body too is going to going to get strained. Standing in place will cut circulation off in your feet. Move around on your board as much as you can. While you may prefer barefeet, wearing a pair of soft-soled shoes can cushion your feet. While we’re on the subject, take care of your hands too. Gloves can prevent blisters. Beware too of using an adjustable paddle. They often have a bulge in the shaft where you adjust the length. A great feature, but your hands will hit it over and over. Great way to get a bruise. Use a paddle cut for your height.
Good luck out there! Long paddles are awesome, but plan them well. Don’t have your adventure ruined by a small detail. Lastly, remember if you’re the organizer of the trip, your fellow paddlers will look to you as their leader. That doesn’t mean you need to turn into Captain Kirk, but look after everyone. Check back to see if the group is together. If someone runs low on water, share yours. Bring extra snacks to hand out. Even if everyone is as prepared as you are, the gesture means a lot. Then your new friends will join you on your next adventure, and the next.