When you are heading out for a long distance paddle on your standup paddleboard, what you absolutely need to have with you will depend on you (your paddling ability and stamina), the distance you are paddling, your support along the way, and the conditions. But for these purposes, we are assuming a trip of several hours without support. There are a few areas to consider when packing for your adventure.
If you are interested in distance paddling, you will want to make sure that your board has tie downs to hold your gear and a dry bag to keep your stuff, well, dry.
Weather- weather forecasting is not a perfect science as anyone who has seen a weather report that says 0% chance of rain and then ventures outside to get soaked the rain that cannot possibly be happening knows. So the weather report is a place to start, but don’t rely too heavily on it…be prepared for things to change. They often do out on the water.
NOAA is a good place to start for the forecast
- Check wind speed and direction, tides if applicable, and look for predicted changes throughout the day. Make sure you have taken all of these elements into consideration when planning your route. You want to be into the wind on the way out if you have to choose and make sure that your paddling ability is up to what the forecast is predicting.
- Bring an extra layer…a paddle jacket or a thermal, wicking shirt to keep you warm if you catch a chill or find yourself wet. You will lose heat 25% faster if you are wet. So even if it’s nice and warm out, bring an extra layer, you never know when you will need it.
- Bring a hat…if your hands are cold, put on a hat. If your feet are cold, put on a hat. If your body is cold, put on a hat. Get the point? Bring a hat. Again, choose a hat made of wool, acrylic, fleece, or neoprene. These will all keep you warm even if you are wet.
- You might want to bring a waterproof shell in case you get caught in the rain, but that is more optional than necessary.
You need to dress for the water temperatures when you go paddling. Even if you take proper safety precautions, bad stuff can happen. If you find yourself in the water for an extended period of time, you need to make sure you aren’t going to freeze. You can get hypothermia in water that is less than 98.6 degrees farenheit, so even if it’s warm, you still need to be prepared. There is no guarantee that you will be able to get back to shore if something happens, and experts say that you should plan to be able to survive for 2 hours in the water.
Safety-here’s the big one…the water is constantly changing and it doesn’t care about you. Wind, currents, swells, and tides all factor in to your experience on the water. So you need to take the proper precautions when you head out. Some “must haves” include
- Leash (unless you are in whitewater, then you need a special type of leash)
The PFD, whistle, and light are required by the US Coast Guard so those are non negotiable in Coast Guard waters. The leash is not a legal requirement, but it’s a bit of a no brainer if you want to stay with your board in any event. Your board can get away from you very quickly in moving water and wind. If you are out for a long paddle or in cold water, you really are not going to want to swim hard and far to get back on if you find yourself in the water.
Other items that are good to think about are
- Tow line (and the knowledge to use it). This can come in very handy if you or your companions find yourself in rough water especially if you are of different paddling abilities, if someone gets hurt, or even if you need to tie yourself off to a dock or something to rest in windy conditions.
- A knife– if you have a rope, you should have a knife. You don’t want to take any chances with a rope getting tangled and causing anyone harm.
- A float plan– you should do this any time you go out. Someone should know where you are launching from, your intended route, and an estimate of when you will be back. You should check in with this person when you are safely back on land so they don’t send the Coast Guard out looking for you. There are also apps (such as iNeverSolo) to email your plan to a contact of your choosing. If you don’t check in by the time you have appointed, your contact will be notified. This is good, but can be subject to your phone’s signal strength.
- Pukka Patch– or similar emergency patch for your paddleboard. If you sustain a crack or ding in your board, you can put this on and prevent water from getting into your board. It works wet or dry so you can apply it anywhere.
- A small first aid kit– some electrical tape and gauze could be enough to stop bleeding or tie on a splint if necessary. If someone gets hurt, your main goal will be to get them to safety, you won’t be trying to perform surgery out on the water, so just a couple of basics in a waterproof container should be sufficient.
- Sunscreen. You should reapply every couple of hours. The water will reflect lots of sunlight and if you are in the water it can wear off faster so make sure you keep applying.
Hydration-this is not an area to skimp on.
Bring more water than you think you will need. And you will thank us if you bring a hydration mix like Skratch Labs to replace lost electrolytes in addition to water. Whatever you bring, try it out during your paddleboard training before the big day. Some mixes or sports drinks can upset your stomach, and you don’t want to find that out when you are 4 hours into an 8 hour tour. That’s one of the things we like about Skratch Labs…it only contains the necessities, no scary chemicals and the flavorings come from actual fruit. If you have trouble remembering to drink, you can set an alarm to remind you. Getting enough hydration is important for performance, recovery, and keeping you from feeling icky.
Fuel- you will need to bring some type of food to keep you going.
We like Pocketfuel Naturals for many of the same reasons we like Skratch Labs hydration mix. It is portable, contains, good, real foods, in balanced proportions to provide consistent energy with no sugar spikes or digestive upsets. If you take gels, energy blocks, bars, or maybe some of the portable snacks like those from “The Feed Zone Portables” recipe book by Skratch Labs, you will want to test them out beforehand to make sure that they sit well with you and they provide enough energy. There are many options out there. Find those that work for you.
Some other things that you might want to have, but aren’t strictly necessary would be a
- VHF radio. This will allow you to communicate with the Coast Guard and other boaters if should need to. An emergency call can be placed on behalf of yourself or someone else in danger if you come across such a situation. Learn how to use it ahead of time.
- A phone…while this isn’t necessarily as reliable, a phone (in a dry case) can be very helpful out on the water. You can use it to take pictures, check weather and radar, and contact someone if you need to…but it’s dependent on you having service.
- If it’s cold, a thermos or other insulated bottle, like a Hydroflask will keep liquids warm to help warm you up. Even if you leave it in your car, it will be nice to have it waiting for you when you get back.
- A waterproof nautical chart of the area that you are paddling
- A three-piece paddle that you can disassemble and carry on your board
- An extra fin. If someone breaks a fin, it’s going to be hard to cover much ground.
Even if you don’t bring all of this stuff along, they are things to think about. If you get stuck in a bad situation, do you have a plan to get out? And do you have the means to? We have been on many paddles that have taken much longer than anticipated because of conditions. Things can change very quickly on the water, so keep alert and look for signs of things changing. Most of all, have fun and be safe!
Tags: distance paddling, endurance paddling, distance paddling on standup paddleboard, long distance paddles, pocketfuel naturals, pocketfuel naturals ri, pocketfuel ri, paddleboard training,paddle board training, long distance flatwater paddleboardng