Next level guide to paddleboarding in open water

So you have dipped your toes in the open water, hopefully using our guide to getting started paddleboarding in open waterand have read about paddling in rough water, and you have realized how much fun you can have out there and some of the new challenges that you will encounter. Here are some things to think about to get to the next level of safety, convenience, and preparedness.


Tie downs on your board.  If your board doesn’t have them from the factory, there are aftermarket solutions ranging from suction cup cargo nets, to some “EZ plugs” or flexible lash points that superglue right to your deck.  There are also deck bags that are dry bags that follow the general shape of your board and have some rigidity to them so you can run a bungee across the top and affix even more stuff

-A dry bag (or aforementioned deck bag) to store the stuff on this list

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-A hat.  If you do find yourself in the water for longer than you expect, or if the temps drop, wind picks up, or you get cold, a fleece, acrylic, wool, or neoprene hat will help to keep you warm.

-An insulating layer…a paddle jacket, thermal shirt, or wool shirt will help to insulate you should you become cold. You will lose body heat 25% faster if you are wet.  That is very significant when you are out in open water and may not be able to get somewhere to warm up for quite awhile.


-A change of clothes.  Even if you don’t take them with you on the board, you should have warm (if weather dictates), dry clothes upon your return

Footwear. Some type of water shoes or insulating booties are a good thing to have particularly in open water. You can come across rocky areas, oyster beds, crushed shells, sea creatures, or any number of other unforeseen foot hazards.  Also the walk from the parking area to the water can be long and rough or even very hot or cold depending on how hard core you are.  And you have no idea where you might find yourself taking a quick, or not so quick, break in your travels.  Also your feet can get very cold and go numb if it is choppy and the water keeps splashing over them. Cut up or freezing cold feet can turn a fun outing into a dangerous one pretty quickly.

-A charged phone in a dry case. Be aware that most dry cases do not float.  Test your case before you leave the house if there is any question, but you will probably still benefit from attaching it to your board or person. The lanyard around your neck may not be enough because it could slip over your head and then you are in trouble.   So if you can attach it to your board or store it securely in a pocket you will probably be better off.

Nautical charts will give you a ton of information about the area you are paddling, like water depths (at low tide) which effect currents and ground swells, areas of particularly strong currents, distances, coordinates, channel markers, etc.  They are fascinating and full of useful information.  They make them in a waterproof material so if you are going to be doing a lot of paddling in a specific area it is a very good idea to invest in one for your area.  Put it in your dry bag and you will have it to refer to throughout your paddle. It is also a great resource for plotting your course and for making adjustments as you go.


-Familiarize yourself with the Nautical Rules of the Road.  These are like the driving rules, but for the water, and they dictate how traffic should proceed around and through boating channels, who has the right of way and when, and what different channel markers mean.

-Learn how to properly signal with your whistle. There are specific whistle patterns to signal your intentions to the boats that you can find in the nautical rules.

Weather…there are guides to help you read the weather and interpret a forecast and elements as they change while you are out. Keep in mind that generally conditions are calmer in the morning than in the afternoon (there is usually less boat traffic too)

-A VHF radio…if you find yourself spending a lot of time out in the open water, this will be a good thing to have in case of emergency. This is the preferred method for reporting emergencies to the USCG.  If you invest in one of these, also invest in learning the proper channel and distress calls. The channel you use to initiate the call is 16 and there are three different calls you may need that vary in degree of urgency.

-You might want to consider a hydration mix like Skratch Labs to keep your electrolytes up too…find one that works for you without upsetting your stomach, we have had great luck with Skratch so that is front of mind

Tow line…again, if you are going to spend a lot of time out there, it’s a good thing to have.  Read this post for some tips on how to use it. And if you have a towline, also have a knife in case you end up in a tangle.

Small first aid kit.  You don’t need much because not a lot will work out in open water, but something to stop bleeding and some electrical tape (which will stick when wet) are a good idea.  Your primary goal will be to get the person to land where you can get appropriate help.

Sunscreen.  If you are going to be out for a while, you will need to reapply!  A small container or stick will work well on the go.

-If you want to get really crazy, an extra fin, fin plate and screw, small screwdriver (or multitool), carabiners, board patch like Puka patch or Ding Dough that will stick to the board even when wet should you get a crack or hole in your board, extra leash loops of paracord, and a 3 piece paddle are all things you will want to consider bringing.  You can find a small waterproof box to store most of these smaller items.


While some of this may seem like overkill (and it may be overkill for the paddling you intend to do) remember that things don’t always work out the way you plan. It’s better to be prepared and not need certain items, than to need them and not have them.  So adapt this list to your needs, stay safe, and have fun!



Tags: paddleboarding in rough water, open ocean paddleboards, paddleboard safety,paddleboard accessories, open water paddleboard, paddleboarding in the ocean, ocean paddleboarding, towing on a standup paddleboard,, standup paddleboarding in open water,paddleboarding in open water

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