The vastness of the open ocean provides endless opportunities for everything from long excursions, downwinding, to surfing, deepwater fishing, and exploring the coastline. But there are some very important rules and tips that you should be aware of before you go paddleboarding in the ocean.
The United States Coast Guard designates paddleboards as vessels except when they are within the surf zone. When you leave this area you are now considered to be on a vessel and are subject to the rules and regulations set in place under the law. The most important one is having a personal floatation device (PFD), a whistle, and a light (headlamp).
When paddleboarding out into the open water you want to have a Type I vest or inflatable PFD. These are designed to keep you afloat in rough conditions and will work the best if you find yourself submerged and in need of rescue. Most decent quality PFD’s will have a whistle attached to the front that you can use in emergencies.
Even though it’s not required by the USCG, you should always wear a leash when you are paddling in the ocean. Your board can get away from you very quickly should you fall off and your board is a floatation device so you definitely do not want to be separated from it.
Be Prepared and Stay Focused
Probably the best way to stay safe on the water is to be prepared. Ocean water has many currents that can take you far off course. Wind swells move the surface water while tides, river mouths, and bottom geography create powerful undercurrents. So we have to stay vigilant and focused on what is happening around us. Use the shoreline as a guide and a measure to keep track of your position. If you are getting pulled off course you will need to adjust quickly- the sooner the better. Tide and current charts may also give you an idea of how fast the water moves in certain areas.
The wind presents the most challenges to paddleboarders especially on the ocean. There have been days in our adventures when we’ve had to bail onto some deserted little beach because the head wind was just too strong to battle through. Instead of running the risk of exhaustion we chose to head for land and wait for the wind to settle down. Often, as the sun begins to set the wind will subside.
Ocean paddleboarding is a lot of fun and offers some of the best opportunities to broaden your skills. But it can also be an unforgiving and dangerous place if you make a big mistake(s). On our follow-up post we look at several more tips and rules you should be familiar with before heading out in the open ocean water.