Exploring New Paddle Board Spots: Key Considerations

Venturing to new paddle board locations brings unique scenery, challenges, and experiences. However, preparation is crucial for a safe and enjoyable trip. Here’s a guide to help you get ready for your next paddleboarding adventure.

Parking and Unloading Gear

paddle boards on a roof rack

Before heading out, find out where you can park and how close you can get to the water. Plan to drop off your board and gear near the boat ramp or shoreline before parking your car. If the area has limited parking, have a backup plan. In some tourist spots, parking may be restricted to residents or require a permit. Look for public access parking to avoid inconvenience.

Permits and Passes

Check if the location requires a permit for boating, which may include paddle boarding. Look online or check signs on arrival for permit requirements. It's wise to carry cash, as some places only accept it or use a drop box system. In some cases, you can purchase a day permit online before you arrive.

Safety Regulations

Know the safety gear requirements, which vary by location. Most places require a personal flotation device (PFD). Leashes are recommended to prevent separation from your board, though not always mandatory. In whitewater areas, a helmet may be necessary. Complying with local boating rules is usually a safe bet, as the U.S. Coast Guard considers SUP boards outside of surfing or swimming areas to be vessels subject to many boating regulations.

SUP Restrictions

3 people on paddle boards

Some parks or water access areas may allow kayaking or canoeing but not paddle boarding. Check for any specific restrictions. In some places, paddle boarding is allowed, but swimming is not, so you’ll need to stay on your board.

Water Hazards

Different waterways have various hazards, such as submerged rocks, tree limbs, strong currents, or downstream dams. In ocean or bay areas, be cautious of rip tides. On rivers, know the locations of rapids or dangerous features. Ask an experienced paddler or park ranger about potential hazards.

Park Closing Times

If the paddling spot is in a park, check the closing time, which may change with the season. Look for specific times or guidelines like "closed after sunset" to avoid getting locked inside a gated area.

Research the Location

Research the new paddle board spot. Look up maps, reviews, and guides to understand water conditions, access points, and potential hazards. Websites and forums dedicated to paddleboarding offer valuable insights and tips from other paddlers.

Assess Water Conditions

Understanding tides and currents is crucial, especially in coastal areas or rivers. Check tide charts and current information. Always check the weather forecast before heading out, aiming for calm winds and clear skies for the best conditions.

Plan Your Route

Identify your entry and exit points before you start paddling. Knowing where you can safely get in and out of the water helps you plan your route. Estimate the distance and time needed, considering your fitness level and experience. Start with shorter routes and gradually increase your distance as you gain confidence.

Paddle with a Buddy

Paddling with a friend or group is safer than going alone. In an emergency, having someone with you can make a significant difference. Plus, it makes the experience more enjoyable and social.

Respect Nature

Respect the environment by following Leave No Trace principles: take your trash with you, avoid disturbing wildlife, and be mindful of your impact. Preserving these places ensures they remain enjoyable for future paddlers.


inflatable paddle board at sunrise

Exploring new paddle board spots is a thrilling way to enjoy the sport and discover new environments. By researching the location, assessing water conditions, prioritizing safety, planning your route, paddling with a buddy, and respecting nature, you’ll be well-prepared for your next adventure. With these tips, you can confidently explore new waters and make the most of your paddleboarding experiences.