I’ve heard people tout one of the advantages of taking up stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) as the fact that all you need is a board, a paddle, and a life jacket. Unfortunately, it probably isn’t quite that simple. There are some additional items that you will likely need and should be budgeting for if you are planning to get started.
- A rack system for your car. Unless you live on a lake or other body of water, you will need to transport your SUP to the water. This item can run you anywhere from about $70 for a simple foam and straps set-up to several hundred dollars for a roof rack and SUP carrier with straps. You also have the option of getting a small trailer to transport your board which is very convenient, but even more expensive than a roof rack.
- A leash for your SUP. Don’t be tempted to skip this little item. It’s not uncommon to fall off your board occasionally, even in calm water. When it happens, you will find that your board shoots out away from you very quickly. I had it happen to me when I was practicing in a pool over the winter. The board shot all the way across the pool where it was stopped by the pool deck on the other end. Had I been on a lake, I would have had a very long swim to retrieve my board, assuming I could have caught up to it at all. You can find inexpensive leashes for as little as $20 which will suffice for flatwater paddling. If you are planning to do any surfing with your SUP, you will want to invest in a better and stronger surf leash. For whitewater paddling, you may opt to forgo the leash for safety reasons. If you do use a leash on a fast-moving river, make sure you have a quick release mechanism that can be reached easily in an emergency. The release should not be on your leg or ankle in this situation.
- Attachments on your SUP for a water bottle and perhaps storage for a few other small items. Many SUP’s lack any sort of attachment points except at the tail of the board for the leash loop. If you want to go out paddling for any length of time on a warm summer day, you should be drinking water during your trip. You will need to figure out some method for keeping your water bottle secured to your board. You can buy something like the Seattle Sports Lashmates SuperSuck Attachment System. For about $20, you get a couple of suction cups with clips that can be attached easily to your SUP and which can hold a cord or strip of webbing that can hold a water bottle. These are not your basic suction cups. They attach very securely and release easily. For a more permanent solution, you can buy deck attachment kits that come with small plastic fittings that are glued onto your SUP with super glue. I personally like the permanent deck attachments, but I have a couple SuperSuks handy to use as additional attachment points when needed.
- A small waterproof bag to hold your keys and cell phone. If you drive to the water, you are going to want to take your keys with you. I don’t advise leaving your keys unlocked in your car while you are out on the lake. Most new keys have remote entry features that make it necessary to keep your keys dry. You can’t just tuck them into your clothes pocket without risking a significant expense to replace them if you fall in the water. You can get a small waterproof waist pack like the SealLine Seal Pack Waterproof Hip Pack. You can throw your keys and cell phone into the hip pack and strap it onto your waist just below your life jacket, or you can strap it to your board using the SuperSuk Attachments or other permanent deck attachments.
The preceding four items are pretty much mandatory accessories to go along with your SUP, paddle, and life jacket. In addition, you may want to consider a couple pieces of attire depending on when and where you will be doing your paddling.
Footwear: Paddling barefoot is fine while you’re on your board. The problem is that you don’t always know what is in the water under your SUP and you could do some damage if you fall off or are wading in the water when you get on your board. In the south, oyster beds can shred your feet and hands pretty badly if you fall off your board. In my neck of the Midwest, you can never be sure that you won’t be stepping on some lost piece of fishing tackle or broken glass on the lake bottoms. I suspect it is pretty much the same story everywhere. Rocks, rusty screws and nails, fish hooks, old cans and bottles, marine life with teeth or spines, there is always something that can be lurking below you in the water waiting to cut your feet. The best protection is to wear some sort of footwear that gives you protection on the soles of your feet, can get wet, but still allows you to have good contact with your board when paddling.
Wetsuit: If you paddle when or where the water is less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you may want to seriously consider some kind of wetsuit. In Wisconsin, there are only a few short weeks in the summer when you can expect the water to be warmer than 70 degrees, and on Lakes Michigan and Superior you can’t even assume that it will ever be that warm. A wetsuit will greatly expand your paddling season as well as keeping you safe from cold shock. If you live and paddle exclusively in Florida and similar warm-water climates, you can ignore this item.
There are other accessory items that you can get for your SUP, but the items listed are the ones that you really need to think about getting right away. Even if you plan to rent, you may want to seriously consider picking up the waterproof pack and a set of SuperSuk attachments since your rental board may very likely lack any way of securing a water bottle or dry bag on deck.