Can You Paddle Board Anywhere? There are Exceptions

Are you allowed to paddle board anywhere as long as there is a water body?

In the movie series the Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow says the Black Pearl is freedom. The same applies to your inflatable or solid SUP. It is not just a muscle-propelled vessel, it is freedom! Once the paddling bug bits you, you cannot get it out of your system.

Every time that you see a body of water be it a lagoon, creek, river, lake, ocean or even a dam, you will feel the urge to remove your 4 inch or 6 inch SUP paddle and hit the water.

But hold that thought a bit … can you just paddle board anywhere?

If you are a beginner paddle boarder, you should only SUP in the calm waters such as lagoons, lakes, oceans, and dams. If you have advanced SUP skills, you can paddle board in rivers and other white waters such as ravines, and oceans with waves. Remember, always ask whether a water body is open for SUP activity before you take out your board.

Where should you not paddle board?

Are you allowed to paddle board anywhere

There are many instances when you should not paddle board. Noting down these instances can help you to know when you can paddle board.

Mostly, you will not find rules or regulations telling you not to paddle on a certain body of water, but you can always use your judgment, or ask the locals whether it is allowed.

Here are a few instances where you should not paddle:

In the designated bathing areas

Whether you have an inflatable or solid Easy Eddy Three Piece Paddle Board, it is classified as a vessel.

For the safety of the swimmers and bathers, you should not use your paddleboard. You could easily collide with the swimmers and cause serious accidents.

The bathing areas are busy with swimmers, both grownups and kids. You don’t want to get in their way. So follow the beach directions and regulations and only use your board where allowed.

When the weather does not allow

Even in summer, the weather will not allow you to paddle all the time. In another post, we showed you how to paddleboard safely in the rain. However, unless the rain catches you when you are in the water, do not go out in the rain.

When you are paddle boarding in the river, lake or ocean, keep an eye on the weather. If there is rain, thunderstorms or any other upheaval in the forecast, you should not go out.

The problem with rain when you are having SUP fun is that it makes the water choppy, and you keep falling off the paddle board. It also reduces your visibility in the water, and it is easy to lose direction if you are in the ocean.

In the icy rivers and ravines

While it is safe to paddle board in the winter, well, paddling in a generally calm water bodies such as an ocean, lake or lagoon is safer.

On the other hand, paddling in icy rivers is not safe and you should avoid it. Rivers carry a lot of floating debris too, and collision with a log is the last thing that you want.

Of course, even in winter, you can paddle in some rivers, such as the Colorado River, Mississippi, and others. Just ensure that there is no floating ice on the water, as hitting one can break or dent your solid paddle board.

Ravine rivers are especially dangerous, and the waters could be wilder in the winter than they are in the warmer seasons. Do not paddle board fast in speedily flowing waters.

Port entrance or exit channels

In the article on the best winter paddleboarding destinations in the US, we mentioned Seattle, which has a busy port. What we did not mention was the fact that you should not paddle board in the port exit and entrance channels.

These are the channels that ships, boats, yachts, and other water craft use to access and/or leave the port areas.

Even if it is your first time in those waters, if you see floating red buoys, they are used to mark the channels. Avoid such areas because big vessels create big wakes that are dangerous for you.

While you may be paddle boarding away from the port exit or entry channels, you should also be cautious not to cross the paths of the ships and vessels such as tug boats. They cause a serious draught that can make you lose your direction fast.

Do not go more than 300 meters from the shore

Actually, you can, but you are required to inform the authorities that you intend to go that far out. Therefore, if you have to inform the beach authorities, well, it means you probably should not do it.

Even If you feel very confident of your skills, you should only go out to such distances when the water is calm. Also, it is best that you do not go alone, but you go in a group or with a friend, so that you can watch each other’s back all the time.

Remember to bring your life jacket for paddle boarding. Because the U.S.C.G classifies SUP boards as vessels, you are required to have a life jacket on board if you are out of the zones designated for swimming.

Can you stand up paddle board from a beach?

As a matter of fact, you should launch your SUP board from the beach. However, ensure that you use a beach designated for paddlers, kayakers, and canoers, because you are not allowed to SUP in the swimming and bathing areas.

Choose a good spot, most probably the ocean sound side or the ocean surf and breakers side.

The Ocean sound side has calmer waters, so it is a good place for beginners in paddle boarding to start honing their skills.

However, you have to watch out for other traffic, because the sound side attracts many people. It is also going to have more vessels passing as they tend to avoid the surf or breakers side.

The sound side of the ocean is also the bay side, so it attracts many animals. The most notorious of these animals are the jelly fish that sting divers and snorkelers, causing skin inflammation. Therefore, you have to watch out for them.

The breaker or surf side of the ocean is also a good spot to start your beach paddle boarding time. However, it has a bigger element of danger to it, so only the experienced and skilled paddlers should use it.

To SUP on this side, you have to know how to paddle board in the ocean with waves. It is not a place you want to be alone. If the waves get too big, get out of the water.

You can also employ the SUP surfing techniques to stay longer on the water.

What conditions can you paddle board in?

Paddle boarding is a challenging sport because you have to do it while standing up. However, once you have gained some experience, you will have crazy fun.

However, irrespective of your skills, there are some conditions in which you should never paddle board. The ocean, or any water body in general, can be a furious enemy.

Therefore, consider going for SUP boarding fun when:

  • The water is calm and the weather clear
  • When there is sunshine
  • When the bay is not too crowded
  • You have the right gear for paddle boarding in winter
  • Do not go paddling when the winds are high. Ensure the wind speed is less than 15 knots
  •  If you are surfing on the ocean breaker side, get out when whitecaps start forming

When you are paddle boarding in the river, find out whether the river carries any debris. Also, if the water is too dirty, you might want to avoid SUP-ing in it because you cannot see the rocks.

It is okay to SUP in ravines, but you should first arm yourself with the geography of the place. Are there rapids? Are there dangerous rocks? Any barriers? And so on.

If there is rain, do not go for paddleboarding. The problem with rain, especially in the ocean, is that it comes accompanied by thunderstorms, lightning, waves, and it causes poor visibility. The waves could sweep you further from the shore, fast.

Check out the safety of the surf, the bay, the river, lagoon, or lake before you pop into the water.

Also check my posts on:

How to paddle in a straight line

Glue and Patch for Inflatable SUP Repair

Which is a characteristic of Type III life jacket?

Where to paddle board in Santa Cruz

Best places to paddle board in San Diego

Paddle Boarding Age Limit

Wrapping it up

While there will not always be clear instructions regarding where to paddle board or not, well, you should always use your judgment.

If there is high velocity wind, the surf looks angry, the port exit and entrance channels are busy, you should not paddle board there.

Overall, the best answer to the question of: are you allowed to paddle board anywhere, is that as long as there is a water body, you can have your fun.

SUP activity in rivers, ponds, lakes, oceans, and others. Remember to check whether the place is deep enough, since you don’t want the fins of the board to scratch rocks or the bottom.

At the very least, the depth of the water should be knee-deep, and you should check this if you are paddling in lakes or ponds.

Stay safe out there. And to many more days of paddling fun.