Planning Your Paddle Boarding Adventure
This article examines the factors to consider when planning a SUP expedition or trip.
Tips for SUP Expeditions and Outings
Plans are concocted in the strangest of locations. Plotting in the dingy back room of a bar, popping into your head on the drive to work or during the night shift in a local depot. When a plan comes together, it's always a magical feeling that is often a mix of joy and relief.
Planning any trip away is like a jigsaw puzzle, with so many pieces that you just need to make them fit. This article is intended to help you identify some of the important aspects that should go into planning your next SUP adventure. The first considerations will be who, what and where which are all interconnected.
Who To Go With - The Group Dynamic
You need to decide who is going to be part of your adventure. This will dictate the locations you can visit and when it is possible, depending on holiday from work and families. The group's ability should be assessed to give realistic ideas of venues. Aspects such as weather, distance, or grade of water all need to suit the ability of the weakest member of the group. Picking your team can be a tough task, but you need to be strict and set out guidelines that all can agree on.
Remember, not everyone needs to take part in every session, but that call is up to each individual group's dynamic.
When To Go - Timing
Once you know who can be a part of the trip, you need to plan a convenient date. This will have a direct impact on your locations, so think wisely. Is it the rainy season? Will it be snowing? Is 90+ degree heat expected?
Try to come up with a time that not only suits your group, but also the climate and conditions of your anticipated location for that time of year.
Where To Go - Destination
Once you know who is coming and when you should then be able to narrow down on your location. Deciding if you are heading on a flatwater tour of canals, an overnight camping trip at the beach, or off on a whitewater river trek will give you a ballpark idea of what to look for. Then it's up to you to put the logistics in place to pull it off.
You will need to do some research on potential destinations. This initially can be via word of mouth, experience from the group, or detailed internet searching on locations. With the base idea in place, it's time to elaborate and turn this backroom idea into a plan. Be aware of local government regulations which might require permits for paddling and or camping.
Logistics of the Trip
So how exactly are we going to get there? Can we drive? Or do we need to catch a flight or train? Will we need rentals at the other end? The key to logistics is starting at the beginning, and working step by step from the moment you leave your front door to the moment you return.
Maybe you need to think about shuttles to get you to the water, or whether you can hike in or park close by. Logistics is by far the most time-consuming portion of any plan and can be extremely frustrating. For international trips, this can be even more difficult depending on language skills and how remote the location is. As part of the logistical planning, you will need to factor in emergency exit points, places you can easily reach land (ideally a road), and what you will do when you reach these spots. No matter if it's a weekend away on a new lake or deep in a jungle, you can never be too careful.
With an inflatable SUP, your options increase exponentially. You can often fly with your board and hike into more remote locations, which will let you paddle on more varied water.
Location - Choosing the Specific Places to Paddle
When choosing a location, it's easy to head to the well-trodden paths with plenty of guides and blogs online. It's also fairly easy to network with other stand up paddle boarders to find out the best times to visit and what conditions to expect.
For those looking to head off into less explored waters, whether searching for that unknown break or chasing a first descent, Google Maps is your first point of reference. Start off by checking out the access and how you can get in and out. Look at distances and how many days you will need to pack for. Google Maps is a great tool for getting an idea of the terrain and what can be expected. Keep in mind the dates that maps get updated and consider that tree covering can obscure much of the view. You can also use the measuring tool to get an idea of the distances and elevation you will be covering.
Once you know where you are going, you will need to check out the local tides if on the coast or river gauges if inland. This is going to affect the viability of your chosen location. Again, the best information can be gathered by speaking to locals that understand the region and the conditions. With any luck, their information should translate to a gauge, whether tide, wind, or water level, to give you a much better idea of the current level and conditions. If a local tells you to stay clear of a particular area, listen.
Rivers, in particular, can be full of submerged traps and hazards that no map will be able to tell you about. Certain areas will be teeming with wildlife, such as gators or possibly sharks, so an understanding of the potential hazards is vital when considering the location.
As part of your planning, you need to decide where you will be staying, as this will affect what you need to pack. If you are camping, you will also need to work out how to carry equipment with you each day. For weekends away, it's easy to find a hotel and have a warm shower and a bit of comfort at the end of the day. Others might prefer a bit more wilderness and consider taking a tent and spending the night on an island imagining the scenes of Castaway and Wilson.
What to Pack for an Expedition
Packing is a skill, though in the right hands it can be a form of art. Some people can pack a month's worth of clothes and kit down to the size of a shoebox, whereas others need a truck just to themselves.
In addition to your paddling equipment and off-water clothing, you need to remember essentials, such as repair kits, safety devices, mobile phones, and power supplies. Be sure to pack for the worst, and don't take chances on leaving out non-essential items, especially if traveling by plane. If you own an Earth River SUP board, you will have one of our fantastic board bags. The options of backpack straps for hiking or the pull-along wheels make the bag very easy to take just about anywhere. The bag is big enough for all your paddleboarding essentials with plenty of space to pack accessories and other belonging too.
Think about what you will need to carry on the water and make sure you have a dry bag large enough for everything. If you need to carry bulky things like sleeping bags, we recommend double bagging to ensure a good night's sleep. If you are heading on a multi-day trip, then its worthwhile to practice paddling with a loaded board, as it is a much different experience in terms of balance and propulsion in the water. It will also give you the opportunity to load the board in different configurations to find something that works best prior to your trip.
Another option, if there are enough members of your team, is to have a tow SUP. This is exactly what it sounds like. The idea is that you load up one SUP with gear, and members can take turns towing it behind them. This allows you to take much more gear than you could on a board with a rider and is a great way to transport tents and larger equipment.
Redundancy is key, especially on longer trips. Always carry a manual pump or two among the group, even if you choose to inflate with the ERS 12VDC + GO™, as electronics require a backup, especially in remote locations. Have spare paddle screws, fins, repair kits, tow ropes, fin keys, valves, waterproof tape, and anything else that could possibly need replacing.
Get Out and Go
Now that you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place, the old adage of life happening while you are making plans takes over. Nothing will go exactly as intended, so be prepared to go with the flow (pun intended) and make the best of every situation. Make plenty of memories and have a great time with friends. In the end that is what you will remember.