Stand up paddleboarding is a relatively new way to enjoy lakes, rivers, and ponds. Along with a full body workout, you can get an up-close look at nature and wildlife while having fun on the water.
Stand up paddleboards -- or SUPs -- are similar to surf boards in shape and size. They are a bit wider and thicker to provide a stable platform to stand on. They have special paddles that have long handles to make paddling while upright easy and efficient.
While canoeing and kayaking continue to be very popular activities, stand up paddleboards offer another option a totally different experience.
Choosing the Right Gear
Even if it is your first time stand up paddleboarding, it’s easy to get started as there are only a few pieces of equipment you really need.
Stand up Paddleboard
If you are heading out for the first time, it’s probably best to rent equipment or borrow it from a friend.
Your choice of board depends on the weight and skill of the paddler, your intended use, and water conditions. Different boards are good for different uses, such as recreational paddling, racing, and even yoga.
Stand up paddleboards can launch at Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lakes and access areas or state parks if they display a Fish and Boat Commission launch use permit, boat registration, or Pennsylvania state parks launch permit or mooring permit. Un-powered use launch permits are available from issuing agents and online.
A SUP paddle is similar to a canoe paddle but much longer. It also has an angled blade which increases paddling efficiency. The correct length paddle will reach up to your wrist when you stand the paddle up in front of you and raise your arm above your head.
PFD and Safety Gear
Every adventure on the water should start with a life jacket that fits snuggly and securely. There are many styles available and you should try them on to find one that is right for you. You should carry a whistle to warn other boaters or get someone’s attention in case of an emergency.
Always dress for the weather on the water, not on shore. In the summer, most will choose to wear a combination of a swimsuit, board shorts, and a short- or long-sleeved shirt for sun protection.
In case you fall off, a leash tethers your stand up paddleboard to you. There are leashes designed specifically for different conditions.
Paddleboarding in State Parks
With more than 40 lakes to explore, state parks are a great place to learn how to stand up paddleboard.
The mostly flat, calm water provides an ideal place for beginners to get the hang of the basics before trying out more adventurous settings.
Look for stand up paddleboarding classes on the DCNR calendar of events.
State park lakes are home to many plant and animal species, creating a scenic backdrop anytime you are on the water. Ducks, ospreys, fish, turtles, minks, and muskrats are just some of the lake residents you may encounter on your paddle.
Because of its low profile, a SUP allows the user to get more up close and personal with the surrounding aquatic landscape.
Anywhere you can launch an unpowered boat in Pennsylvania state parks or forests, you also can use SUPs, offering a wide array of opportunities.
Spending time out on the water often means dealing with lots of bright sunshine that can reflect off the water and effect you from all sides.
Protecting yourself from the sun’s UV rays is an important part of keeping cool and having a safe experience.
A long sleeved, loose fitting shirt can help keep the sun off your arms and back. A wide brimmed hat and sunglasses also are essential items to bring for many people.
You may not notice it when on the water, but paddling can work up a sweat! Stay hydrated to replenish the fluids lost from sweating.
And of course, don’t forget the sunscreen! If you do forget, you can find free sunscreen dispensers at these 21 state park beaches and pools:
- Bald Eagle
- Black Moshannon
- Canoe Creek
- Cowans Gap
- French Creek
- Gifford Pinchot
- Laurel Hill
- Little Buffalo
- Marsh Creek
- Mount Pisgah
- Pine Grove Furnace
- Poe Valley
- Presque Isle
- Ricketts Glen
Before Hitting the Water
Safety should always be the number one priority during any outdoor activity.
Having lots of fun on a paddling trip is not hard if you keep in mind some important safety tips:
- Wear your life jacket
- Expect to get wet
- Be prepared to swim -- if the water looks too hazardous to swim in, don’t go paddling
- Be prepared for the weather
- Never boat alone -- boating safety increases with numbers
- File a float plan with a reliable person, indicating where you are going and when you will return -- remember to contact the person when you have returned safely
For complete boating safety information and rules and regulations, visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website.
More information about stand up paddleboarding can be found on the American Canoe Association website.
To learn more about paddling opportunities in state parks and forests, visit DCNR’s website.