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Guide to Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) in Charleston, SC

Guide to Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Charleston, SC

Want to stand-up paddleboard in Charleston, SC? Here's everything you need to know. Learn about where to rent a SUP, where you can take a stand-up paddleboard tour, where to go paddling if you live here, and much more.

If you are interested in stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) during your Charleston beach vacation (or as a local in Charleston), you are not alone. Paddling a SUP is a great way to explore the area’s inland waterways, and it is great exercise as well. This is a guide to everything you need to know about renting (or paddling your own) stand-up paddleboard in Charleston, SC.

Table of Contents:

Where to Rent a Stand-Up Paddleboard in Charleston, SC

Unless you traveled with your own inflatable stand-up paddleboard, you’ll most likely be renting a SUP during your Charleston beach vacation. Renting is a great option for beginners, as rental SUPs are usually the most stable models that manufacturers offer.

If you are on vacation in Charleston, the five main locations where you can rent a stand-up paddleboard are:

  • Folly Beach – Several outfitters off SUP rentals on Folly Beach. Rentals range from two hours to 24 hours; or, if you want to, you can rent a board to keep at your vacation house for the week. Charleston SUP Safaris and Folly Beach Adventures are both good options, but there are others as well.
  • Isle of Palms – SUP rental options on Isle of Palms include IOP Beach Chair, Carolina Salt, and Coastal Expeditions. The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) behind Isle of Palms is a great place for your first ever paddleboarding session.
  • Shem Creek – Coastal Expeditions also offers SUP rentals on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. So does Nature Adventures. While Shem Creek isn’t at the beach, its calm waters are a good place to paddleboard, and you can head toward the Charleston harbor for a unique view of the Ravenel Bridge and Charleston skyline.
  • Kiawah Island – Carolina Salt also has a location on Kiawah Island, and Water Dog Paddle Co. offers SUP rentals at nearby Bohicket Marina. SeaCoast Sports and Outfitters in Freshfields Village offers seasonal SUP rentals as well.
  • Edisto Beach – If you are vacationing at Edisto Beach, you can rent a stand-up paddleboard at Island Bikes and Outfitters or Edisto Watersports & Tackle. Big Bay Creek behind Edisto Island (which you can access from The Marina at Edisto Beach) is a great place to SUP with calm waters and outstanding views.

Taking a Guided SUP Tour in Charleston, SC

If you are more interested in going with a group than renting a stand-up paddleboard on your own, you can also take a guided SUP tour in Charleston. Several of the outfitters listed above offer guided tours. Many guided tours leave right from the beach, so you can simply walk over to the launch point at your scheduled time. Or, if you are interested in seeing a wilder, more remote part of Charleston’s waters, you can sign up for a guided tour that either heads farther inland or heads toward the uninhabited sea islands north of Isle of Palms. If you want to stand-up paddleboard in Mount Pleasant, there are tours that depart from Shem Creek as well.

While most people can safely rent a stand-up paddleboard and go on their own (or with a group of family or friends) their first time out, going on a tour is a good option if you are feeling a little bit apprehensive about paddling for the first time. Most tours begin with a brief instruction period, and the guide will make sure everyone feels comfortable before heading away from the dock.

Group of people on stand-up paddleboards in Charleston, SC
If you want to stand-up paddleboard in Charleston, SC but aren't sure about going on your own, you can sign up for a lesson or guided tour.

10 Tips for Safe and Successful Stand-Up Paddleboarding

To get the most out of your stand-up paddleboarding experience (and to make sure you’ll want to go again), you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared. You’ll also want to take some precautions. With this in mind, here are 10 tips for safe and successful stand-up paddling in Charleston:

1. Start Slow and Low

Getting on a stand-up paddleboard for the first time can be a little unnerving. Our best advice is to start slow and low. Rather than standing up right away, start out kneeling. This will help you get a feel for your SUP and paddle. Paddle around for a while, maybe 5 or 10 minutes, until you start to feel comfortable.

Plus, standing up is easier once you’re underway. This is because stand-up paddleboards are most stable when they are gliding straight ahead.

2. Be Sure to Put On Your SUP Leash

Your rental SUP (or the SUP you buy) should come with a leash. Be sure to use it. While you most likely aren’t going to fall, if you do fall, having the leash around your ankle will make sure you can get back to your SUP.

If you need to get on your SUP from the water, get directly behind it. Grab the rails firmly as far forward as you can, then pull yourself up from the back. Get back to your kneeling position, then stand up again when you’re ready.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

The stand-up paddleboard retailers and rental companies in Charleston are all extremely helpful. So, if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask. You definitely aren’t the first one to wonder what you’re wondering, and it is always best to make sure you are comfortable with your level of knowledge.

4. Keep Looking Forward

When stand-up paddling in Charleston, you should keep looking forward as much as you can. While you’ll get comfortable turning your head eventually, many people find that looking around—and especially looking behind them—throws them off balance.

5. Know Your Route (and Tell Someone Your Plans)

Any time you go out on coastal waters—whether boating, kayaking, or SUPing—it is important to know your route. It is also important to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. This is for your safety; and, again, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Keep in mind that stand-up paddleboarding is a workout. It uses muscles throughout your body, and it is much more tiring than kayaking—especially if you’re new to SUP paddling. If you’re a beginner, plan to be back where you started in no more than an hour. If you’re still good to go, you can always turn around and go again.

6. Check the Tide, Swell, and Weather Conditions

No matter where you go stand-up paddleboard in Charleston, you will be paddling in coastal waters. This means that it is important to check both the tide and the swell. Going against the tide on a SUP can be very difficult—and tiring—so it is generally best to plan your trip so that you can ride the tide both ways.

The waves on the open water are the swell. Swells have two measurements—the swell height and the swell period. For a safe and fun day of paddleboarding, you want the swell height to be small (ideally no more than a foot) and the swell period (the time between waves) to be as long as possible.

Checking the weather conditions is important as well. Most importantly, you will need to check the wind. When you are stand-up paddleboarding, your body acts like a sail. Even a six or seven mile-per-hour wind can make SUPing more challenging, and double-digit wind speeds can stop you from moving forward.

7. Wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

With SUPing, kayaking, and all watersports, you should always wear a PFD. It’s the safe thing to do, and it can help give you more confidence on your stand-up paddleboard as well. All rental SUPs should come with a PFD. If you don’t receive one for any reason, ask for one before getting on the water.

8. Bring a Waterproof Phone Case with a Lanyard

While you are stand-up paddleboarding in Charleston’s coastal waters, you will want to take pictures. The easiest and best way to keep your phone with you is to put it in a waterproof case with a lanyard. This way, not only is it protected just in case you fall in, but you will also have it around your neck for easy access when you want to snap a photo.

9. Paddle Away from Boats Headed Your Direction

Boats create wake, and encountering wake on a stand-up paddleboard in Charleston can be unnerving. With this in mind, if you see a boat headed your direction, it is best to paddle away from the boat toward the shore. While many boaters will slow down when approaching stand-up paddleboarders, even a small wake requires extra planning and careful balance. As the wake gets close, turn so that your SUP is perpendicular to the wake, and bend your knees for stability.

10. Kneel If You Get Into Choppy Water

If you get into choppy water and start to feel uncomfortable, you can always kneel down. You can even sit on your SUP, although many people find this less comfortable than kneeling. Kneeling or sitting lowers your center of gravity, and you will feel more stable instantly.

Where to Stand-Up Paddleboard in Charleston if You Live Here

If you’ve recently purchased a stand-up paddleboard (or are ready to get your SUP on the water), there are lots of places you can stand-up paddleboard in Charleston besides the beaches where most vacationers will be renting. We’re not casting aspersions here—these locations are popular for a reason, and they are absolutely places you should take your SUP. But, if you want to get away from the crowds during the on season, or if you are just interested in exploring some of Charleston’s more-remote waterways and beaches, there are lots of additional places you can go.

We created this map of put-ins for our recent article on where to kayak in Charleston, and these are all places you can stand-up paddleboard in Charleston, too:

If you are interested in getting some instruction on how to paddle your SUP, the CCPRC’s Learn to SUP series is a great option. The CCPRC offers four levels of classes, from the essentials and intermediate proficiency to getting comfortable on dynamic water and using your SUP for fitness.

Yoga stand-up paddleboard in Charleston, SC
The Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) offers classes on SUP yoga and fitness at James Island County Park.

FAQs: Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Charleston, SC

Is Stand-Up Paddleboarding Safe?

Stand-up paddleboarding is safe—as long as you keep it safe. Just like any other watersport, it is important to make good decisions and avoid putting yourself in danger by being reckless. If you’re at the beach, you can paddle in just a foot or two of water while you get comfortable. No matter where you SUP, always wear a life jacket, let someone know your plans, and check the conditions before you go. As long as you follow some basic safety practices and stay within your limits, you’ll have a smooth day on the water.

Is Stand-Up Paddleboarding Fun?

Stand-up paddling is incredibly fun. This is especially true in a place like Charleston, where you can paddle with endless coastal views. The board glides through the water, you can go as slow or as fast as you want (as long as the conditions are good), and you can look for dolphins and shore birds as you cruise by.

Am I Going to Fall Off of My Stand-Up Paddleboard?

If you paddle in calm waters and get a feel for your board before standing up, you most likely will not fall off of your stand-up paddleboard—especially if you are using a wide foam board (like most rental SUPs). These SUPs are surprisingly stable, and they are even more stable when you are moving through the water. While falling is always a possibility, falling off of a SUP usually isn’t a big deal. As long as you are wearing a leash (which you always should), you can get back to your board, get back on from the back, and continue on your way.

Can You Stand-Up Paddleboard in the Ocean?

You can stand-up paddleboard in the ocean, but this carries some additional risks that aren’t of concern when you stand-up paddleboard in Charleston’s inland waterways. You’ll definitely want to be aware of any rip currents, and it is best to paddle with an onshore wind and rising tide. If you will be riding your SUP in the waves (this is known as paddle surfing), be aware that there is a good chance that you are going to fall. If you’re comfortable with this and you are aware of the risks of ocean paddling, then you can decide whether you are comfortable launching from the beach.

How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Stand-Up Paddleboard in Charleston, SC?

In Charleston, SUP rentals start at around $35 for two or four hours in most locations. You can typically double the length of your rental for less than double the money, and most outfitters offer 24-hour rentals that are just about $10 more than a four or eight-hour rental. If you want to keep your SUP for the week while vacationing in Charleston, weekly rentals are usually about two-and-a-half to three times the outfitter’s 24-hour rate.


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