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10 (More) Tips for Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Charleston

10 (More) Tips for Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Charleston

Interested in stand-up paddleboarding in Charleston, SC? If so, here are 10 more advanced tips that complement the beginner tips in our Guide to Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Charleston.

In our Guide to Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) in Charleston, we included 10 tips for having a safe and successful experience your first time on the water. We covered some basics like being sure to put on your leash and looking forward, and we covered some important safety-related information like what to look for when checking the water conditions and always wearing a PFD.

More Advanced Tips for Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Charleston, SC

For today’s feature, we’re going a bit more in-depth. We’re covering additional tips for stand-up paddleboarding in Charleston, with an emphasis not just on getting on the water and getting back safely, but on getting the most out of your time on the water. Whether you are planning to SUP at the beach, at Shem Creek, on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), or on Charleston’s inland rivers and marshes, here are 10 tips based on years of experience:

1. Make Sure You Know the Depth of the Water Beneath You

When stand-up paddleboarding, it is always important to know the depth of the water beneath you. This is especially true in Charleston—and there are two reasons why.

First, you need to make sure your SUP’s fin doesn’t hit the bottom. Not only can this knock you off balance, but it can also severely damage your fin, especially if you hit an oyster bed. Most stand-up paddleboards need at least a foot of water, which is much more than your average recreational or touring kayak.

Second, in the event that you fall (or are about to fall) off of your SUP, you need to know how to react. In deep water, you can jump away from your SUP or dive in (just make sure you’ve got your leash on). But, if you are in just a few feet of water (or less), jumping or diving could be very dangerous. It’s a good idea to know what’s on the bottom as well, if possible. While stepping onto sand isn’t an issue, getting stuck deep in the pluff mud or landing on an oyster bed could put you in a difficult situation.

2. Make Sure You’re Holding Your SUP Paddle the Right Way

This is more of a beginner tip, but it is worth covering here. When you are stand-up paddleboarding in Charleston, always make sure you are holding your SUP paddle the right way. The bend in your paddle’s shaft above the blade should be bending away from you, toward the front of your SUP. Many people hold their paddle backward, thinking that they are supposed to use it in a scooping motion. But, this isn’t the right way to do it.

SUP paddles are designed so that the blade of the paddle will be perpendicular to the surface of the water when it is directly by the paddler’s side. This provides maximum water displacement and maximum paddling power.

If you’re using an adjustable SUP paddle, you’ll also want to adjust the length of your paddle before getting on the water. With the tip of the blade on the ground, your SUP paddle should be about eight inches taller than you.

3. Use Your Lower Hand as a Fulcrum

Another common mistake people make when stand-up paddleboarding is to constantly use both arms to pull their paddle from front to back. Not only is this less effective than the correct SUP paddling stroke, but it will also tire you out much more quickly.

While both arms do need to move, when stand-up paddleboarding in Charleston, it can be helpful to think about your lower hand like a fulcrum. Your upper hand (on the side of your body opposite to the side of the SUP on which you are paddling) will be doing most of the work. But, this also gives your upper hand more leverage; and, if you try it, you should notice that it takes much less effort to move your SUP paddle through the water.

4. Use Wide Sweeping Paddle Strokes to Make Wide Turns

Even if you have some experience stand-up paddleboarding, turning in the water can be somewhat intimidating. It is easier to lose your balance while turning; and, if the water is choppy or there is a small swell, you will need to have your SUP parallel to the waves for a short period of time.

One of the easiest and most stable ways to turn on a stand-up paddleboard is to use sweeping paddle strokes to make a wide turn. Of course, if you are in a narrow creek or there are lots of boats or docks around, you might have a limited amount of space. But, the wider you can make your turn, the more speed you can keep, and the more stable you will feel.

5. Don’t Try to Make Tight Turns (At Least Not Right Away)

Given the challenges involved with making tight turns, it is a good idea not to try these turns right away. The one major exception to this is that if you are stand-up paddling at the beach in shallow water with sand beneath you, this is the perfect place to practice these more-challenging maneuvers. But, if you want to make sure you stay dry, or if you aren’t completely confident going in the water, you’ll want to stick with making wider turns until you feel more comfortable on your stand-up paddleboard.

Tips for SUP in Charleston

6. Approach Waves and Wakes at 90 Degrees

When boating or kayaking, a good rule of thumb is to approach most oncoming waves and wakes at about 45 degrees to the break. But, on a stand-up paddle board, this is a good way to get pitched into the water. If you encounter a wave or wake while paddleboarding in Charleston, the best approach in most cases is to build up some momentum, get into a stable stance, and approach it at 90 degrees. Whether you ride over the wave or the nose of your paddleboard breaks through it, you should find yourself still standing once you’re on the other side.

7. Use Momentum to Improve Your Balance

Related to our last stand-up paddleboarding tip, on a SUP, maintaining momentum improves your balance. This is somewhat similar (though not entirely so) to riding a bike. The faster you are going in a straight line on your SUP, the more stable your SUP will be.

Some people find this somewhat counterintuitive, and beginners will often hesitate to build up any speed. But, if you’re going slow or floating in place on a SUP, you’re basically just standing on a thin piece of foam or fiberglass on the surface of the water.

8. Keep an Eye on the Weather

In our Guide to Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Charleston, we highlighted the importance of checking the weather and water conditions before you go. If it’s windy or the swell is much more than a foot, most novice paddlers will want to stay home.

But, even once you’re out on the water, it is important to keep an eye on the weather. If clouds start to roll in or if the wind gusts start to pick up, you may need to get back quickly before you find yourself fighting to make any progress on your way back to where you launched. Paddling a SUP against the wind can be very difficult. Kneeling can reduce your body’s “sail” effect, but even relatively strong paddlers can struggle to make progress in winds exceeding 10 knots (about 11.5 miles per hour).

9. Invest in a Good Waterproof Bag and Carabiner

Whether you pack snacks, sunscreen, a camera, or your phone, it is well worth investing in a good waterproof bag if you plan to be stand-up paddling in Charleston regularly. The deck of your SUP will get wet; and, if you have items stored under your SUP’s bungee cords, they’ll get wet too.

A good waterproof bag solves this problem.

When buying your waterproof bag, it is a good idea to invest in a carabiner as well. This way, you can clip your bag to your SUP’s bungees, and you won’t have to worry about it coming dislodged and falling overboard.

10. Wear (or At Least Bring) Flip-Flops or Water Shoes

Our final tip for stand-up paddleboarding in Charleston is to always wear (or at least bring) flip-flops or water shoes. As we’ve alluded to above, there are lots of oyster beds around Charleston’s sea islands and along its inland waterways. If you step off of your SUP and onto an oyster bed, your next trip could be to the hospital or an urgent care clinic for stitches.

Plus, depending on where in Charleston you are stand-up paddleboarding, you may have the opportunity to get off of your SUP and explore. From Wolf Island to the uninhabited barrier islands along Charleston’s coast, there are tons of unique places to explore and take photos. While you might be fine walking around in your bare feet, if there are lots of shells or the sand is hot, you’ll be glad that you brought some footwear on your journey. If you don’t want to wear them while paddling, you can use your carabiner to keep your flip-flops or water shoes safely onboard.


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