In stand up paddling, there are different types of boards for the different types of water where you might use them. Even inflatable SUP boards vary in shape and size to offer the best driving characteristics for the respective water.
Inflatable SUP boards are now widely available, and they are ideal for taking to the sea in the car or even a suitcase if you’re flying to your destination. If you want to stand up paddle in the ocean, the most suitable type is a wave board. It’s made specifically for wavy waters and currents as it’s very short and maneuverable.
So let’s look at the specifics of inflatable wave boards. We’ll also give you an overview of other important information on how to paddle and even surf in the ocean on an inflatable SUP.
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Can You Use an Inflatable Paddle Board in the Ocean?
Whatever you’ve heard before, it’s definitely time to rethink the inflatable paddle board and trust in its qualities. Inflatable paddle boards are an excellent choice of watercraft for paddling not only in calm waters but also in wind and waves.
For paddling in the rough waters of the ocean, you need a board that is up to the challenge. Modern inflatable SUP can be just as stable and reliable as a solid resin or carbon fiber board, even on white water or when surfing in the ocean.
The two most important factors are the shape of your board and the material it’s made of. Inflatable wave boards resistant to UV and saltwater will take you a long way.
To prolong the lifespan of your inflatable board, rinse it with clean water after using it in the sea and let it dry before rolling it up again.
How to Paddle Board in Waves
Typically, if you know your SUPing outside the ocean, it won’t take long to get used to the waves. Once you get past the break (where the waves roll over and hit the shore), you should feel relatively stable. Should you fall in, your SUP will act as a flotation device, so it’s important to attach yourself to it.
Here’s more advice on how to totally rock your iSUP on the ocean:
The Entry/Exit Points
It is wise to get in at a calmer spot where there are no swimmers, algae, boats, or other obstacles in the way. Keep this spot in mind so you can find it again later. In addition, check out alternative suitable places to come back to shore if you drift off too far to one side.
To get past the spot where waves crash, you can lie down on your belly and paddle with your arms, just like a surfer. Otherwise, try sitting or kneeling on your SUP and using your paddle to float further in. That way, you won’t feel too wobbly.
Some paddlers may be afraid of getting tangled in the leash, but that’s no reason to leave it behind. It really is indispensable, because if you fall in the water, you can quickly lose sight of your board. There are some leashes that come loose when you put pressure on them (more than an average fall).
When catching waves on an inflatable SUP, you have to stand in front of the wave and let it push you towards the shore. The idea is to stay on the wave and not let it pass under you or force you to nosedive.
A wide stance with bent knees will keep your body’s center of gravity low. Place your feet slightly offset (one in front of the other) and tense your core. Make sure your SUP has good contact with the water surface – both nose and tail should be above water. Adjust your body weight to achieve this.
Holding your paddle on the side opposite of your front leg will help your balance.
Can You Surf With an Inflatable SUP?
As a general rule, inflatable paddle boards are suitable for surfing in the ocean. However, it’s advisable to have some surfing experience before trying it on an inflatable SUP. You won’t be able to ride the waves the same way surfers do. But with time, you can learn to skillfully navigate the tides with your lightweight board.
If you are wondering what kind of inflatable SUP is best for surfing, here is some advice:
- In general, the shorter the board and the narrower its tail and nose, the better it is for surfing. This is because it is more maneuverable and has less surface contact with the water. This allows you to ride the crest of a wave much better.
- Meanwhile, it is also possible to go windsurfing with a SUP! Windsurfing paddle boards have a mast base, to which a windsurfing sail can be attached to the deck. If you’re after the greater adventure, be sure to get such a specially designed windsurf SUP and grab the wind of opportunity!
- Finally, touring paddle boards are perfectly good for calm seas and downwind. They can be very speedy, though less nimble, and are therefore best suited for low-key surfing over a greater distance in low waves and weak currents.
How to Choose an Inflatable Paddle Board for the Ocean
In general, ocean paddling is very different from paddling in the calmer waters of a lake. Therefore, choosing the right board is very important. Anyone looking to buy an iSUP board for the ocean should pay very close attention to what material is used and how the boards were processed.
Wave boards are great for the ocean because they have a higher curve in the front area to better hit waves. Additionally, the nose is less pointy than on a regular SUP, while the tail can be narrow and rounded. This shape gives shorter boards more stability and lets them track in a straighter line in wind and waves.
Due to their compact size of up to 8 feet in length, they are relatively easy to maneuver in the ocean. You, as the paddler, have a high degree of control over the board and respond very quickly to your steering.
Furthermore, the thicker your board is, the more stable it will be on the moving water. Choose one that is at least 6 inches thick for better balance.
It’s best to choose an iSUP that is between 2 ft 5 in and 3 ft wide, especially if it’s your first time on the ocean. That will give you enough space to balance the movement as it’s still quite unfamiliar at the beginning. As a general rule, the heavier you are, the wider the inflatable paddle board should be.
The inflatable paddle boards are usually inflated to the required pressure with a hand pump. But iSUP boards get their stiffness from the so-called drop stitch core inside them. These are tightly stitched threads glued or welded to fabric webs. Most inflatable paddle boards then have one or two layers of strong PVC covering the drop stitch core.
Put simply, single-layer technology involves gluing one layer around the drop stitch, which makes the board lighter but less stable. With a dual layer, the layers are glued together twice to provide more durability and thus higher load-bearing capacity.
Do You Need iSUP Accessories for the Ocean?
Apart from your inflatable SUP, you’ll need a number of add-ons for a tour at sea. Many of these will be included if you buy a ready-to-use inflatable SUP set.
Here’s a list of the most important items to pack for your ocean tour:
Whether you choose a single-blade or a double-blade SUP paddle is up to you. However, due to saltwater exposure, fiberglass or carbon fiber paddles are the better materials. Aluminum paddles might corrode with time.
Also, paddles made of aluminum usually have no buoyancy and so they would sink. It is better to have a paddle that floats. Otherwise, you’ll have little chance of retrieving it if you accidentally drop it in the waves.
Find out which is the best electric pumps for iSUP in this article - and whether you can inflate it with a compressor instead.
Non-Slip Deck Pad
Even paddling on a very calm ocean, your board will probably wobble and sway more than on lakes. In order to stay put, use a non-slip pad under your feet.
Alternatively, you can get a board-length pad that covers the entire surface in case you want to take another person or a dog along for the ride.
Did know that some dogs enjoy paddle boarding too? Read this article to learn more.
A leash is vital to your safety on an inflatable board. On one end of the leash is a padded strap for your ankle, and the other end attaches to the board’s eyelet.
This way you always have your board with you – especially important if you ever lose your balance and fall off. Ocean waves could otherwise quickly drag the iSUP out of your reach.
What Is the Best Time to Paddle Board in the Ocean?
Tides and currents are extremely important for safe paddling in the ocean. Checking the weather seems like a no-brainer even for a relaxed day at the beach. But for paddling, unfavorable tides and currents can, well… turn the tide on your paddling plans.
Strong currents can knock the board out from under your feet, or at the very least change your course. You want to enjoy paddling, not struggle to stay on the board the whole time. Plan ahead to avoid currents, and ask around at the beach before you enter the water in case any unusual currents appear that day.
Low tides bring higher waves, so try to avoid them in the beginning too. Check on weather websites for the daily Surf Zone Forecast and the Map of US Tide Times. You can also ask at the local surf stores – you’ll find up-to-date information on the situation.
Stand-up paddling on the ocean can be a very social activity, so you’re likely to make some friends on the beach. Keeping an eye on each other can give you confidence and reduce any risks.
In general, it’s always a good idea to let someone know your whereabouts in advance, have your emergency contact person ready, and have your phone with you in a waterproof case.
Living close to the ocean or planning your next vacation, you surely yearn to take your paddle board out for an exciting tour off-shore.
As long as you follow a few simple recommendations, there is nothing standing between you and your next SUP adventure on the open sea.