Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the OBX

SUP on a budget!  Stand-up paddle-boarding on the OBX!

Paddle-boarding has taken the water sports community by storm! For many, it is an approachable sport, combined with a great core workout on the water. With it’s Hawaiian roots fused with current board sport technologies, paddle-boarding has drawn comparisons and popularity from surfing. However for some, it has more in common with cross country skiing than riding a surfboard. In an early lesson I took, an instructor made that connection for me (with skiing), and it really helped simplify the sport and help me visualize “good form”. We stand on a SUP board like a skier in stance, not a surfer. Also, paddle boarding requires us to stand up straight, unlike other board sports which encourage a low center of gravity, and “loose” stance.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is the perfect locale to try out an SUP. One way, is with a private lesson or tour. While I always encourage lessons with beginner surfers, I think you can go with or without. There are firms up and down the coast that offer lessons, and for scenic tours and wildlife discovery, this may be just the ticket for you. Most 2 hour tours run about $70. I always take tip $ for a good instructor, just sayin’.

Feeling adventurous and have some experience with similar sports? Boards can be rented as well, for a better value. Ocean Atlantic Rentals, and other outfitters offer boards for $50 per day, or about $150 per week. They offer basic tips to get you going on your own; they even provide tie down straps to rack the board on your car. I recommend that you check the weather, check the wind, and maybe start with a day rental. I like the OAR store in Duck, NC, as you can paddle right out their back door onto the sound! You can always extend the rental if you like it, but it is a serious core workout, so don’t overdo it on day one!

You can also buy a reasonable paddle board package at Kitty Hawk Kites or Island Revolution Surf Shop. There are packages in the $900 range and some include a basic paddle, as well. The type of board and material used determine the price, but this mid range sport is not out of reach for lots of folks to get going in. Buying a used board at the end of the season for $500 or so is another great cost-effective option to secure gear.

SUPI recommend starting out with your OBX paddle-boarding in the Albemarle or Pamlico sound, not the ocean. On a very calm day the Atlantic may be fine, but it is amazing how much more difficult it can be with wave action, even a little bit of wave action. I usually start out by sitting on my knees, centered and balanced, and kneeling my way out to deeper water, paddling. Most boards have a handle grab on the deck, and this is usually a place to kneel (or stand), and know you are centered. Bigger guys scoot toward the back of the board a bit. Smaller folks may be a bit in front of the handle. Most boards are covered with a soft traction top decking that provide traction, so wax should not be needed. In the sound, I often wear old running shoes or surfing booties to protect my feet from shells and debris. Much of the sound can be shallow as you hug the coastline, so jumping off your board onto something sharp is very easy to do.

There are many public places to access the water and paddle. From north to south:

  • The Carova* 4×4 beaches (ocean). *Bonus, you may see a wild horse!
  • The boat ramp at the Whalehead Club in Corolla
  • The boat ramp in the town of Duck. Cruising the boardwalk there is a favorite!
  • The boat ramp on Bob Perry Road in Kitty Hawk village
  • Public accesses on Bay Drive in Kill Devil Hills
  • The sound access on Soundside road in Nags Head
  • New Inlet, just south of Oregon Inlet
  • The Avon Pier (ocean)
  • Canadian Hole, between Avon and Buxton
  • The Frisco Pier (ocean)
  • The beach accesses between Frisco and Hatteras village

Learning to SUP does not require much gear, other than the board and the paddle. Here is a list of a few other considerations of stuff to bring, or not:

  • Sunscreen
  • A big hat. One that can get wet, lost, and offers you SPF protection.
  • Sun glasses. Again, be prepared to lose them, but they will save you! Croakies may help!
  • A back pack. Again, this will probably get wet, but if you are going to explore it may be a wise accessory. A camel back hydration backpack is a good call, too!
  • Old shoes, aqua socks, or booties
  • I say no cellphone goes, in most cases, but if you bring it, put it in a ziplock bag (or two). I usually want to get away from technology and distractions when I paddle, but if you are not going to hug the coastline, you may want to consider taking it for safety reasons (in the sound). I would never take my cellphone in the ocean for a paddle; it will never make it back with the surf! Murphy’s Law!
  • Bottled water, put it in your backpack.
  • Some cash and my ID. I would not risk losing my whole wallet. Again, zip lock bags.
  • Leash for your paddle, optional for sure, but some believe in it!
  • A watch. You will probably not bring your phone, so have an idea of your time frame.
  • A personal flotation device. Most rental outfits provide them, just ask if not!
  • Gloves. Your wet hands are going to be on a wet paddle for a long time. You may desire a pair of gloves to prevent blisters, etc. I do not like them, unless the water is cold.

Other Considerations:

  • Your paddle can be a tool to help you avoid creatures and critters, push off, and push away branches. Never forget you have a big stick in your hands out there, and never drop it. I may fall off of my board, but I try to always keep my paddle with me so that I am not swimming after two things! Lol.
  • Safety, we can’t forget it or preach it enough. Use the buddy system. Let others know where you are paddling and establish a time frame when you will return. With any water sport adventure, this is crucial.
  • Be aware of the weather forecast. Mainly, big changes in wind on the OBX can leave you high and dry! Also, the tides can play a role we often underestimate. Tide water rushing through an inlet can make it impossible for us to paddle against, so watch it!
  • Water temperature. Often the spring waters can remain cool until June, or later. Speak to your outfitter about wetsuits, booties, gloves, and any other thermal concerns.

I hope you will enjoy the OBX from a new perspective; stand up on a paddle-board. There are many friendly, quality companies that can guide you and give you “local” information on how to enjoy it our waters from a SUP. For all ages, SUP can be a workout that is tons of fun! Paddle with your kids, paddle with a pet, paddle with your friend! Make a plan and get wet this vacation. If we can help you get started with this exciting sport, please give us a call.