As you climb from beginner to advanced in paddle boarding, it can be difficult to separate the accessories that you need, versus what is frivolous and unnecessary.
In this guide from Paddle Outside, you’ll learn about all the different types of paddle board gear. Determine if it’s something you need to get started, if it’s a quality-of-life upgrade that makes that paddle life easier, or if it’s only ideal for specialty paddle boarding sports.
“As a result of the cutting-edge designs in the latest boards, the popularity of paddle boarding is soaring”
So, what gear do you need to paddle board, and what’s unnecessary?
Technically, you don’t need a lot of gear to paddle board beyond the basics like a leash, life jacket, and paddle.
While we’ll cover the absolute basics in this guide, we’ll also help you look at the broader scope of accessories that could give you ideas for your next paddle adventure.
How Do You Carry Things When Paddle Boarding?
Most paddle boarders keep their items with them on the paddle board, enclosed in a dry bag with straps. This dry bag attaches to the paddle board and keeps your things dry even if water splash or it’s dumped overboard.
Your drybag should be clipped underneath the cargo bungees on the board, and ideally clipped into place. Still, if you feel nervous about bringing your items with you, or if you’re not experienced enough with getting on and falling off the board yet, you should leave your items on shore.
Remember, safety first. Keeping a floating waterproof cellphone case on your person may be helpful if you need assistance on the water and you’re paddling alone, but it is ideal to at least be paddling with one other person and have a strong swimming ability.
What Do You Do with Your Car Keys When Paddle Boarding?
You don’t want to lose your car keys in the water, so it makes sense that a lot of people would wonder what to do with their car keys when paddle boarding. Every paddle boarder has a slightly different solution.
Almost all paddle boarders agree; however, you need to keep your car keys safe out on the water. You can use a dry bag or stick your keys in your phone case if you have extra room. If you have swimwear that has a zippered pocket, you can also keep it there.
What Do You Do with Your Phone When Paddle Boarding?
Most paddle boarders either leave their phone on shore or take it with them on a lanyard with a floating waterproof bag designed specifically for phones.
Not all waterproof phone cases are made equal; it’s important to make sure your phone fits in the case, and make sure you know how to properly open and close it to prevent water from getting in if it does fall in.
Do I Need a Wetsuit to Paddle Board?
No, you do not need a wetsuit to paddle board, especially if you’re on a lake on a warm summer day. You will, however, need a wetsuit if you are planning on paddle surfing in the ocean (which is not recommended for beginners.)
Wetsuits may also be necessary in the beginning and end of the season, allowing you to paddle in the autumn and spring when the water is still cold.
Depending on your region, a wetsuit might not be necessary at all. For example, if you live in an area where the water stays warm for the times of year you go paddling, then you can skip a wetsuit altogether.
Must Have Paddle Board Gear
Paddle boarding is a sport that a lot of people find freedom in. (2) Imagine being out on the water, free and clear of responsibilities and able to enjoy the cool breeze and get away from the sounds of the shore. That feeling is what drives a lot of people to get on a board.
“If you thought the view from the shore was good, it’s nothing compared to the view from your paddle board.”
If you plan on getting out on the water, however, it’s important to stay safe. This section covers your must-haves when it comes to paddle boarding gear, especially if you’ve never been out on the water before.
A SUP leash keeps you attached to your board if you fall off at any point while on the water.
Not only does it keep the board close to you, but it provides you with a physical line that you can follow to help orient yourself towards the surface of the water.
It goes without saying that an SUP leash is just as important to wear as much as a life jacket is. A leash will keep you attached to your board and help to pull your device away from other people in the water.
The typical SUP leash is about 8-10 feet long and comes in various styles in order to reduce drag and provide safety while paddling. In the case of an emergency, you’ll be glad to have one with you to help orient yourself!
A life jacket is a critical part of paddling out on the open water. Even if you are confident in your ability to swim, a life vest or personal flotation device (PFD) will help you stay safe out on the water, especially if you are paddling alone.
Life jackets and (PFD) buoyancy aids are simply a must while paddleboarding. There are a number of types of life jackets that leave your shoulders free for paddling but the more typical style is a foam vest.
While the buoyancy aid is great in regards to freedom of movement, they only really provide help in swimming. In contrast, a life jacket is designed to keep you floating with minimal effort on your part. When deciding what to use, weigh out the pros and cons with your health and safety in mind.
Many states require you to carry a PFD at the very least, if not wear it, while you are out on the water.
A dry bag is an excellent accessory to have with you while paddling for storing keys, wallet, and other valuables or items you’d like with you.
When choosing a dry bag, be certain to find a model that is both durable and submersible. The point of one is to keep your gear and electronics safe in a watertight enclosure.
Most are sealed by means of rolling or folding the top down before clipping them closed. This style is more commonly used than a ziplock closure since there is no chance of a zipper snagging or breaking.
Before taking your dry bag out for a water adventure, test it out to see exactly what you should expect from it. It is a good idea to strap this to your paddleboard’s cargo area or clip it onto the board in case you fall.
Electric Air Pump
Many SUPs will come with a hand pump or will have hand pumps available for that brand of paddle board.
For those that prefer something faster that will save you an arm workout: Rejoice! Having an electric air pump or compressor will make your pre-paddle workout quicker and easier.
An electric air pump is used to force air into your board using electricity, much like how a bicycle pump would work. Having one of these around allows you to inflate your board right from your car while you finish smearing on the sunscreen.
Sunscreen is essential to keeping your skin healthy – but there are other things to consider before you slather some on. Consider the length of time you will be out on the water and take that into consideration. Also, many sunscreens offer sweat and water-resistance as a perk so look into those options, as well.
Most of all, it’s important to also be aware of the ingredients in your sunscreen. As you dip your feet or hands into the water or fall in, the substances in the sunscreen leech into the water.
Not only is this bad for reefs and oceanic fish, but it can be an ecosystem killer for lakes and rivers as well. Keep your skin – and the lake – healthy by applying aquatic-safe sunscreen and allowing it to set before getting into the water.
Depending on where you are paddle boarding, salt and freshwater may require different formulas that may be banned in some places.
For example, only reef-safe sunscreens are allowed to be used in Hawaii. Research your location for what to use. Keep your skin – and the environment – healthy by applying the proper aquatic-safe sunscreen and allowing it to set before getting into the water.
Paddle Board Gear You Didn’t Know You Needed
There is a lot of paddle board gear out there that isn’t strictly necessary unless you have a specific goal in mind.
Some of these accessories solve a specific problem that can add a big quality of life improvement if you’re having a specific problem – such as paddle board grips to get rid of blisters – but if you don’t get blisters, it’s not going to make a difference.
The accessories covered in this section can add a lot of fun to your next paddle adventure, but aren’t something that you need on your first time out on the water.
Paddle Board Seat
Want to leisurely paddle board from the comfort of a seat? Want to combine the portability of a paddle board with an afternoon kayaking?
A paddle board seat mimics the seat of a kayak, allowing you to strap it around your board and take a casual ride around the lake without having to worry about the stand-up part of stand up paddle boarding.
This is an excellent way for you, especially if you are undecided between kayaking and paddle boarding, to get the best of both worlds without storing a full kayak in your garage.
Above are the two kayak seats we most recommend that won’t eat away at your wallet.
Look into the different styles of attachable seats that allow more comfort and support than if you were to simply sit down on the paddle board. Most models are strapped or clipped on to create a sturdy, stable fit.
The best benefit to owning a kayak-conversion seat for your paddle board is that you will save a tremendous amount of storage space typically needed to store and transfer a separate kayak from location to location.
Kayak Paddle Converter
If you’re looking to take a casual ride around the lake with a seat or cross-legged on your board, you can’t forget the kayak paddle converter.
The typical single-blade SUP paddle is not nearly as functional as a dual blade kayak paddle. Switching out the blade on your paddle will work to give you more options for playing in the water.
Many places that sell paddle board seats tend to also offer the paddle converters as part of a kayak conversion kit, but you can get them separately to better customize your seat and paddle combo.
With a kayak paddle converter, you have the option to kayak without taking up the space you would need to store an additional kayak paddle.
A great way to spend the nighttime is to go out on your board and enjoy the stars. That, however, isn’t always possible due to safety.
Having a light on board your paddle board is mandatory for maneuvering the waters at night due to U.S Coast Guard law. Outside of that, they are beneficial for locating your board and yourself in case of wipeouts! Many LED lights can clip right onto your board or can be worn on your person.
The one we recommend here has the best longevity in the water, as well as the most versatility currently on the market, all without putting a dent in your wallet.
It’s time to add lights to your SUP. Not only does it help you stay safe by keeping you visible during the night, but it looks pretty awesome once you get it into the water!
Out on the water, you can get mighty thirsty. A fun way to relax is to bring a SUP cooler on board with you. Designed to be secured on the cargo area of your board, a SUP cooler allows you to bring cold waters, seltzers, beers, or wine with you so you can enjoy a cold drink out on the water.
Coolers come in a variety of shapes and sizes so look for one that fits the activities that you’re interested in. A larger, hard case cooler might hold more but it can be unwieldy to transport to your destination and take up more room than you’re hoping for.
For those that need something lightweight, there are foldable coolers that take up far less space but limit what you can bring with you. Consider what sorts of adventures you plan to go on before purchasing and packing up your SUP cooler.
The one we recommend above is our favorite for a casual afternoon for 1-2 people.
Do you get blisters after paddling for a while, or struggle to hang onto your paddle? Paddle grips are a great purchase, if so.
Not only will paddle grips help you tell whose paddle is whose in a group setting, but it will also give you more secure grip on the water.
Paddle Board Strap
A paddle board strap is one of those quality-of-life additions that you never think you need, but can’t live without once you try it.
Some paddle boards do not come with the straps or cords used to carry your device or sell them separately. A good paddle board strap will provide ease and comfort as you tote your SUP device from one location to the other.
We always recommend purchasing one like this one from Funwater which is compatible with almost any type of SUP. The paddle hanger also detaches, giving you the option to simply attach the padded shoulder strap to the side D-rings of your board
These shoulder straps attach to the handles or D-rings on your paddle board so you can carry your board bag-style to the water after it’s been inflated.
If you’re on the taller side and your SUP has D rings on the side of the board, you can usually get a way with a cheaper strap that hooks onto these D-rings instead of wrapping around the board, but you will typically sacrifice some shoulder padding as well.
Floating Phone Case
A floating, waterproof phone pouch allows you to safely take your phone out on the water with you, so you can track your mileage, get in touch with local rangers and coast guards if needed, and take lots of pictures.
Before you bring your phone bag out for the first time, be sure to test it in the sink with a piece of paper closed inside it. This will help you ensure that the seal is perfect and won’t let any water into the compartment.
If you don’t feel like you have a lot of grip on your board, or have an aversion to lake water and algae on your feet, then water shoes can help you in both cases.
When you look for water shoes, ensure they have some grip on the bottom to help keep you secured on your board.
UV Protective Paddle Board Clothing
UV protective clothing is one of the best investments you can make as a paddle boarder. These pieces of clothing will help keep you cool and prevent you from getting too much sun while lowering the amount of sunscreen you have to use.
These clothes can also be used in other outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, kayaking, and boating.
A Floatable Hat
Floating gear is always helpful whenever you go paddling. Not only will it help keep you cool and prevent some sunburns, but if you fall, you aren’t likely to lose the item in the lake. This helps protect your investment as well as helps keep the waters clean.
SUP Board Bags
If your SUP didn’t come with a bag, then you may want to look into getting one. It’s not a necessary piece of equipment, but it’s helpful to keep all your gear together, as well as prevent any surface damage or punctures in the case of iSUPs.
Before you purchase a bag, it is important to ensure it can fit the length and width of your board first.
For the Specialty Enthusiast
For some, paddle boarding is a recreational time on the water to relax and have fun with no additional pressure. For others, however, paddle boarding is a competitive sport that tests their limits while allowing them to enjoy life on the open water. (3) While not necessary for beginners, these accessories make life easier for the dedicated enthusiast.
“Stand-up paddle is a candidate to be added to the Olympics, which has recently been binging on adding new sports and events.”
For the specialty enthusiast, there are accessories that make paddle boarding even easier, especially since surfing and races typically require a hardboard over an inflatable.
This means more dedicated space to store the board, as well as easier transportation. Plus, you’ll also need accessories that allow you to enjoy your paddle sport of choice!
SUP Car Rack
These car racks are primarily used for hard boards but allow you to easily carry your board on the top of your car without any additional hassle or stress.
Often, these racks are custom-fit to your vehicle, but are also available as universal racks that support a range of vehicle models.
Paddle Board Cart
Primarily used for schools or during events, these carts allow you to tow multiple paddle boards at once.
These can also be useful in more casual settings, however, if you have a large paddle group to carry boards for, or struggle carrying your board out to the water.
Paddle Board Garage Storage
If you own a hard board, garage storage can be a hassle. It’s important to keep the board from getting too many scrapes and scratches, but it can be difficult to place it somewhere where it’s not also in the way.
These storage solutions come as racks or shelves and allow you to store one or more hard boards in a way that keeps it out of your way and safe until paddle season.
Whether you’re looking to do SUP yoga or want to catch some fish from your board, an anchor kit can help you stay secure in the water without floating with the current. Anchor kits come with different designs and lengths so that you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
Are you a paddle racer or paddle surfer? You may benefit from specialty fins.
Specialty fins are particularly useful if your board is built for a specific purpose, as differently shaped fins allow you to move in the water in subtly different ways. Choose from standard kayaking fins to longer but sleeker touring fins, and everything in-between.
Be sure to choose a fin that fits your paddle board’s system; hardboards typically have a screw-in while inflatables typically have a slide-in mechanism.
What Are the 3 Fins for on a Paddle Board?
A lot of paddle boards – even inflatable paddle boards – come with 3 fins on the bottom. The main, larger fin might be detachable to allow you to add different shapes for different activities.
Some boards only have one fin; this is considered the classic board set up for touring and racing as the board’s forward momentum is stronger without as much in the water.
Three fins bite into the water and allow the board to better stabilize during each paddle stroke, making turning easier and giving you more balance on the water. These boards also allow you better maneuverability than a single fin board.
Can You SUP Without a Fin?
No, you cannot SUP without a fin. If you were to try to paddle a board without fins on the bottom, you would have no resistance in the water.
What this means is that, instead of tracking a fast straight line like a one-finned board might, or staying maneuverable like a three-finned board, a no-finned board would turn continuously in tight circles.
Worst case, if you were to switch sides with each paddle stroke, you would wind up fishtailing across the water slowly, which is a big waste of momentum and energy.
SUP Camping Tent
For the more extreme paddle boarder, SUP camping tents have been a recent emerging trend in the water. Paddle boarders will anchor their board in very shallow water and pop these over their board so that they can spend an evening bug-free or in relative privacy without having to set up camp on land.
Fishing Rod Holder
Essential for the paddle fisher, these fishing rod holders ensure that you have somewhere to set your rod when you’re not using it.
This is particularly useful if you’re grabbing something from the cooler or want to take a short break from fishing without the risk of your rod sinking or floating away by accident.
Paddle Board Sail
Paddle sailing is a trend that is gaining some wind recently, but it is originally developed for paddle surfers that want to get a little more speed on their board while they’re out on the water. This is most ideal on large lakes or ocean shorelines that get winds strong enough to propel you and your board along.
Paddle Surfing Wetsuit
Ideal for extending the paddle boarding season, paddle surfing wetsuits allow you to get wet while staying warm no matter the temperature of the water. This is essential for the ocean paddler, particularly on the Atlantic’s cold waters, or useful for any average paddler on the lake during a cold snap.
Paddle Boarding Springsuit
A springsuit is a wetsuit that doesn’t cover the legs and arms. It’s great for warmer spring days where you want to keep your core warm – in case you fall in – without making you feel overheated in the springtime sun. It’s a great starter wetsuit for people who aren’t on board with getting out during winter yet, especially if you like to paddle surf beach waves.
Learn Everything About SUPs with Paddle Outside
Paddle Outside is your top resource for all kinds of paddle boarding guides, education, and resources. Community driven with new topics and guides based on frequent requests, you’re certain to find all your paddle boarding information here.
We’ve made everything easy to find when you need it most, listening to the needs of paddlers just like you. Whether you’re out on the water or dreaming of a sunny day, we’ll help you find what you’re looking for.
It’s time to discover your next paddle adventure and discover more about the great outdoors. Learn everything you need to know about stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) all on one website. Visit Paddle Outside today for more guides like this.
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- Forbes, Paddle Boarding Tech: How The Sport Is Evolving Thanks to Inflatable Board Innovations, https://www.forbes.com/sites/leebelltech/2018/02/15/paddle-boarding-tech-how-the-sport-is-evolving-thanks-to-innovations-in-inflatable-board-designs/?sh=17dd8538147f
- HuffPost, 5 Reasons Stand Up Paddle Boarding Should Be Your New Hobby, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/5-reasons-stand-up-paddle-boarding-should-be-your-new_b_58bf067ee4b04d49eb262a5f
- NYTimes, Let’s Settle This in Court: What, Exactly, Is Stand-Up Paddleboarding?, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/sports/olympics/stand-up-paddleboarding-surfing-canoeing.html