March 14, 2022 6 min read

The Environment And Paddle Boarding

Woman with GILI inflatable paddle boards near lake

Paddle boarding is a gateway to nature, connecting you to both green and blue spaces. Reduced stress and increased relaxation are among some of the best health benefits of paddle boarding, all because you are surrounded by the great outdoors, the environment, and the natural world. 

Let’s face it, nothing beats the sound of birdsong in the tree canopies overhead and a gentle breeze on your face while you cruise along on your paddle board

As we get so much from the environment when paddle boarding, it is important to ensure we do all we can to protect it. As paddle boarders, we are stewards to the ocean and rivers, guardians of lakes and all other waterways. It is our responsibility to do our part in protecting the health of the water. 

So how can you do your bit and make the world better from your SUP? Here are 6 ways you can stand up for the environment, minimize your carbon footprint, and become a more sustainable paddle boarder.

Environment And Paddle Boarding: The Damaging Effects

Overall, paddle boarding is one of the lesser damaging water sports out there. However, there’s no hiding that there are negative effects from paddle boarding on the environment. 

Unfortunately, there are several issues plaguing our waters from the SUP world:

  • CO2 emissions from traveling to your favorite paddle boarding location
  • Toxic waste from board manufacturing
  • Habitats disturbed by paddlers and manufacturing
  • Plastic pollution left behind, the most common being plastic bags, plastic straws, and plastic bottles

But it is not all doom and gloom! As paddle boarders, we are in a unique position to help the environment and do our part to reduce waste, protect natural habitats, and encourage others to do the same.

1. Buy Good Quality SUP Equipment

GILI inflatable paddle boards on a river

Buying high-quality goods is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint and overall waste, and the same applies to purchasing paddle boards

Some brands are beginning to use sustainable materials to make paddle boards, such as recycled plastics, cork, or even bamboo and other wood types. Other brands give back to the environment, funding charities and cleaning up the oceans themselves. Knowing who you are buying from is a major win in the fight for the environment.

Here at GILI, we live by our mission statement. Every paddle board purchase helps save our oceans with contributions made to turtle conservation and plastic clean-up projects.

GILI Sports Inflatable Paddle Board Collection

Every paddle board purchased from GILI helps save our oceans, reefs, and endangered sea creatures. A portion of every SUP sale goes to one of several charities we work with! How cool is that? 

All of our inflatable paddle boards are made using the highest quality military strength PVC material for the best durability and stability (perfect for beginner paddle boarders). Discover our complete collection:

Every GILI SUP also comes with a minimum 2-year manufacturer’s warranty period. This means, in the unfortunate event of needing a serious repair or replacement, you are covered and we can ensure no waste goes into the environment. 

Why Is Cheap Equipment So Bad For The Environment?

Cheap SUP equipment is often made using poor-quality materials, meaning they are not built to last life’s biggest adventures. Cheap, throw-away goods have a terrible effect on the environment as consumers need to buy again and again, adding more and more strain on the manufacturing chain.

Along with this, cheap materials are generally not sustainably sourced. These budget brands do not consider the effect they have on the environment. This is definitely something you should consider before buying a SUP!

Inflatable vs. Epoxy Paddle Boards

Traditional hard paddle boards are made using polyurethane resin, epoxy, fiberglass and foam. All of these materials are easy for the natural world to digest.

Inflatable paddle boards are made from PVC, often using a drop stitch technology to provide a sturdy deck once inflated. Some brands go above and beyond to even use recycled plastics. 

Assuming you get your hands on good-quality paddle boards, inflatables tend to be more durable. Therefore, out of the two, iSUPs are much more environmentally friendly paddle boards. 

How To Make Your SUP Gear Last Longer

GILI komodo inflatable paddle board

Looking after your SUP gear is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some top tips to help you keep your equipment in good condition for longer:

  • Rinse off all saltwater after a paddle session. Saltwater can damage the seams of iSUPs over time. 
  • Ensure your SUPs do not get damp or moldy in storage. Using proper wall racks and drying your equipment after use is a good place to start. 
  • Repair any dings on epoxy boards, or small punctures on inflatables, straight away. This will reduce the amount of water damage.
  • Use paddle board bags when traveling with your board. This will help protect your gear from unnecessary damage. 

2. Use Eco-Friendly Gear Made From Sustainable Materials To Cut Down On Plastic Waste

Sustainability does not stop at your paddle board. From backpacks and dry bags to reusable water bottles, you can add to your gear in an environmentally conscious way. 

Adding a trusted water bottle to your gear is awesome and a quick way to put a stop to single-use  plastic. And trust us, once you do, there is no going back!

3. Rule Of Three

The ‘Rule of Three’ is used by beach lovers, surfers, and paddle boarders alike. The principle is extremely simple – pick up at least three pieces of plastic each time you are on the beach. 

You don’t even have to be on the beach! Take this principle to any outdoor space while you’re out and about on your paddle board. If everyone takes this Rule of Three on board, then the world will definitely be a better place and we can keep all of our favorite paddle board locations great!

Why not have a specially dedicated bag to collect and store trash with as you paddle? By doing this, you are giving back to nature and helping to clean up the environment all while enjoying the natural space. 

4. Change How You Get To Your SUP Spot

GILI inflatable paddle board on a car roof rack

Did you know, a typical vehicle in the USA pumps out around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, based on information collected by the EPA. (This does vary based on a vehicle’s fuel, fuel economy, and the number of miles driven per year.) So make sure you do all you can to reduce your emissions.

Got a gang of paddle boarding buddies in the area? Carpool with them to the lake or beach to save the fuel of going in separate cars. Or better yet, if you live near enough to walk or bike to your local paddling location, use that as the warm up!

Changing how you get to your SUP spot is a small thing you can do to reduce your overall carbon footprint. You will feel so much better for doing it.

5. Leave Only Footprints

“Leave only footprints” is great advice to take across all outdoor activities. If you are stepping into nature then this should always be at the forefront of your mind. 

It is as simple as it sounds. Leave. Only. Footprint. No trash, no plastic, only footprints.

6. Join The Movement

And finally, why not get together with like minded people? There are thousands of groups and charities across the globe working towards the common goal of protecting our planet. Join the movement and find your own tribe in your local area to get involved with. 

Here are some incredible organizations that you can get involved with:

Become A Sustainable Paddle Boarder 

It does not take a lot to become a more sustainable paddle boarder. Just by making a couple of small changes to your practice you can do your part and make a difference. Together we can protect the planet!


🏆 Are paddle boards environmentally friendly?

Generally speaking, paddle boards are made from some pretty nasty materials. Fiberglass, epoxy, and foam produce harmful toxic waste when manufactured, which obviously has a detrimental effect on the environment. To combat this, some manufacturers carefully source their materials and even choose to use recycled materials. 

As long as you get yourself a good quality paddle board that will last you years, then you are on the right track to doing your bit for the environment. 

👍 What is a sustainable paddle board?

There are some paddle boards emerging made from recycled materials, bamboo, and even cork. These eco-friendly models are still relatively new. Other sustainable options include high-quality inflatable paddle boards that will last you a lifetime. 

🏝️ Can paddle boards be recycled?

Everything can be recycled to a certain extent! Many inflatable paddle board companies encourage you to bring your old board for them to recycle. Getting the materials back into the manufacturing process is one piece of the puzzle in saving the environment.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

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