mayo 25, 2022 9 min read

Everything You Need To Know For The Best Watersport Getaway In The USA

Man and a woman going to spiral jetty for paddle boarding

Not ready to take to the air yet to travel far with your paddle board? One thing this global pandemic has taught us is that there are so many incredible places closer to home that may not be explored yet. Take a look around your local neighborhood, discover new places round the corner, and may just be able to have yourself a happy little stand up paddle board staycation.

Our hearts go out to our landlocked friends, but that does not mean there is not any sign of blue in your near vicinity. Check out our GILI ‘SUP Near Me’ guides for your state and you may discover a nearby lake or river that you never knew you could paddle. 

Whether you are hoping for a quick dip with your paddle after a long week at work or want to plan a longer break, you are going to need all the right gear for your SUP staycation. From paddle boards to inflatable docks, we have put our heads together to give you the ultimate paddle board staycation guide. 

Why Have A Paddle Boarding Staycation?

Woman paddle boarding on a crystal clear lake

This world is a beautiful place, and chances are, there is no shortage of breathtaking destinations right on your doorstep. With the ever-growing concern for the climate, reducing our travel can only be a good thing. So why go far when you can stay close to home and get a SUP session in?

Staycations are great for both the mind and body. Taking time out of your regular busy schedule is necessary to keep healthy and happy. Add in paddle boarding and you have got a perfect staycation. 

Staying at home solves any problems as to where to store your SUP – some hotels or cabins can have limited storage space. It will also save money because you won’t be dining out, which is often one of the most expensive parts of any vacation, or have sky-high travel expenses.

Explore more at home, discover new paddle spots, and take in the beautiful scenery around your local area. Having a SUP staycation will give you a totally different perspective on where you live!  

Top 8 Things You Need To Think About For The Best SUP Staycation

Before you head out to the nearest body of water and start paddling on your doorstep, there are a few things you need to think about to get the most out of your paddle boarding staycation. 

Whether you are heading to the beach or plan to have a gentle cruise on the local lake, you will need to consider the following aspects to have the best staycation.  

  1. Weather
  2. Sun Protection
  3. PFDs and Safety
  4. Other Water Lovers
  5. SUP Accessories
  6. Clothing and Wetsuits
  7. Changing Towels
  8. Transport


Man preparing his SUP on the lake at Antelope canyon

The United States of America covers a huge area with a vast range of geographic features, including mountains and deserts. This means the weather varies dramatically from state to state. 

Some places have unpredictable weather that can change at the drop of a hat. If this is where you are based, then you need to make sure you prepare for all weather conditions during your SUP staycation.

You need to think about sun protection (more on this below) if you are living in those blessed sunny states. If you are based further north, like Wyoming or even Alaska, then you need to think about staying warm and as dry as possible. 

Sun Protection

Sun protection is an absolute must when paddle boarding during the summer months. Days spent on the water under the sun can easily end in sunburn. 

Make sure you use plenty of waterproof sunscreens. Remember to choose reef-friendly products if you are paddling over coral. Hawaii has even banned any sale or use of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate to protect their surrounding reefs. 

Choosing the right clothes to wear for paddle boarding is a good method of sun protection. If you have sensitive skin, it is highly recommended to wear long sleeved rash guards to keep the sun off your skin. 

The beauty of doing a staycation is you aren’t limited to airline weight allowances. You can take as much sun lotion and protective clothing as you want!

PFDs and Safety

Do you live in a state that requires you to wear a life jacket at all times? Perhaps the local reservoir insists on PFDs for anyone going out on the water. If this is the case, you need to add a comfortable and reliable safety vest to your SUP gear ASAP!

We highly recommend Type V PFDs. This is the best life jacket style for paddling activities. The low cut means it does not restrict your movement and is super lightweight to wear all day long. 

There are other safety aspects you need to consider:

  • Paddle with a buddy! Convince your best friend to join you on your SUP staycation, because it is always more fun with a friend (as well as safer).
  • Use a SUP leash in open water – you don’t want to be swimming after your paddle board if you fall in.
  • Do not use a leash when paddling shallow rivers and whitewater rapids. It can get caught on underwater tree roots or rocks and cause you serious problems. 
  • Do a scout of where you want to paddle if it is new to you, just to be sure it is safe to paddle and within your capabilities.
  • Only paddle within your limits (and make sure you check that weather forecast!)

Other Water Users

Whenever you go out paddle boarding you need to be aware of other people around you. Whoever you encounter during your staycation, ensure you are respectful and give other water enthusiasts space.

Large lakes and reservoirs often attract sailboats, kayaks, and even motorized boats – especially on warm summer days. Out in the ocean you could encounter larger boats or surfers.

Make note that some national parks need you to register or obtain a permit before taking to the water. This is for your safety and as a small contribution to maintaining the area. 

SUP Accessories

Woman converts her paddle board into a kayak by using kayak conversion kit

You can maximize your paddle board staycation by loading up on the accessories. Adding to your gear with any of the below will take your paddle boarding to the next level and mix up the days spent out on the water:

  • Kayak conversion kits
  • Floating docks
  • Fishing gear

Convert your SUP to a kayak with a clip-in kayak seat and dual paddle blade. This is a slightly different way of paddling, giving you a chilled sit down style and mixes up the experience.

Inflatable and floating docks are awesome to get the whole family involved. Set one up in the middle of a lake, anchor it in place, and let the fun commence! You can use it as a party platform, a rest stop, or perhaps even cast a fishing line from it.

Talking of fishing, get yourself the best fishing setup together for your SUP staycation to help melt away your worries. There is nothing more relaxing than going off grid on your paddle board with a fishing rod. And if you are lucky, you may even catch something to throw on the BBQ!

Clothing and Wetsuits

What to wear while paddle boarding depends on the weather where you are. Clothing can either be used for sun protection, as previously noted, or for warmth. 

If you take your paddle board staycation in a state that has cold water, you will want to get yourself a wetsuit to keep you as warm as possible – just in case you take an accidental tumble into the water! There are so many wetsuits available, so be sure to choose the right thickness for the water temperature you will be paddling:

Water Temperature (ºF) Thickness (mm) Hood Gloves Boots
>72º None – you can go in your swimmers! - - -
66º 2mm – shortie/spring suit. - - -
59º 3mm – full suit or short, your choice! - - -
54º 4mm – full suit. - - Optional
48º 5mm – full suit. Optional Optional Yes
<43º 6mm – full suit. Yes Yes Yes

Seasoned paddle boarders often choose to wear waterproof shoes. This gives you extra grip on the deck and helps you if you need to hop across rocks.

Changing Towels

Following on from your paddle boarding attire are changing towels or “robies”. This simple addition to your outdoor gear is a complete game changer for two reasons:

  1. Privacy to get changed after every paddle regardless of where you are.
  2. A warm wrap post-paddle if your staycation days are windy or cold.

Choose between a basic towel style robe or invest in a fleece lined zip up type. Both are fantastic and you definitely will not be regretting your decision!


Transporting a paddle board using a car roof rack

Unless you are extremely lucky and live right on a great paddle boarding destination, you are going to have to briefly think about transport. How far away is your paddle spot? Do you need to drive to your chosen river, lake, or shore? Or is the journey even further than that?

If you have your own paddle boards, then you may need to get roof racks fitted to your vehicle. Fiberglass paddle boards are generally harder to travel with and you should use day bag covers to avoid dings or damage during transport. 

Inflatable SUPs have the advantage of ease when it comes to traveling. Simply deflate, roll up, stow away in the SUP bag, and you can be on your way.

Are you getting your buddies together for the paddle board staycation? Car share to save on fuel and get into the holiday mood as soon as possible!

Recommended Paddle Boards For A Staycation

For the best staycation you are going to need an awesome paddle board that is both versatile and reliable to keep up with your adventures. All of the SUPs from us here at GILI are bundled together with all the additional gear you need to get paddling straight away. 

Here are a few recommendations to give you some SUP-inspo.

GILI Air 10’6 / 11’6 Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

Teal air inflatable paddle board package

  • A go-anywhere SUP that performs well in any water conditions
  • Good for beginners and intermediate paddlers
  • Designed for stability, speed and portability

GILI Mako 10’ Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

Green mako inflatable paddle board package

  • All around type paddle board 
  • Designed for riders 5’10 or under – great for kids!
  • Compact and super lightweight SUP

GILI Manta Ray 12' / 15' Multi-Person Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

Blue manta ray inflatable paddle board package

  • A multi-person SUP designed for fun
  • Suitable for dogs to join the party
  • Huge weight capacity

6 Ways To Keep Paddle Boarding At Home Fun

Mixing up your paddle boarding is the best way to keep it fun and interesting. So how can you do that?

  1. Give SUP yoga a try or cast your line to SUP fishing. Both are great on calm and flat waters while testing your balance skills.
  2. Work on your paddle stroke technique, practice makes perfect.
  3. See how fast you can go and challenge your friend to a race.
  4. Explore new areas around you and note down what local wildlife you see.
  5. Take a camera along for the ride to release your creative side.
  6. Head out for either sunrise or sunset, both are magical times of the day.


🏆 Can you stand up paddle board anywhere in the US?

Rivers, lakes, reservoirs, or oceans. As long as there is water then chances are you can paddle board! You do need to check locally for each location if they are open to the public, as there are some bodies of water in the USA that are on private property. Some places may require you to obtain a permit before you paddle, like National Parks.

👍 Do I need a license to paddle board in the US?

Believe it or not, there are a handful of states in America that require you to register your SUP and get a license. Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota are just some of the states that require paddle board licensing. Most requirements for registering a SUP are based on length, but there are some states with other specialized registration requirements.

🏝️ Do I always need to wear a PFD when paddle boarding in the US?

Again, wearing a PFD is a requirement in some states of America. These life jackets must be US Coast Guard Approved, meeting a certain standard of safety. Generally speaking, it is always good practice to have a PFD onboard, especially when exploring deeper and open waters.

❓ What do I need to do when paddling in warm weather?

Warm weather paddle boarding requires loose fitting clothing or swimwear (so you can jump into the water for a cooldown at any time), sun lotion and a hat for protection, and plenty of drinking water. It is easy to get dehydrated when paddle boarding in the summer.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

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