Incredibly, summer is rapidly disappearing in the rearview mirror for another year. But that is no reason to pack your stand-up paddleboard away in the back of the garage for six months.
Autumn is an excellent season for paddling, and some of the very best SUPing conditions of the year still lie ahead – but you do need to be prepared to make some adjustments.
Following are some tips about how to get the most from paddling sessions in the autumn months and some factors to take into consideration before you head for the put-in point. But first, here are three good reasons why you should keep SUPing well past summer.
3 reasons to keep SUPing past summer
1. The water is lovely
While the outside air temperature will start to dip significantly over the next couple of months, bodies of water such as lakes, lochs and the sea are typically at their warmest during autumn, after being heated up during the months of summer. This varies, of course, depending on where you are (oceans don’t behave in the same way as smaller seas), but don’t be put off getting out on your board by the thought of falling in – it might not be anywhere near as chilly as you expect.
2. More wilderness, less hustle and bustle
One of the joys of paddling outside of summer is that beaches, bays, lakes and rivers are a whole lot less busy, so it’s easier to get a park and you’re not jostling for space – you might even get the water all to yourself, with a greater chance of spotting marine animals, and the whole experience will feel a whole lot wilder.
3. See the sun up and watch it set from the water
Long summer days are glorious, of course, but to see the sun rise you need to get up in the middle of the night in the height of the season, and sunsets happen super late too. As we head towards the autumn equinox, it’s increasingly feasible to get up an on the water in time for dawn, or to go for an evening paddle and enjoy seeing the sun set and from the water, which is a special experience. Watching the moon rise and cast a silvery trail across the sea is a surreal and beautiful thing to behold, too. Take an action camera out with you, and capture some of these sensational scenes.
Just be mindful about where you are and what the tide is doing as darkness descends – better to be very close to your take-out point, rather than leaving yourself too much to do in the gloom – and be sure to pack a waterproof head torch, just in case!
4 tips to make the most of autumn/fall paddling
So, those are just some of the benefits fall SUPers can enjoy, but it’s important to appreciate that autumn is upon us, and conditions can and will occasionally get more challenging, so you need to be well prepared for the changes. Following are some tips on how to best enjoy a new season of paddling.
1. Air temperature
While the water might feel relatively warm, outside air temperatures will definitely start to drop quite rapidly as we get deeper into autumn, and this means you’re more at risk of getting cold once you’re back on your board. It’s harder to warm up once you’re cold, and that’s when bad decision making can start happening. To avoid that, it’s time to swap boardshorts and rash vests for a proper wetsuit – although a shorty will probably suffice for a while yet – and some good watershoes that offer some thermal protection. Make sure you have plenty of warm dry clothes ready to put straight on once you get out too, such as a good, thick fleece jacket. And it’s a great idea to have a hot drink waiting as well, in a reliable thermos flask.
2. Lumpy conditions
The water might be benevolently barmy in terms of temperature, but autumn can bring with it windy weather, big tides and generally choppy surface conditions. For serious SUPers, this is a challenge to be embraced – anyone can stand-up when the sea is like a millpond, but the best stand-up paddleboarders can still stay upright amid waves and swell. You can even combine your SUPing with a bit of surfing.
But…we all have to learn somewhere, and there is no shame in bringing out a bigger board for such occasions when the water is lumpy and bumpy. Larger volume boards are often referred to as beginner paddleboards, but they’re perfect for intermediate paddlers learning how to deal with more challenging conditions, and they’re often a bit cheaper than the high-spec models.
4. Don’t just stick to the coast
While sea- and ocean-facing beaches can serve up some really tricky conditions as autumn takes hold, inland waterways such as rivers, canals and lakes are often loads calmer, and ripe for being explored. Laws vary, depending on where you are, but you can usually paddle more rivers outside of summer, and the ever-changing display of colour the trees along the banks of inland waterways and lakes put on at this time of year is breathtaking.
While it’s wonderful to be able to park easily and not have to share the water with hundreds of other people, it’s important to bear in mind that lifeguards are very unlikely to be on duty once summer is over, and the fewer fellow paddlers and other water users there are around, the less likely it is that someone will spot you and raise the alarm if something does go wrong. And, remember, some of those autumn winds will be blowing offshore, which can quickly put you in a dangerous position if you’re not careful.
Don’t be put off by this, but do remember that, outside of summer, it’s more important than ever to take responsibility for your own safety while you’re stand-up paddleboarding. Read our guide about how to SUP safely, always wear a good PFD (personal flotation device / life jacket), paddle within your limits – ideally with a partner – and let someone know your plans. Take a phone, and stash it in a dry bag (along with some snacks and warm, dry clothing).
Lastly, while it might feel considerably cooler than it did when you were paddling in the middle of summer, autumn boarding can be an even more demanding exercise than summer SUPing, and it’s really important to keep your fluids up – if you get dehydrated, it doesn’t just detract from the experience, it can also lead you to make some bad decisions, which can be very dangerous on the water.