Who says the sun has to be out when you’re paddleboarding? With the sun setting earlier in the winter, evening rides offer a way to enjoy more time on the water.
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) at night is a special way to experience nature under the moonlit sky. The water is calmer, the air is thinner, and the darkness heightens your senses, allowing you to hear and see more wildlife.
With the growing popularity of nighttime paddleboarding, many SUP shops have started offering guided evening tours. While there is no replacement for a carefully guided nighttime tour, there are precautions you can take to safely try nighttime paddleboarding on your own.
Check your local regulations to make sure you can paddleboard at night. In many places, a paddleboard is considered a vessel, and you’re required to have the same safety equipment as boaters. This includes proper lighting, a personal flotation device, and a whistle.
Always paddleboard in calm waters at night, preferably near ambient city lights or under the glow of a bright moon. Never go out in the ocean or anywhere with limited visibility. Steer clear of bodies of water with boat traffic and keep an eye on the shoreline.
Mount a white light, this powerful SUP suction light, on the top of your paddleboard so that you’re easily visible to boaters. Charge and turn on your lights before hitting the water to avoid looking for your lights in the dark later.
Take your phone with you and drop a pin where you launch. Keep your phone in a waterproof case on a lanyard around your neck so you can always get back to shore if you get turned around.
Plan out your route ahead of time, and only go places you’ve already experienced during the day. Most importantly, always go with a friend or a group when paddleboarding at night.
Now that safety is covered, let’s move on to the fun part – accessorizing! There are a few essential items you’ll need on a nighttime SUP adventure that you normally wouldn’t bring during the day.
Depending on where you live, bugs can be brutal at night, especially at dusk. Bring bug spray and wear a long sleeve shirt and pants to help prevent bug bites.
Although you probably prefer to wear a swimsuit on the water, never underestimate how much temperatures can drop at night. Pack lightweight gym clothes in a dry bag in case you need to warm up on a cool evening.
Bring a headlamp, but turn it off while you paddle. Shining an artificial light actually hinders your ability to see at night. Try to rely on the moonlight and ambient light to guide you, and only use your headlamp when stopped.
Underwater lights are fun accessories that serve a dual purpose. Not only do they illuminate your board and make you more visible to others, but they help you see beneath the water’s surface. Since some fish are attracted to lights, there’s a good chance for sea creature sightings.
There are several different types of underwater lights:
- An underwater LED tube light runs down the center of your board and takes seconds to install. The SurfStow LED tube has two 3M suction pads that make it easy to mount and remove, and it floats in case it falls off your board.
- For a more affordable option, you can use high-intensity marine lights that are designed to be mounted onto a boat. With some clever rigging and zip-tying, you can attach these lights onto the bottom of your board to create a floodlight effect around you.
- The ultimate in underwater lighting, Nocqua’s LED lighting system features 7 different colors and 3 operating modes. Nocqua systems are often installed on paddleboards used for nighttime SUP tours. Their sleek lights and harnesses make them easy to attach and remove, while minimizing drag in the water.
Take a Night Tour
If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into nighttime paddleboarding on your own, take a tour.
Winter is the perfect time of year to try a sunset yoga tour and find tranquility under the starlit sky. In some areas of the country, you can join a bioluminescence tour and watch tiny sea organisms light up the water around you. From November to May, paddleboarders in Florida can experience the glow of Comb Jellies, a species of jellyfish that emits a beautiful blue-green light, but doesn’t sting.
Taking a tour can give you a new perspective on a familiar place as you build your confidence at night with a small group. Most tours even provide all your gear, so all you have to do is show up.
Paddleboarding at night is truly a unique and serene way to experience nature. You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for your favorite lake, river, or bay under the magic of the moonlight. Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop your from booking a night tour or inviting a friend out for a sunset paddle.