Stand Up Paddle Board Maui

More and more tourists visiting Maui are starting to venture out on the water on their own (via kayak, stand up paddle board, snorkeling, etc.).  As someone who is in the water weekly (paddle boarding or surfing), I have witnessed common mistakes that tourists tend to make when trying stand up paddle boarding for the first time.  I have assembled this list of tips to help make the experience as enjoyable and safe as possible.

Check Ocean Warnings: Most active ocean sport enthusiasts have cellphone apps that keep them in the loop on weather conditions and marine warnings. There are also websites like or that will detail what conditions are expected to be like. If a small craft advisory is posted (which actually happens more often than you would think), then you should absolutely avoid the ocean for the day.  This is a warning the weather service puts out to advise any small water vessel from entering the water.  I am always shocked when I see people heading to the beach with paddle boards when small craft advisories are in affect.  You are asking for trouble. Conditions can change in minutes on the water and on a paddle board you will have little control of the situation if winds start to pump.

Go Early in the Morning: Most every local that goes stand up paddling regularly will be on the water by 8am at the latest.  This is when the ocean is at its calmest and most like a lake. Tradewinds have not yet started blowing and visibility under the water is at its strongest.  If you find yourself dropping your board in the water between 11 am and 5 pm, you most likely will be fighting choppy waters and winds.  This causes the board to constantly wobble with the chop and makes paddling upwind a workout.

Don’t Set Up in One Foot of Water: I will never understand why beginners continue to make this mistake day in and day out. Basically, a beginner will carry their board and paddle out into the water until they are in about knee deep water.  They then drop the board and paddle in the water and start putting on their leash/adjusting their sun glasses/posing for a picture/re-configuring their swimsuit/relaxing a bit from carrying the heavy board all the way to the water.  The worst place you can be on a beach is the area in the water before the waves crash (“the shore break”).  If you are standing in this zone for more than 10 seconds, a wave is most likely going to break and send you, your heavy paddle board, and paddle flying.  If there are some decent size waves, this can be quite dangerous and you could get very injured.  So, I would recommend putting your leash on when you are standing on the sand.  Watch the shore break wave pattern for a minute or two and then time your entry into the water accordingly.  Put your board in the water and quickly get out past the shore break (walk the board out, or paddle on your knees quickly), so that you are in water that is 5-6ft deep.  Once you are past the shore break you can start posing for pictures.

 Wear Foot Booties: Most rental companies will offer foot booties.  I know they look dorky, but so does peeing on your foot after you step on a poisonous sea urchin (Wana).  You will inevitably fall off your board, and if you over a shallow reef, those booties are the only thing protecting your feet from sharp coral.  The booties also provide some traction on your feet when entering the water while stepping on some slippery rocks or mossy landings and holding a heavy board.

 Don’t go Too Far Off Shore: As mentioned above, weather conditions can change quickly on the ocean. For this reason, we do not advise paddling way off shore as a beginner, because winds could pick up and the journey back to shore will be increasingly more difficult.

[Photo Source: A.belloc]




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