The Importance of Learning Ocean Paddling Skills

Why it make sense to learn ocean paddling skills

So you’re a paddler who lives inland, miles away from any ocean. Maybe you’re new to SUP, or maybe you’ve been paddling your local lake for a while. Either way, you don’t think much about the ocean because of proximity and/or general interest. Then why on earth should you learn how to paddle in salt water?

Simply put, learning ocean paddling skills will make you a better paddler, period. No matter where you paddle or what your SUP goals are.

The Ocean is not the Lake

When we paddle on the ocean, as opposed to smaller lakes and inland water bodies (excluding our Great Lakes, of course) we are more likely to encounter the effects of tide, current, swell and wind. And those effects are generally more intense than what we are used to on our inland waterways.

Paddlers will need to know how to read those conditions and how use specific techniques for reacting to and handling them. Techniques like foot steering, edging, and bracing come to mind – techniques that are super helpful when it comes to dealing with disorganized water.  No matter how much time you’ve spent paddling freshwater, dipping your blade into the ocean for the first time is going to feel different, and it will be more difficult. If you do have goals of doing an ocean crossing at some point, no amount of preparation on flatwater is going to have you ready for what Mother Ocean will throw at you.

Only one place to learn

There is really only one way to learn these techniques, and that is in the ocean environment. Sure, we can practice foot work and bracing et al on a calm or calm-ish day on the lake, but until you have a chance to put those skills to work on the ocean, it’s hard to get a sense of just how helpful it is to have them in your wheelhouse.

The more experience you get in the ocean, the more you will know what to expect so you can remain calm and confident, in any situation, any where.

Reap all the benefits

Once you do learn how to handle yourself and your board in salt water, you will have more overall confidence as a paddler. You will be better able to handle your board in all conditions, including the ones on your local paddle spot. That means you’ll extend your paddling time by being able to go out in rougher conditions. You will be better prepared to handle unexpected conditions like a freak storm or gnarly boat wake. You will become a more efficient paddler, as well. It can also open up more training and racing opportunities for you, if you are so inclined. And it will make you safer and maybe more likely to have an amazing experience should you decide to paddle on the ocean during a vacation.

Remember, more skilled means:

  • More confidence
  • More efficiency
  • More paddling opportunities
  • And safer paddling!

My abilities as a paddler – both on the standup board and in longboats like the outrigger canoe and the surfski – improved a thousand fold when I started spending more time ocean paddling and sup surfing. It went to the next level once I got instruction from professional ocean paddlers and accomplished friends with lots of ocean paddling experience. I can say categorically that kind of training made me stronger and more mentally prepared to handle all the crazy conditions thrown at me during my six Chattajack races.

Bottom line, learning anything new when it comes to paddling only makes us better and more well-rounded and that means we will have even more fun on the water! I’d tell you that even if Paddle Monster wasn’t hosting an ocean skills training camp next year, too! That camp will be a great opportunity to take your paddling to the next level, in a great environment, with great water women and men there to guide and inspire you every step of the way. I guarantee your flatwater paddling will be the better for it!