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How To Pack And Plan For The Perfect SUP Island-Hopping Adventure

SUP boards are fantastic vessels for those looking to exercise while taking a quick loop in friendly waters. They are wonderful pleasure crafts for those just looking for quick fun, but some SUP boards crave longer journeys. Touring and tandem boards in particular are perfectly suited for those looking to embark on a long distance.

If you have always wanted to take your SUP board a little further, it might be time to plan a fun-filled trip to a few nearby islands. There are few adventures more thrilling on a SUP board than paddling out to an uninhabited island that can’t be reached by car, plane, or even motorboat. Before you paddle out, however, you must have all the items and tools necessary for a perfect day of paddling and island exploration.

When packing for a long day of paddling to multiple islands on a SUP board, you need to pack all safety essentials. This means bringing a PFD, ample water, a first aid kit, sun protection, and a phone or smartwatch for navigation and emergencies. Bring breathable clothing and a high-performance bathing suit. You should use extra rope or straps to properly secure your essentials.

Bring The Right SUP Board For Your Adventure

If you have multiple boards or are shopping for the best board for island hopping, remember bigger is often better. Touring SUP boards are ideal for these trips that involve cargo and long distances. Most touring boards start at about 12 feet and can be as long as 16 feet (or longer).

You also want to consider the width of the board. Make sure the board has at least 28 inches in width for stability and also cargo space. You can always make whatever board you have work, but make sure it can handle the longer distance and increased weight. If you use an iSUP, test the increased weight and cargo setup on shorter distances. You always want to make sure the board has good rigidity, and balance, and glides well above the water line.

12 to 16 feet

Packing List For Island-Hopping Adventures On Your SUP Board

1. PFD For All

All SUP safety essentials should be on your island-hopping packing list. Life jackets or a PFD of some kind are important (and often mandatory) when riding your SUP board. When you take longer journeys on your SUP then a PFD becomes even more critical. Make sure you choose a life vest that is comfortable and functional for longer paddling journeys. The way your PFD fits and functions can make or break a longer paddle.

2. High-Performance Bathing Suit

Everyone wants to look great in pictures, especially in photos taken during an epic island-hopping journey. When planning your island-hopping SUP adventure, however, you should put function or fashion when selecting a bathing suit. You are going to do lots of exercising and movement during an island-hopping day, so choose well-made and fast-drying materials. Use a suit that you have used before, and know does not rub your skin the wrong way.

3. A Sun Hat And Polarized Sunglasses

If you are bouncing from one island to another then you are most likely going to choose the sunniest, and most pleasant day possible. Therefore, you need to remember a sun hat and polarized sunglasses. Polarized glasses help drastically reduce the glare from the water, and make seeing in front of you much easier. A sun hat protects your face from the sun, and it also helps you see around you with ease.

4. Waterproof Phone Case (And Phone)

Your phone, or a smartwatch, is important to have as a piece of navigational equipment. It is also your emergency contact device in case you need help. So you need to have a device that will have service, and also a way to protect it. A waterproof phone case is a great way to keep your phone safe. It also allows you to take photos while paddling without worrying about your device getting wet.

5. Waterproof Sunscreen

An island-hopping adventure is likely to be a very lengthy endeavor. This means you are going to be exposed to direct and strong rays of sunlight for a dangerous amount of time. A strong SPF (70 and above) is recommended for these types of adventures. Make sure you choose a sunscreen that is both waterproof and easy to re-apply periodically.

6. A Planned Route Map

A planned and well-researched route is one of the most important things to bring along on an island-hopping SUP adventure. Sure, in some cases you can play things by ear, but a plan is key to maximizing time and minimizing potential issues.

Plan a route and map it out on your phone or paper. Take currents, tides, and weather into consideration. Also think about how much you are carrying, the fitness of individuals involved in the journey, and the distance to each point.

7. UV-Protecting and Breathable Clothing

In addition to sunscreen, some protective clothing is also helpful when trying to avoid sunburns. Choose clothing that is known to be both breathable and protecting against UV rays. A little bit of covering-up can save you a lot of pain later. It will also help keep you cool and comfortable throughout the day.

8. Quick-Dry Towels

A towel to dry off and to lay on is essential when you are hopping from island to island. But you don’t want to carry around a wet towel all day. So bring a quick-dry towel to use throughout your island-hopping SUP adventure.

9. Lots Of Water

Water is important for any SUP journey. If you are spending the entire day on your board, and heading to uninhabited islands, water becomes even more important. Bring ample water to last you 24 hours, just to be safe.

10. Extra Straps Or Rope To Secure Items

A lot of SUP boards come with bungees in designated storage areas. While these are helpful, it is wise to bring additional ropes and straps. This ensures all your items are securely fastened to your board during your island-hopping journey. Rack straps that sinch tightly are great if you have a cooler that needs to be tightly secured.

11. Cooler Bag With Food And Frozen Water Bottles

A cooler bag is a lighter and space-saving alternative to a cooler. A well-made cooler bag should be able to keep food at a safe temperature for several hours. Instead of ice packs, consider bringing frozen water bottles, this way you have more cold water to drink once they melt.

12. Dry Bag With First Aid And Essentials

A dry bag is an essential item on any long paddling journey. They can hold anything you don’t want to get wet. This includes your towel, any extra clothes, and most importantly - your first aid kit. Make sure you pack along first aid essentials when you embark on an island-hopping SUP adventure.

Check out our top dry bags of 2023

13. Snorkel, Mask, And Anchor

If you are paddling in waters with good visibility, bring your snorkel, mask, and anchor. This will allow you the chance to explore the waters around the islands. One of the benefits of paddling on a SUP board is you can often get to hard-to-reach snorkeling and swimming spots that boats can’t get to.

14. Collapsible Umbrella or Sun Protection

If you are headed to islands with limited shade, then it is a good idea to pack some shade of your own. A collapsible umbrella or some form of packable sunshade is a great thing to add to your SUP adventure packing list.

15. A Hammock

A hammock is a light but wonderful item to pack for an all-day SUP adventure. It allows you the chance to lay out and relax without getting sandy or dirty. It is perfect for an afternoon snooze in the shade and is a great addition to any beach setup you have.

16. Waterproof Speaker And Other Entertainment

A SUP adventure that involves multiple islands is probably enough excitement and entertainment, but a little more can’t hurt. If you are already bringing your phone, then a small waterproof speaker might be a welcome addition. Some relaxing tunes when enjoying a secluded beach can add some much-appreciated ambiance to an already epic day.

Tips To Ensure A Smooth Ride On Your SUP Island Adventure

Diligently Check The Weather

Any time you plan on taking a longer SUP trip, you should check the weather leading up to the moment you leave. Also, make sure you check it during the trip as well. Weather can change quickly, especially on the water. Keeping yourself up-to-date on weather patterns is essential for ensuring a smooth and pleasant day of paddling.

Make A Packing Checklist

Use the above checklist, and modify it as needed, to make sure you don’t forget any essentials. The last thing you want is to reach your first island just to realize you forgot an essential item. Perfecting a touring SUP checklist will also help you quickly and efficiently prepare for all your future SUP adventures.

Don’t Overpack (Or Underpack)

Remember you have to paddle with whatever extra weight you carry. So if you are going somewhere with ample shade, maybe leave the umbrella behind. If you can get away with just bringing food that doesn’t need to be chilled, you can leave the cooler at home. But never forget the essentials, especially your safety essentials like PFD, first aid, navigation, water, and sun protection.

Make sure you are aware of your board’s weight capacity, and stay under the limit. This is particularly important if you plan on paddling a longer distance and may encounter some choppy conditions.

Keep Currents, and Tides In Mind When Mapping Route

Mapping a route in advance is helpful, as it keeps everyone on the same page, helps with time management, and sets a clear objective. As you plan your island-hopping trip, make sure you consider more than just the islands. If you are in salt water, you need to factor in tides and currents. Always try and plan a route that helps the tides work in your favor, not against you.

Research The Islands Before You Paddle Out

Lastly, before you head out on an island-hopping trip on your SUP board, make sure you are allowed to step foot on all the islands. Some islands look deserted and public but are private. Others are bird and animal sanctuaries. Make sure you don’t get in trouble for trespassing on your SUP adventure. Also, look into the best area of the island to approach and paddle in. Sandy shores are always better than rocky ones, and placid waters are safer than waves and shore breaks.

Final Notes On Preparing For An All-Day Island SUP Adventure

A SUP journey to an island, or several islands, has all the makings of an epic day on the water. Before you venture out on this journey, however, you need to make sure you are fully prepared. It is always best to bring a longer touring-style board that is at least 28” wide when embarking on longer paddles, but most boards should work as long as you plan and pack accordingly.

Remember to bring all your essential safety gear, including a PFD, navigation equipment, first aid, sun protection, and ample water. Bring a quick dry towel, breathable clothing, and an umbrella if you need some shade when you reach the islands. A hammock and waterproof speaker are fun, light, items that can add even more fun to your island excursion.


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