In my mind, one of the best things about stand-up paddleboarding is the simplicity of it. Because I’m a professional angler by trade, normal days on the water for me typically involve an actual boat of some sort, tons of fishing tackle, sonar, GPS, and a pile of other fishy paraphernalia. Even on those river days where we’re wading, I still end up with as much stuff as I can carry on my back; there’s just something about being prepared for whatever fishing condition I might encounter that gives me confidence…and confidence catches fish.
Well, the SUP ain’t just about catching fish. The SUP is my escape back to enjoying the time on the water for what it is, getting a little exercise, and having fun…fun like when I fished solely because I loved to be around the water and figure out how to catch them. The quickest way to mess up simple fun is to complicate it…so don’t!
Having said all that, there are still some well thought out items that make my days on the SUP productive and safe. I mean, simple is good and all, but being prepared counts, too! Safety first…
A board leash ought to come with every SUP sold in my opinion. The leash is such an easy way to keep your board close no matter what, including the occasional intentional dunk to cool off. I also use the leash to attach the board to a tree/bush/rock so it stays put when I beach it to spend a little time on the bank. An inflatable PFD is another gotta-have-it item; I most commonly wear a waist pack style unless the water is very cold. In that case, I wear a suspender style for increased buoyancy. Between the PFD and the board leash, I feel safe in any watery condition. The last safety item I carry is a coach’s whistle to make a stupid amount of noise should my board deflate from damage and leave me bobbing.
My Bonefish paddleboards are equipped with brackets to attach fore and aft fishing racks. I use the rear rack on pretty much all fishing trips; it holds two rods and gives me something to hang a soft tackle pouch, towel, etc on. For more ambitious trips, I also use the front rack so I can easily carry more rods and a bucket in which I can place almost anything including my catch should I intend to eat it. Usually, the bucket holds spare tackle, the anchor, a water bottle, and other miscellaneous items. The racks keep fishing rods stored safely upright and prevent accidental scuttling.I mentioned the anchor; I use a 5# kayak anchor and it saves a lot of frustration when trying to stay on one spot to fish. Where the anchor rope it attached to the board determines the angle the board comes to rest when the anchor line is tight…something I consider first when setting up to cast a specific direction.
Being on an SUP gets us gloriously close to the water, which also means our stuff is in danger of getting wet. Hence, a roll top Dry Pak bag can be important, especially if wet equals trouble (think cold). A dry towel, light jacket, rain gear, and my keys and wallet dwell in the dry bag on cool days. We’re all married to our phones these days; I carry mine in a waterproof Dry Pak case lashed to the SUP.
A couple of other items I carry include high quality polarized sunglasses. Paddleboarding allows us to roam the shallows quietly and it’s fun to see what we’re floating over. Put a neck strap on your glasses! A small pair of pliers with side cutters go on every fishing outing for a variety of uses and I keep them lashed to the fishing rack in easy reach. I recommend synthetic technical “water shirts” as they keep the sun at bay while staying cool and drying quickly…perfect for paddleboarding.The last thing I recommend is my favorite; a second paddleboard! Fishing from a paddleboard is fun but shared experiences with friends are better. And given that Airhead Bonefish paddleboards condense down to a backpack when not in use, you can invite friends on your outings and not overwhelm your storage space. Yep, the only thing better than an ISUP is two of them and a friend to share it with!