Paddling In A River VS. Paddling In The Ocean

Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) has quickly become a favorite pass time of many outdoor enthusiasts. Whether it is something you are doing here just to have fun on the water, or a new adventure you are looking to become more professional at, paddle boarding can be fun for all ages. The largest body of water we have is the ocean, but it is not the only body of water to paddle board in.  Rivers are also great spots for paddle boarding and offer many different sceneries along the way.


While both rivers and the ocean are amazing spots to paddle, they can be quite different. If you have only experience in paddling in one, switching to the other can be a totally separate experience. So, what are the differences in paddling in a river vs paddling in the ocean? Here we will educate you on some of the big differences you will want to know before you go.


Paddling in the Ocean

The ocean is a beautiful place for paddle boarding and a favorite to many. If you have never paddled in the ocean there are several factors you will want to consider before your first trip to ensure you have a fun, safe trip.


Currents and tides play a huge factor when paddling in the ocean. Unlike rivers, the ocean has tides and currents that can change drastically during the day. If you are launching from the beach, you want to be aware of rip tides, which can pull you into a current and push you out farther than you intended to go.  Many Florida beaches have rip tides, which are frequent in areas with waves of about two feet or higher.


Low tides are also known to have bigger waves, so if you are wanting a smoother time launching from the beach, check out when high tides are. You can find the times online or at your local surf shop. If you are a beginner, you may want to try in a small cove or marina for your first time in the ocean. Even in these more protected areas the wind can pick up. This can give you a great chance to work on your balance and stability before adding in the waves.


Be sure to check with lifeguards and the beach website you will be visiting to see if there are any advisories you may need to be aware of. Ocean conditions can change fast. When you launch in the morning the ocean can be glassy and serene, and an hour later the wind can pick up and large waves can start. 


Paddling in the ocean can leave you prone to getting more of a sunburn than paddling in a river. Typically, the rivers provide more of a shady area. The ocean does not provide tree cover or shade, so make sure you pack your sunscreen.


If you are taking precautions like checking the weather ahead of time and picking a spot that is known to have great paddling launches, this will allow you to have a great time in the ocean. The ocean provides a view like no other, and if you are lucky, you may even get the chance to paddle with a dolphin or manatee!


Paddling in the Rivers

Rivers are a favorite among many experienced paddle boarders. Like the ocean, rivers can also have their fair share of elements to be aware of before heading out on your first river paddle.


The current in a river is something you will want to look into before heading out. If it is your first time paddling a river, you may want to start somewhere known to have a slower current. Remember while paddling if you are going with the current on your way out, it will be harder on your way back going against the current.


The springs in Florida are great for beginners because their currents are not too fast and the water is clear, so you can see any debris that may be in your way. There are alligators and wildlife in the springs, but in most instances, they don’t want anything to do with you and will swim away or stay still while you paddle by.


Weather is another factor you will want to consider before heading out paddle boarding on the river. Lightning storms can pop up quickly in Florida, so make sure you check the weather before you decide to go. Even though the sky may look clear when you head out, the weather can get nasty quick. If you start to see clouds forming you are unsure of, it may be time to head back to protect yourself.


Inflatable boards are a great choice for rivers because they are lighter to carry and get in and out of the water. When paddling in the ocean, you want something a little more durable because the conditions can be harsher.


The ocean and the rivers are both beautiful, tranquil places to be on the water. It doesn’t matter if you are on your first ride, doing a yoga session on your board, or on a 10-mile paddle, paddle boarding is a perfect activity for all ages and skill levels. Doing your research ahead of time and picking a good location and nice weather can make or break a good trip.


Gear You May Need

A few items you may want to have with you when you are paddling the ocean or the rivers are:

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Hat
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Sunglasses
  • Safety Whistle
  • Cell phone with water protectant case


Rivers and the sea are both filled with awesome views and wildlife. Both are perfect to jump in and cool down in the water while on your trip. When you do see the wildlife, remember to keep a safe distance, many are endangered, and we do not want to disturb them in any way. It is a good idea to pick up any trash you see along the way to keep the waterways clean. Make sure to take in the beauty around you and have fun exploring the amazing waterways on you trip!




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