Words by Rebecca Parsons
Standup paddling is the perfect platform for exploring new places, soaking up sunshine and taking in beautiful scenery while standing on water. While paddling during the day is the norm, paddling at night opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The crowds go home and creatures of the night come out. If a busy life and limited daylight hours are prohibiting you from getting in your daily paddle, consider paddling after hours for a truly unique SUP experience. Here are five reasons why you should consider picking up a paddle after the sun goes down—see you on the water.
Beat the Crowds
If you live in area that receives a lot of daytime water traffic, paddling at night can be a fun way to have the place to yourself. Although the hustle and bustle of boats and beach-goers can be exciting, sometimes it's nice to simply paddle in solitude or the company of a few close friends. Under the curtain of nightfall, the only company you'll have to worry about is that of the aquatic species that call the water their home.
Light the Way
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, paddleboards are officially classified as a vessel. This means they must comply with the same safety regulations as a boat, including having a light aboard while paddling at night. Luckily, there are a number of companies that make lights specifically for paddleboards.
The law requires that you have a white light on your board to indicate your presence to oncoming traffic. But in addition to this safety light, you’ll want to see what’s swimming beneath your feet. To light up the underwater world, there are a number of lights designed to strap onto the bottom of your board for an enhanced, after-hours experience. Good lighting systems include NOCQUA, SUP Light Tube, Surfstow Supglo Underwater Lights, and Brite-Strike Technologies.
Creatures of the Night
You've probably seen flies hovering around a porch lamp due to their attraction to light. But did you know that the same thing often happens underwater? Projecting light beneath your board starts a natural food chain reaction. Plankton are lured to the light, which in turn draws in smaller bait fish and eventually larger fish in search of prey. In addition to fish drawn to the light, paddling at night gives you the unique opportunity to feast your eyes on an array of nocturnal and crepuscular critters such as sharks, eels and catfish.
Glass On, Glass Off
One of the never-ending challenges of paddling is navigating the wind. Unless you're doing a downwind run, wind can turn a normally nice paddle into a brutal slog against the gusts. While nighttime is not immune to wind, more often than not, evening paddles will result in calm, glassy conditions. If rising at the crack of dawn in search of prime conditions isn't your thing, an evening paddle will likely yield similar conditions.
With the end of daylight savings comes limited hours available for paddling if you work a 9-to-5. Between shuttling kids to daycare, commuting to the office and feeding the family, the sunlight is long gone by the time you're ready to paddle. Although it's not the norm, paddling at night is a great way to get in your workout when the sunshine is limited. Plus, it's an adventure.
As always, it is important to prioritize safety while on the water but especially at night. Paddle with a buddy, choose a calm location, wear a leash and PFD, carry a light, check the weather and be sure to comply with all Coast Guard rules and regulations.