Paddling the River Campsie Linn in Scotland with Terri Bryce, Barry Wallace, Jon Arman and Will Taylor for SUP the Mag. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Paddling the River Campsie Linn in Scotland. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Gear Up For SUP Part 2: Whitewater

How to gear up for the most intimidating SUP discipline

Whitewater paddling is one of the most dangerous, and therefore most intimidating, SUP disciplines. But it’s also one of the most rewarding. The feeling of cleanly running a frothing, canyon-constricted stretch of challenging whitewater is unmatched. We can't recommend it enough. But you need to be safe. That means finding a mentor or guide that knows the ropes and is willing to teach you the intricacies of river. That also means having the right equipment. Below are the kits you need to succeed.

Personal floatation device. A Type III PFD is mandatory for rivers. They're designed for heavy wear and will keep afloat when you go down.

Board. Stability is your friend in the aerated water of the rio. Go at least 32-inches wide with length up to 10 feet. Hala Gear, Badfish, NRS and Starboard all make good river-specific shapes. Inflatables will handle the most abuse.

Helmet. Gotta have it. Falling head first is surprisingly common in rapids, even little ones. A helmet protects your most important resource and should be worn on all swift-moving water.

Shoes/Sandals. You might be scouting rapids, you might be portaging, you might be bouncing down a shallow riffle: you want to protect your feet for all of it. Water-specific shoes or sandals with a burly sole make life a lot easier. Closed-toes are preferred but not mandatory. We like Chaco, Teva, NRS and Astral.

Paddle. Your river paddle should be about the same length as our surf paddles (a few inches overhead). Unlike other disciplines, you want it to be hefty and solid, so it can take beatings off rocks, logs, etc. In this case, cheaper is sometimes better.


Check out Gear Up for SUP Part 1: The Transporter

More tips for whitewater river SUP.