Words by Rebecca Parsons
With the limited daylight hours available in the winter, it can be challenging to find time to get out on the water. Daytime paddles are our go-to, but evening paddles provide a gateway to an entirely different world. The air is crisp, the water is calm and many marine species only come out at dark. But before you go stroking off into the dark abyss, you need to take some safety precautions. That’s why we've compiled this essential safety guide to standup paddling after the sun goes down.
Choosing the proper location is the first step to a safe and enjoyable nighttime paddling experience. While an empty lineup may sound enticing, the ocean is unpredictable and poses some serious threats when dealing with limited visibility. A calm bay, lake or harbor is an ideal location for an evening session. Just be sure to check the hours and regulations to ensure paddling is permitted off-hours.
Plan your route
Before setting out on an evening paddle, it’s a good idea to plan your route ahead of time and inform someone of your expected return time. Check the wind and weather to ensure you won't get stuck in a storm or battling upwind conditions on your return trip. Save the challenging paddles for the day and plan an "easy" route for your night excursion.
Bring a buddy
It is always a good idea to paddle with a partner, but the buddy system becomes even more important at night. Two pairs of eyes are better than one and in case of emergency, having backup can be the difference between life or death.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a paddleboard is considered a vessel and as such, is required to abide by the same safety regulations as any other vessel. That means having a light is not only a good idea, but is required by law.
When paddling at night, you must have a flashlight or lantern onboard that produces a white light. The light should not be continuously displayed, but should instead be shown to approaching vessels in order to prevent collisions. While not required, strapping lights under the board is a fun way to attract aquatic critters for your viewing pleasure.
Paddlers are also required to have a PFD and "sound-producing device" on their vessel at all times. We also highly-recommend wearing a leash.
Try a tour
If you're new to paddling or don't have the proper gear, try signing up for a tour. Evening "glow tours" are growing in popularity and are offered by a number of shops, resorts and hotels. Most tours include certified equipment and trained guides, so all you have to worry about is showing up.