Choosing the right route can be the difference between a great SUP or test of endurance between you and Mother Nature (Mother Nature always wins!). Heres some helpful tips to make sure you get it right:
1. Pick a route suitable to your level or ability.
If you're a complete beginner attempting the channel crossing is probably not a great shout, however it can get boring doing the same SUPs over and over again and you won't progress unless your pushing yourself.
If you're a beginner, safety is paramount, stay in shallow waters, beaches with lifeguards or harbours until you're comfortable and in complete control of your SUP.
If conditions look hairy or a bit wild, they are not going to get any better looking once your out there in the middle of it.... If in doubt don't paddle out!
3. Do a risk assessment, I'm not saying you need to walk the shore with a clipboard and an SOP manual for hours, simply look for hazards you don't want to encounter on the water e.g boat traffic channels, ferry crossings, exposed rocks, dangerous tides. The easiest option here is to ask the local SUP school or lifeguard.
Tell a friend where you are going and what time to expect you back, sounds simply but this is one of the most effective water safety practices for any Watersport or activity.
4. Know your environment. Certain environments are completely unsuitable for specific Watersports, for example fast flowing rivers are highly dangerous for SUPing. What may seem like a slow current could push you into dangers like sharp branches, sunken debris, rapids, leash snags, drops, the list goes on.....Avoid medium to fast flowing rivers.
5. Be aware of changing environments- For example that lovely paddle across a flat harbour could turn into an epic trek home if the tides go out and you weren't prepared for the 2 mile return SUP which is now a 2 mile return hike with all your gear. just check the tides before you go out. 2 hours either side of low or hide tide is the safest time to SUP as this is when the tide is most stationary, anything after this window will see harbours emptying or filling, just something to be aware of !