Stand-up paddleboarding is like a cross between surfing and canoeing, and is the fastest growing paddlesport in the nation!
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- Paddleboard gear
There are four types of paddleboards: surf, touring, inflatable, and racing.
If you're going to try paddleboarding, you will need:
- the board itself
- a long paddle
- a life jacket (required)
- a leash (highly recommended)
- Learning to paddleboard
The best place to try paddleboarding is on a smaller lake or quiet bay of a larger lake. Several state parks rent paddleboards, as well as canoes and kayaks.
Paddleboarding businesses across the state also offer basic to advanced instruction.
- Places to paddle
In the land of 10,000 lakes, there are many choices! Beginners should start on a smaller lake, or a quiet bay on a larger lake. As your skills improve you can try larger lakes and slow moving rivers. Fast moving rivers with rocks or other hazards are for advanced paddlers.
Minnesota state water trails
Minnesota has 35 designated state water trails. [Find one here.] These water trails are managed for recreation, and have designated accesses, rest areas and campsites. When currents are slow, flat water portions of the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix Rivers are suitable for intermediate paddlers or beginners with a guide.
Find water trail conditions
For conditions on a specific water trail, check the water trails river level map and contact your local DNR office for more information. Water levels are ideal for the less experienced paddler when the gauge is interpreted as medium. Note: gauge interpretations are based on conditions for canoeists and kayakers.
Be sure to always check the individual water trail maps before paddling! They include helpful information about rapids, dams and other obstructions.
- State parks with paddleboard rentals
Find a state park that rents paddleboards, canoes or kayaks.
- Registering your board
Registration is required if your paddleboard is over ten feet long. You can register your board at any deputy registrar of motor vehicles (where you license your car), or at the DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, Minnesota.
When you register your boat for the first time, you'll need its:
- type of hull material (wood, metal, or plastic)
- type of propulsion
- serial or hull identification number (HIN), if it has one
You'll also need to show a sales receipt that shows you have paid the sales tax.
- Stand-up paddleboarding safety
Paddling Safety Tips
- Always wear your life jacket.
- Know or learn how to swim.
- Tie a whistle onto your lifejacket in case of an emergency.
- Paddle on a lake or a calm bay of a larger lake if you are a beginner.
- Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back.
- Paddle sober. Never paddle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Be aware of weather and wind conditions.
- Paddle with a group, not alone.
- Take a paddling skills course to learn how to self-rescue and tow another paddleboard.
- Be aware of paddling hazards like rocks and low hanging branches.
- Know when to wear a leash (for more information read the "More SUP Safety" section below).
- In case of an emergency, bring a cell phone in a waterproof case or bag.
- Consider wearing footwear to protect your feet.
Paddleboarding and Minnesota law
- There must be a United States Coast Guard approved life jacket, either worn or on board, for each person.
- Children younger than 10 years old must wear a properly fitted lifejacket.
- After sunset, you must at least carry a white lantern or flashlight. This light should be strong enough so that other boats can see it at least two miles away. The light must be displayed in time to avoid a collision with another watercraft.
- Registration is required if your paddleboard is more than 10 feet long. Place the registration decals on the front of the paddleboard if possible. If not, place both decals on the back of the paddleboard.
More SUP Safety Information
Comfortable life jackets
Try an inflatable belt pack or vest if you're at least 16 years old and a strong swimmer, or try a low-profile paddling-style life jacket.
On a lake, wear a coiled leash. On a river, where your leash could get tangled in underwater brush, wear a leash with a quick release at waist level.
Practice defensive paddleboarding
Prevent collisions or mishaps despite the actions of others. Keep a careful watch and avoid other boats. Assume that they do not see you. Don't insist on the right of way around large vessels that may have difficulty maneuvering or stopping. Stay away from congested areas when possible.
Which direction to paddle when it's windy
Paddle into the wind at the start of a round-trip paddle (start at point A, return to point A), or with the wind at your back if traveling one way (from point A to B).
Paddleboarding on rivers
Shallow rocks and even small rapids can be dangerous to paddleboard. Additional paddling skills and equipment like helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, shin guards, special leashes, foot protection and special boards may all be required depending on the level of difficulty.
Dress for the water temperature and don't paddle alone. If the water is cool, wear quick-drying clothes (not cotton). If the water is cold, wear a wet or dry suit appropriate for the water temperature or don't go paddling.
How to use a paddleboard paddle
The tip of the angled blade should be closer to the nose of the board. If you're using a curved blade, the inside of the curved blade should face the tail.
Know navigation rules
Take a skills course from a qualified instructor.
See mndnr.gov/boatingsafety for more information.
DNR Paddling Safety Tips
DNR Boating Guide
DNR Boating Safety
American Canoe Association Safety information
SUP: Leashes & Lifejackets — When to Wear, When Not to Wear
ACA Top 10 Tips for Stand-Up Paddleboarding Safety Video
National Safe Boating Council
US Coast Guard Boating Safety