Before we actually talk specifics it should be noted that paddling in the dark does carry slightly more risk than in daylight. As such you’ll need to be mindful of how you do things with an extra eye on safety. Don’t take unnecessary risks, plan things accordingly, and you should be fine.
With days getting shorter and, for some, opportunity to SUP much less (or at least that’s the perception) you may be forgiven for hanging up your paddle until spring. Clocks changing at the end of October and us losing more light and therefore time can be a depressing situation. But it doesn’t have to be. With prior planning and preparation there’s no reason you can’t score an after hours SUP session or two.
Paddling in darkness can be a strange thing at first but if you consider boats and marine vessels navigate at night there’s not really much difference other than you being atop a stand up paddle board. Confidence and skill play a big part. If you’re still at the falling off stage then maybe night SUPing isn’t for you yet. For anyone paddling comfortably, however, it’s more than doable.
Location choices versus the weather should be taken into consideration. Heading out into open tidal water when it’s blowing 30 knots offshore isn’t wise. Seeking shelter in a non-flowing canal will work far better. It may be that you have to wait it out until Mother Nature is feeling in a better mood but that’s OK.
We’ve talked before how reading forecasts is key to scoring decent stand up paddle boarding sessions. Getting fixated on the period you can SUP, and not taking account of the weather and what’s going on conditions wise isn’t the best course of action – especially with night paddling in mind. Just because you want to paddle at a set time and location doesn’t mean you have to. Waiting for appropriate windows is fair wiser.
If you can put in at locations where there’s increased ambient light then this is a good thing. For instance, the location in the accompanying pics is close to a bridge, where streetlights shine brightly, as well as having illuminated premises on the foreshore. This helps with navigation. Wearing a head torch can also help give your chosen paddling path some glow.
Don’t take risks. When/if night SUPing we’re talking about sticking to flat water only. It’s not the time to be hucking waterfalls or trying to ride waves. And definitely wear your leash! At this time of year it’s colder, obviously. Remember that when darkness falls temperatures also drop further so wearing the right attire is a must. If you layer up then removing garments if you get too hot is possible. But better to be warm rather than too cool.
Finally, tell someone where you’re going and what time you’ll plan and getting back. Carry a means of communication, such as mobile phone of VHF stowed in a waterproof pouch.
Paddling at night is a totally calming experience – almost meditative if you get it right. At the very least it’s one way of keeping your SUP sessions going through winter, even if you’re a time lacking sort.