Beginners Guide to Open Water Paddling Your Flood


If there's a body of water at least two feet deep, we at #BOTENation want to paddle it. No water discrimination here, just plain old love for the outdoors... no matter what that looks like.

Each water arena has its perks. Rivers are typically packed with hidden alcoves and unsuspected terrain at every turn. Lakes can be a great haven for zen thanks to the calm, glass-like conditions. And oceans (along with our local coastline, the Gulf of Mexico) provide limitless exploration--where you create your limit, then crush it.

Open water paddling is among the most exciting stand up paddle boarding experiences out there. Trust us. Whenever we ask a customer after their BOTE board purchase where they're heading, without fail their first stop is the beach. It's basically a water voyager's Disneyland.

Open water SUP conditions are always changing depending on things like the tide, the wind, and the time of day. So if you think you're going to get bored looking at the same coastline from the water, think again. And then there's the marine life. If you're paddling in clearer waters, like the Gulf of Mexico, you can anticipate watching an underwater performance of fish, sea turtles, dolphins, and more.

Before heading out to open water paddle, there's some stuff you should know. Starting with selecting the best SUP board for open water paddling and a few things to keep in mind while on the way.


The Flood Gatorshell Paddle Board is a best-in-class, all-around recreational paddle board. It's extremely easy and convenient to transport, plus it's designed to take on just about any body of water, especially those with waves. Although our displacement hull paddle boards are optimal for open and choppy water situations, the Flood can be a great companion for open water paddling.

Tough As Nails

Designed with Gatorshell™ Technology, the Flood is tough as nails. This means it can handle open water conditions which typically involve sandy shores, choppy waves, and a kid or two slamming it around.

Shaped For the Open Water

The Flood will have you slaying the open water thanks to its unique design. With a flat bottom, thicker side rails, and a planing hull, you're standing on one of the most stable SUPs out there, which you're going to need if you're launching from the beach. This surf style board helps you get up and over coastline waves and out onto open water with maximum efficiency, so you can save your energy for what lies beyond the break.

Shop the Flood Gatorshell Paddle Board.


Now that you know what to look for in an open water SUP board, it's time to get to learn how to handle the conditions to ensure a smooth launch and a successful stretch of paddling on the ocean.

Safety First

This should go without saying, but before launching from the shoreline with your Flood, strap on a coiled leash. This ensures that if you do take a tumble, your board will never be far away.

Launch Off From Your Knees

Carry your SUP and SUP paddle at your side (on the same side as your leash) until you are about knee-deep in the water. This likely means you haven't made it past the wave break yet, but that's totally fine because you're going to launch off from your knees. Once you're knee-deep, place the board flat on the water with your SUP paddle perpendicular to the board, so it's easy to grab once you're on. Hop on and stay in a kneeling position. With your body low to the board, you have extra stability and control to paddle out past the wave break.

Once you're past the break and on calmer waters, you can hop up onto your feet and continue your paddle out into the open. If the conditions are still a little rocky, it's easiest to get up on your board when it's perpendicular to the swells, so you're rocking front to back vs. side to side.

Look Straight Ahead and Paddle Hard

Just like the concept of a merry-go-round, if you lock eyes with something close to you, you're going to find yourself dizzy and off-balance. When paddling in open water, look straight ahead and not at your feet. Trust your stroke and don't watch yourself paddle. Otherwise, next thing you know you're going to be watching yourself fall in that large body of water below.

For added stability, paddle hard. Speed is your friend when it comes to open water paddling. Think of it like riding a bike. The faster you go, the more balance you gain. And don't forget, you're not getting any momentum the moment the paddle passes your body. Dig in near the tip of the board, pull back (hard), and repeat as soon as you pass your heels.

Getting Back Up on Your Board

We aren't saying you're going to fall off your board, but if you just so happen to, it's important to know how to get back up in open water.

First, aim to fall away from your board to avoid hurting yourself or knocking off items you may have stored on your SUP. Swim over to the side of your board and grab onto the center strap of your Flood. It's best to use your dominant hand to get you started, so if you're right-handed, swim up to the left side of your SUP and grab onto the handle with your right hand. Use your upper strength and core to lift yourself out of the water while swinging your legs to the side.

Don't get red in the face if it takes you a couple of tries. We've all been there!

Be Cautious of the Wind

You'll want to know the direction of the wind. Sure, you can try the age-old tactic of licking your finger and lifting it to the sky. Or you can just see which direction the beach flags are flying. Regardless of how you figure it out, once you know, you're going to want to paddle towards the wind when you start.

By putting in the leg work, er, stroke work initially, if you're tired at your turnaround point, you have the wind at your back for an added boost during your return.

Learn the Sweep Stroke

One thing about the wind is that it doesn't run perfectly left to right of the coastline. When you're paddling out in the open water, you may think you're paddling parallel to the shoreline, but before you know it, you're further out than you anticipated. That's okay; just make sure you know the sweep stroke so you can quickly pivot and paddle closer to the shoreline.

To nail the left turn sweep stroke, you're going to place your paddle in a forward position on the right side of your SUP. Then simply sweep the paddle away from your board, going from head to tail in a wide crescent moon shape. Lift your paddle and start again as your board starts pivoting to the left. For a right turn sweep stroke, repeat these steps on the left side of your board.

New to the SUP paddling lifestyle? To get started, check out our SUP Basics For Beginners, and we'll see out on the open water, #BOTENation

Guy going in the waves on Flood Gatershell Paddle Board
Guy paddling on a Flood Gatorshell Paddle Board