Ocean vs. Lake Paddle Boarding

There are so many different bodies of water you can paddle board across the globe. There’s the ocean that covers 70% of our planet, and then there are lakes, bays and rivers that only appear as tiny dots on our world map.

The most common bodies of water everyone paddle boards are oceans and lakes. Today, we’re going to educate you on the difference between ocean and lake paddle boarding. Spoiler alert – they are very different from one another.

Ocean vs. Lake Paddle Boarding

What’s the difference?

There’s a big difference when it comes to ocean paddle boarding and flat water paddle boarding. The ocean can be extremely unpredictable, rough and mysterious while a lake is always predictable and usually keeps calm throughout the day. Ultimately, they are two very different bodies of water that hold contrasting characteristics. In order for you to be safe and confident paddle boarding on either one of these bodies of water, we’re going to explain what you need to know and what to look out for when paddling on an ocean and a lake.

Ocean vs. Lake Paddle Boarding

Ocean paddle boarding

Ocean paddle boarding can be complicated. The ocean could be calm, glassy and drop dead gorgeous in the morning and then by the afternoon it could turn extremely stormy and rough. When ocean paddle boarding, you always need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario because the weather could change unexpectedly. We went on an epic ocean expedition along the Big Sur coast two years ago which will show you quick the ocean conditions can change.

Ocean vs. Lake Paddle Boarding

There are many variables to consider before you go ocean stand up paddle boarding. Keep in mind that the ocean is prone to multiple swells, rough waters, gusty winds, etc. Also, don’t forgot about the ocean’s forever changing tides, currents and diverse marine life. Before you go ocean paddle boarding, make sure to monitor the weather, tides and read our experience on SUP safety tips. In addition, depending on where you live, it might be necessary to wear a wetsuit because the ocean can stay cold all year round. Don’t forget to wear a life jacket too!

Don’t let all this information scare you! More often than not, the ocean will provide you with ideal conditions for paddle boarding – beautiful sunny day, light winds and maybe even a dolphin or two swimming around your board. The ocean is a beautiful, mysterious wonder of our planet that must be explored.

Like the ocean, bays are a great alternative to paddle boarding oceans because they are more protected (making them calmer) and typically don’t have waves breaking onto the sea shore. Without a doubt, bays are more paddle board friendly. You can easily locate bays near your local coast.

Ocean vs. Lake Paddle Boarding

Lake paddle boarding (Flat water paddling boarding)

We’re not going to lie – lake paddle boarding is much easier than ocean paddle boarding. It’s easier because flat water paddling is predictable. A typical day at a lake usually has calm waters in the morning, a slight breeze in the afternoon and then calm waters again for the evening. Furthermore, there’s no tides or currents to take you off path. One of the few caveats is strong winds in the afternoon. A way to avoid this is by monitoring the weather for the day you’re paddling. A great source for this is windy.

Flat water paddle boarding

The best SUPs for ocean paddle boarding

As mentioned earlier, the ocean is a temperamental beast. One hour it could be stormy seas and then the next could be rainbows and sunshine. To make sure you’re prepared for the worst, you will need a specific type of paddle board to handle the more difficult conditions.

The best SUPs for ocean paddle boarding are epoxy touring paddle boards. Touring paddle boards are longer, less wide, have more rockers and typically have pointed nose aka a displacement hull. A displacement hull will provide you with more paddle efficiency and performance when it comes to paddling against chop. We explain a more detailed difference about paddle board shapes here. Ultimately, a touring shape will give you the speed you need to slice through rough conditions while also improving your tracking (staying straight).

A touring shape isn’t the only type of paddle board that will excel in ocean paddle boarding. All epoxy paddle boards (hard paddle boards) will suffice in the ocean because of their rigidity. That’s why all surf SUPs and race SUPs are epoxy. No matter what shape or size your epoxy is, it should be able to handle the ocean so you can fully enjoy your experience.

Touring paddle board

The best SUPs for lake paddle boarding

Surprisingly enough, all paddle boards work well in lakes. Frequently calm waters are ideal conditions for any paddle board shape or construction. Although, our favorite lake SUPs would be inflatable paddle boards. Inflatable paddle boards are the best lake SUPs because they are easy to transport to and from your local lake, to store and are super durable. And since we’re on the subject of lakes, here are the Top 11 Lakes to Paddle Board in the United States. You’re welcome.

Flat water paddle boards

Wrapping up

Ocean and lake paddle boarding can be very different from one another. Ocean paddle boarding has a lot more elements you need to be cautious of and lake paddle boarding is simple. For ocean paddle boarding, touring/epoxy paddle boards will be your best choice. For lake paddle boarding, all paddle boards will get the job done.

Posted in Paddle Board Lifestyle, Paddle Boarding Tips & Tricks
Douglas Robichaud - Doug is the Marketing Content Manager at ISLE Surf and SUP and has been surfing and paddle boarding for over 10 years. With a degree in English/Journalism, Doug has been an outdoor adventure content writer for over 4 years. Since joining the ISLE team, he has become a paddle board expert in all topics ranging from products, basic tutorials, tips & tricks, SUP safety and new trends.