Recently, I had friends who after a poor paddle board rental experience, never wanted to do it (sup) again. That’s not an uncommon experience.

Rental shop complaints vary from unskilled staff providing renters with poorly fit gear to sending renters out in conditions above their skill level resulting in a rescue.

The problem with renting, is that it’s not yours or custom outfitted to fit your individual height, weight or skill level. Rentals get trashed after continuous use by a lot of people, many whom have no skills in that sport. Rental shops can’t often keep up with the number repairs needed.

Tips for Renting a Paddle Board:

Your Keys:

Think about whether you’ll bring your keys and wallet out or does the shop have lockers?

  • What do you really need on the water? Or can afford to lose if it falls in?
  • Bring your own sunglasses or eye glass retainer straps
  • Where will your prescriptions or epi-pen go?


  • Bring your own if you’re have one you like but just need a board. Or are traveling.
  • Check if the 2-piece adjustable paddle shaft is secure, meaning that its not sliding.  Ask to have it tightened.
  • Many rental paddles are cheap and heavy. Aluminum paddles will weigh down your strokes and fatigue your shoulders.
  • Your paddle shouldn’t sink.  If it come with a pool noodle zip tied on (been there!) ask for another one without.


  • Always wear a leash when paddling, no exceptions.  Ask for one at the rental counter.  Losing your board means a long swim back.
  • If there’s no tidal or river current put on your ankle or calf.  Make sure it’s secure and not sliding up and down.
  • If in Tidal Current or River Current (even minimal) attach leash to your lifejacket side straps.  #1 Sup fatalities are ankle leashes in rivers.
  • Pull hard on the leash at the attachment to the board. If it breaks ask for another leash string.

Life Jacket (PFD)

  • Always wear a life jacket. Pros wear life jackets.
  • Attach your leash to your life jacket side straps. This means you won’t step on the leash on the board.
  • Bring along a snack to put in the pfd pockets.
  • Buy your own lifejacket, check out these options.


  • Some Rentals shops have clothing options to keep you warm. Ask for options and how to carry them if you get too hot.
  • Bring your own if they don’t have clothing. Bring non-cotton quick drying garmets or neoprene. if rainy or windy, a rain shell is great.
  • If there’s rocks ask for booties. Or bring water shoes or paddling booties such as these from NRS.
  • Wide brimmed hat with chin strap for sunny days
  • Check out these cooler or cold weather clothing options.


  • Ask for a board that will fit your height and weight. If you’re a bigger person like me, you’ll need a bigger board.  I’ve seen a lot of big folks struggle on rental boards.
  • Make sure you board has a leash and tie-downs for gear.

Water – Staying Hydrated:

  • Bring along water to stay hydrated. A bottle with a loop or hook will allow you to attach it down.
  • Or get lifejacket like these that allow you to slip a hydration bladder in the back for hands free hydration

Extras To Bring with You:

  • Sunblock
  • UV lip baum
  • Wide brimmed hat for sun
  • Warm hat for cold
  • Water bottle
  • Dry bag to hold your things.  Not all shops offer those.
  • Extra warm / cold weather clothing
  • Traveling?  Bring your own paddle. Rental paddles suck.
  • Warm clothes to put on after

Weather Forecast:

  • Don’t rely on the high school aged kid renting you gear to send you out in perfect weather.  Use apps like WindAlert and Windy to get real time conditions.  If you’re a beginner and it’s blowing over 10-15 mph you shouldn’t go out.
  • If in doubt, don’t go out.  If it looks scary it probably is.

About Rob Casey – Named a pioneer in the SUP industry by Stand Up Journal, Rob is the author of “Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers” and “Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips.” Rob owns SUP and Kayak school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle. He also runs several paddling races.

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips