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Paddle boarding at Mangrove Cay.

Stand-up Paddle Boarding

Upside-down jellyfish in the shallow wetlands of Frenchman’s Creek, Providenciales.

A water sport that’s rapidly expanding in popularity, stand up paddle boarding (also known as SUPing, or paddle boarding) equipment is becoming a common amenity at resorts and villas.

An excellent core workout, SUPing can be done by almost anyone when the conditions are right. Wave surfing definitively requires quite a bit of practice, but flat water cruising and exploring the wetlands of the Turks and Caicos are possible after only 5-10 minutes of instruction and half an hour of trying on your own.

SUPing doesn't require much gear: a board, paddle, and maybe a leash or shock cord if in wave or windy conditions. Boards differ a bit (usually larger) from other water sports boards and come in a variety of styles including long racing boards, smaller wave types, and the common wide and stable recreational board.

SUPing offers one great advantage over kayaking when exploring the reefs and wetlands; a much better view of the sea life in the water. The greater height makes it much easier to spot animals and when in the sheltered mangroves you'll often be able to see with crystal clarity.

How Do the Different Islands Compare?

Consisting mainly of smaller cays, the Turks Islands do not have the extensive mangrove wetlands that can be found throughout the Caicos Islands. Typically, most paddle boarding that takes place on the Turks Islands is simply on the open water near the beach.

Comparatively, the Caicos Islands have offer more to see. Along with having vastly more expansive wetlands, the larger and more complex coastline of these islands present miles of sheltered and unique coastlines.

Due to being the primary overnight tourist destination in the country, Providenciales has by far the most water sport businesses and consequently the widest selection of paddle board rentals and tours. Although the majority of eco tours take place in the Leeward and Mangrove Cay area of Providenciales, trips to more remote locations and other islands are easy to arrange.

Safety

Paddle boarding at Long Bay Beach on Providenciales.

SUPing is generally a safe water sport, but paddlers should be aware of a few things. When falling off the board (everyone does, doesn't matter how good you are!) simply fall into the water and avoid the board. Many of the relativity few SUP related injuries are arm and leg issues caused by hitting the board.

Know your limitations. If you are just beginning to SUP, don't try to wave ride or travel long distances into areas that you’ll unfamiliar with. Also keep your gear simple. The large, wide and stable recreational boards are the easiest to learn on, not the specialized racing or smaller surfing types. Leashes are typically not needed in normal cruising conditions.

Be aware of the wind and currents! Probably the most common cause of concern to new paddlers is finding out that their return journey is much more difficult after sailing downwind for an hour! When standing on a paddleboard, the body acts as a sail and it surprising how fast you can move downwind without paddling on breezy days! The easiest way to avoid issues is to begin your excursion into the wind.

In most locations, it's possible to find more sheltered areas to paddle. In the Turks and Caicos, the typical winds usually come from the southeast. This is offshore for Grace Bay, but when close to the beach, the land and buildings block most of the wind. When in the mangrove channels, one side is often shielded quite a bit. Look for the smoother water surface.

Currents can be an issue at times, but are often restricted to the channels between islands and lose strength after a distance.

The tiny ironshore islands and turquoise waters of Chalk Sound Lagoon are fascinating to explore.