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The Key Differences Between Lake and Ocean Paddle Boarding

paddle boarding on lake or ocean

Paddle boarding is not strictly for a specific type of body of water. You can take your stand-up paddle board to the lake or the ocean! Both bodies of water might seem similar in experience, but they are extremely different. Explore the key differences between lake and ocean paddle boarding so that you can determine where to go on your next SUP adventure.

Size of the Body of Water

It’s obvious that oceans are much more open than lakes. While our oceans are gargantuan, lakes can be any size—you could paddle board on a small private lake or a larger body of water like Lake Michigan.

Water Currents

Because the ocean is so large, the currents and swells of the water can be much rougher than a lake. This experience may not be ideal for beginners because the ocean is much trickier to navigate, and the conditions can change at any given time. Lakes typically have calmer waters with fewer waves and ripples (unless the weather is horrid).

Marine Life

Marine life can be beautiful in both the ocean and our lakes. However, the marine life in the ocean can be far more dangerous than most of what you might encounter in lake water. You won’t find venomous saltwater fish or jellyfish in a lake like you would in the ocean.

Which Type of SUP Board Should You Use?

Both hard epoxy SUP boards and blow-up paddle boards are fantastic for lake and ocean paddle boarding. However, you must ensure your gear is from a reputable business and made from high-quality materials. Due to the calmer conditions of most lakes, inflatable boards would work best in these bodies of water.

Where Should Beginner Paddle Boarders Go?

Now that you understand the key differences between lake and ocean paddle boarding, you can assume which body of water is best for beginners. The ocean’s unpredictability and sometimes rough conditions mean that lake paddle boarding is your best bet to hone your skills. The water will be calmer for beginners still learning to balance on the board, and a lake is much more forgiving than the large swell of waves in the ocean.

Your experience with paddle boarding changes drastically depending on the body of water you choose to enjoy the sport in. While both are excellent for all-day adventures or leisurely paddles, we recommend starting on a lake. Have you tried paddle boarding in both types of water? Let us know which one you enjoyed more!

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.