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Paddle it in Hilton Head

kayakers on water

Do it with a paddle! “If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.” –Dr. Seuss. Those of us that grew up on Hilton Head or are long standing transplants all too often ignore our surroundings. We see our beaches and waterways on a daily basis, but how often do we take the time to appreciate these natural places?

If you are looking for a surefire way to gain some perspective, pick up a paddle and head out on the water! From your kayak or paddleboard you will look back on our island with a new sense of objectivity. The opportunity to appreciate the beauty of our area and the other plants and animals that share it, is a great work out for the mind.

Getting into kayaking and paddle boarding is much like golf, tennis or yoga; professional instruction makes all the difference. Learning a few key techniques will make your experience of the sport easier and much more enjoyable. Paddling is much more like ballet than football: brute force does not get you very far. Lucky for you, Hilton Head and the surrounding area have a wealth of paddle sports professionals to get you going. In fact, we have the most American Canoe Association Certified Paddle Boarding instructors in the world right here on Hilton Head.

Many new students of kayaking or paddle boarding are surprised to find out that the most important muscles used in paddling are the core, abs and back. Rather than pushing or pulling with your arms, you use the rotation of your body to propel you and your vessel, with the paddle providing leverage. The rotation of the torso is key to paddling successfully. If you have a kayak with a plush backrest, don’t use it! High backrests will limit your range of rotational movement.

The tepid waters of the Broad Creek, Calibogue Sound, Skull Creek and May River make our area absolutely ideal for paddling year round. While we do have a strong tide, our inland waterways are generally well protected from weather and wind. That being said, safety should always be your main concern when out paddling. Always have a communication device (like a cell phone), a chart of the area where you are paddling and drinking water.

In addition, prepare yourself 2 seasonal emergency kits, one for hypothermia (over cooling) and one for hyperthermia (very heating). In your hypothermia kit pack a space blanket, extra food, a fire starter, a warm hat, gloves, fleece jacket and blanket and an extra waterproof layer. I always have a nice furry warm hat at the top of my kit, because it instantly warms you up. For hyperthermia be sure and have lots of water (bottle are frozen water are nice), extra food, and something to make shade with like a lightweight tarp. Many days in early Spring when the water is still very cold and the air is very warm, warrant packing both kits when out on the water.

The joy of paddling is that it is accessible to virtually anyone. Young and old, fit and not fit, able and disabled can all get outside paddling. There are also a wide variety of paddling styles to fit different intensity levels. So whether you are an adrenaline junkie or nature lover, paddling is for you!

When you are ready to buy your own board or boat, be sure and seek a professional opinion and try before you buy. Outside Hilton Head hosts an annual Paddle Fest where you can try every board and boat that they sell. This is an invaluable experience for every paddler to be sure and gets the equipment suited for his or her size and paddling style.

Get Outside this Summer and paddle our beautiful waterways!

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