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Shallow Water Paddling: How Deep Does Water Need To Be?

Paddleboarding is a fun water sport that is gaining more and more popularity over the years. It is not only beneficial to improve your balance but also an excellent form of exercise. So, if you are interested in paddleboarding, you might be curious to know, can you paddleboard on shallow water? This article will help you get rid of your curiosities.

Although it is possible to paddleboard in shallow water, it is risky. Not only can you damage your paddleboard but you can also bump into things and fall off which can be quite dangerous.

So, to enjoy the sport safely, you must know the exact depth of water required for paddling. In this article, I will discuss more on paddling at various water depths, along with some risks of shallow water paddling and some precautions that you should consider.

Why Is Paddling In Shallow Water Risky?

Paddling a board in shallow water is risky because it increases the risk of accidents. Besides, rocks and stones can damage your board if you paddle in shallow water.

The following are a few reasons why paddling board in shallow water is risky:

  • The paddleboard can get damaged

When paddling through shallow water, your epoxy paddleboards can get damaged by rocks. Likewise, since stones can scratch the fins and bottom of the board, your inflatable paddleboards can also get damaged.

Apart from rocks and stones, tree branches and other things lying beneath the water can also cause severe damage to your paddleboard.

  • The board can get stuck

As there are many underwater things, your board might get stuck in something while passing on the shallow water. You can never paddle in surface water smoothly as there will always be barriers in the water to let you float freely.

Moreover, there are not enough waves in shallow water. So, you won’t be able to paddle comfortably either.

  • High risk of falling

Falling in shallow water is terrifying because shallow waters include various threats such as coral reefs, aquatic life, boulders, and even an oyster bed.

If you slip from your paddleboard and plunge into an oyster bed, you might suffer from terrible injuries. Moreover, coral reefs can shred your body faster than shark teeth.

How Deep of Water Do You Need to Paddle Board?

To paddleboard safely and comfortably, the water length should be at a minimum knee-deep. Generally, 20 inches to 30 inches deep water is best for paddling.

Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of paddleboarding in various depths of water-

10 Inches Deep Water

Even though you might feel safe to paddle in 10″ deep water, this is not a good idea. This depth of water is way too shallow to move your paddleboard smoothly.

Generally, the paddleboard’s fin is about 5″- 8″ tall. So, it can get damaged by rocks and other materials while you are paddling in too shallow water.

20 Inches Deep Water

Well, this depth is relatively safe for paddleboarding as it is almost knee-deep. As you paddle in knee-deep water, your paddleboard is less susceptible to damage.

To submerge the paddleboard sufficiently to harm the fine or the board itself, you must land forcefully on it.

However, even with 20 inches of water, the main danger is in how you land when you fall. When attempting to land upright, you risk twisting your ankle, and when landing on your side, you risk hitting your body or head.

The depth of water is not enough to stop you from falling.

30 Inches Deep Water

In my opinion, 30 inches of water is best for paddleboarding for newbies. There is a lower risk of any accidents in this depth. However, when you try to stand up, you will find yourself reaching down to touch the ground beneath you.

You may still reach the floor if you land on your side, but as long as you’re wearing a life jacket, you’ll be OK and back on your feet and paddleboard easily.

40 Inches Deep Water

Forty inches deep water means the water is almost over your torso height. So, your Paddle Board is content to float around aimlessly. However, I would not recommend this depth for beginners as falling upright is no longer an option because the water is too deep to reach off the board.

If you try this, the only way to stay upright is to fall purposefully in the water while remaining upright and waiting to feel the ground and rise as quickly as possible.

50 Inches Deep Water

If you don’t know how to swim, paddling in this depth can be very dangerous. With only a slim probability of striking the ground if you fall in the water, you will have to swim to stay afloat.

To feel the ground, you’ll have to dive off the paddleboard. So, as long as you remember to keep calm, all you have to do now is straighten yourself and stand up, and chances are you will still be able to see above the water.

Cautions to Take While Paddling Board On Shallow Water

It is better to avoid shallow water altogether while paddling the board. So, when you see you are going towards the shallow water, get off your board and wade in to keep your board and fins in good shape for a long time.

However, if you still have to paddleboard on shallow water, you must take some safety precautions.

Here are some cautions to take while paddling board on shallow water:

Know Your Surroundings

You must have good knowledge about the area you are paddling in. If you are paddling in the ocean, river, the Caribbean, or somewhere else, it’s crucial to know where you’re going and what’s beneath the surface to avoid high-risk areas.

For example, always try to avoid highly rocky areas and the areas where there are too many coral reefs.

Wear Life-jacket

Whether you know how to swim or not, wearing a life jacket is a must for your safety. Even in turbulent conditions, wearing a life jacket makes it easier to stay afloat.

As a result, you’ll have an easier time getting back on the board. Wearing a lifejacket is recommended for all stand-up paddlers, but it is mandatory for beginners.

Stay Informed about Weather

The tranquil, steady-moving water can rapidly transform into fast-moving, furious water that refuses to stop. As a result, plan and familiarize yourself with the weather conditions across the area where you will be paddleboarding.

It will help you to keep yourself safe and sound and prevent any unwanted events while paddleboarding.

Wear Your Leash

You must wear a leash at all times while paddleboarding. It will save your life. If you fall in a lake, river, or ocean and there is wind, current, or even a breeze, your board will catch the wind and fly away from you.

Chasing your board, especially while holding a paddle, is an exhausting task. So, wearing a leash will help you in this regard.

Work on Your Balance

While paddling on shallow water, working on your balance is another technique to avoid sliding off your board as frequently.

If you focus on your body’s balance and posture, you’ll be less likely to rock around on the board or fall off. You can do yoga and other low-impact workouts to improve your balance.


If you can maintain safety measures, there is nothing better than spending your leisure time having fun with your paddleboard.

By now, you’ve probably learned whether or not can you paddleboard on shallow water. So, get out there and start paddling.

If you are just starting to look into paddleboarding we have a wide selection of guides to help assist you in finding the best option to suit your needs, check them out here!

Just be sure to keep all the things I’ve mentioned in this article in mind while doing so. Take care.