The Isles of Shoals Paddle is an advanced, open ocean invitational paddle that is a ton of fun & an incredible achievement for any stand up paddler to complete. Located off the Seacoast of New Hampshire is a collection of Islands that cross the border into Maine through the water. This year, Austin & I were lucky enough to do this charity paddle with the Seacoast Paddle Club to make the trek out to Star Island in the Isles of Shoals.
What is it?
The Isles of Shoals Paddle, or the IOS Invitational, is an annual event hosted by SPC to raise funds to support the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of New Hampshire (BBBSNH). The entire paddle is about fourteen miles — 7 miles each way.
The first successful crossing started in 2013 by the Seacoast Paddle Club founder, Chris Carragher.
Chris saw the challenge of paddling to the Shoals as a way to to teach his little brother on “the importance of settings goals, staying active, & respecting the outdoors.” After rough training & fundraising, he completed the paddle & raised more than $6,000 for BBBSNH.
Since then, the crew continues to grow every year as more & more people seek to cross the Isles of Shoals paddle off their bucket list.
Read more about the history of the IOS invitational paddle here.
SUP Pacific was representing The Shack Surf Shop on our paddle out there, & we also teamed up with our stand up paddle buddies at The Wandering Paddler. The Isles of Shoals Paddle is a wonderful experience & was a great test of our endurance & skill. We initially weren’t sure the paddle would happen, as we had been dealing with inclement weather and sketchy conditions. Luckily the paddle was scheduled (and then rescheduled) to Sunday, August 5th, 2018. This year was our first time, & we are so excited to participate in the following years to come.
|Distance:||~14 miles round trip|
|Time:||Approximately 4 hours (With 30 min break on Star Island)|
|Best time:||Summer, No Wind, Swell or Fog|
|Parking:||Free & Paid|
The Isles of Shoals are located seven miles offshore, so driving to the edge of the seacoast is only half the fun! We launched from the beach at Pirate’s Cove, which is the straightest shot out to the islands from the mainland. If you’re coming from Portsmouth, Maine, up north & beyond, hop on I-95 until you hit NH Route one. To get on the road along the seacoast, make your way onto route 1A (Ocean Blvd) until you hit close to Wallis Street. Coming from Massachusetts, inland & south, you’ll want to get on I-95 until you hit NH-1, & from there, follow the signs to the seacoast.
Austy and I were at The Shack bright at early at around 4:50am, helping to get everyone loaded up with the proper gear & load up our boards as well.
Address for GPS: 1191 Ocean Blvd, Rye New Hampshire 03870 (The Shack Surf Shop)
Austy was riding a 12’6” Starboard SUP, and I (Tai) was in a Kai Wa’a Outrigger Canoe. The great thing about doing the Isles of Shoals Paddle Invitational is that you can participate in any paddling vessel. This paddle was for charity, and supports a great cause to get people out on the water!
What We Brought
Paddling for over 4 hours straight, we needed good gear, snacks & tons of water. We managed to keep our packs lightweight while also bringing enough H2O & fuel for the long journey. On this trip, several escort boats, nautical GPS & compasses were required. It was a thick foggy morning & we could not see more than 20 feet in front of us. With the help of our guides, we made it there & back safely.
- Daylite Osprey Daypack & Camelback Daypack
- Waterproof Drycase for cell phones
- CLIF Bars, mixed nuts & almond butter squeeze packs
- Mounted & handheld GoPro devices
- 3L Platypus Bladder for backpacks
- Donuts on the escort boat, yay!
- Escort boats are a must!!!
Cautions & Hazards
Marine Layer (Fog & Mist)
The IOS Paddle happened to fall on a Sunday with some of the thickest misty & foggy marine layer that we had ever seen! Our escort boats provided our navigation & approaching Star Island was completely surreal. We watched the jetty emerge from the mist together. It was such a magical sight. Returning to Pirate’s Cove was another etherial moment for the onlookers on the beach. After the paddle, we were told that we appeared out of the sea as a collective shape of boards, outriggers, boats & paddles, like something out of a dream. Ideally, we would have went on a day with crystal clear views of the islands.
The current or the swell is a definite concern for the paddle. Luckily, it was almost glassy when we went.
If you are thinking about attempting the next Isle of Shoals Invitational, you’re going to need to start training now. Even if you are a regular paddle boarder, going 14 miles in open ocean is a long, long way to paddle. The Seacoast Paddle club offers several practice paddles prior to the actual race to ensure that everyone is in good enough shape to meet the harsh demands of the paddle.
Check out our video of the Isles of Shoals Paddle here!
Tips, Links & Other Resources
- Be sure to check out The Shack Surf Shop for stand up paddle board & surfboard rentals, lessons, tours & gear! If you’re staying along the seacoast or ever interested in doing this paddle, this should be your #1 spot to see first.
- For the best tours around New Hampshire’s waterways, The Wandering Paddler is a SUP guide & tour service that gets both novice & experienced paddlers out on the water together. If you want to paddle, they will travel to you! Book online though their site here.
- For the best food & drinks in town just a short drive from Pirate’s Cove is Fat Belly’s Bar & Grill, & the Thirsty Moose Taphouse. Check them out!
- Our favorite cup of coffee in Portsmouth is right in the center of downtown at Cup of Joe.
- If you want to paddle with friends, consider joining the Seacoast Paddle Club. Its a group of stand up paddlers who have fun on the water together.