Waterways // 5 min Read

Stand-Up Paddleboarding in the Lowcountry

Written by Palmetto Bluff

May 30, 2019

Though many mistakenly think that the sport of stand-up paddling originated in the Polynesian Islands centuries ago, it is relatively new. Yes, there were probably Tahitian fishermen standing up in outrigger canoes to search for fish, but the sport essentially started as a result of post-World War II tourism in Hawaii, more specifically Waikiki, when surfing was the coolest new thing to do. People were trying out surfing and wanted to be photographed on a board. The surf guides (“Beach boys” as they were called. No, not the band.) Were asked to take the photos. There were no waterproof cameras at the time, so prone paddling would not work. At some point, the ingenious beach boys decided to use an outrigger canoe paddle like an oar and paddle while standing, keeping the camera dry. Thus, a new sport was born. At the time, it was known as “beach boy surfing.”

This went on through the 60s and 70s until surfboards got shorter and waterproof cameras became more prevalent. After that, the practice of standing on a board and paddling died out until the summer of 2000. During that summer, Hawaii experienced a very long flat spell. There was no surf. During the wave lull, the serious watermen began looking for a fun way to stay in shape. Guys such as Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, and Brian Keaulana grabbed outrigger canoe paddles, jumped on their tandem surfboards, and started paddling for fitness. “Beach boy surfing” was resurrected. The surf press published photos in magazines around the world of these guys standing up, paddling boards. This became the cool new way to surf without needing a wave.

Like Hawaii during the flat spell, the waters surrounding the Lowcountry of South Carolina are ideal for stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, offering beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife. Much of the year, the water is warm, calm, and flat.

Whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned paddler, there are many excellent SUP programs offered in the region and here at Palmetto Bluff.

For those new to the sport, the 90-minute Intro to Stand-Up Paddleboarding clinic is offered at Palmetto Bluff every day. For families with children ages 12 and under, we have a specially designed family intro course.

The Stand-Up Nature Walk is a two-hour tour designed for folks who have at least basic paddling experience. Your expert guide will lead you through winding creeks looking for dolphins and other wildlife.

The SUP Outback is a four-hour tour that combines a boat ride to a private chain of islands with a paddleboard nature tour of the marsh creeks on the back side of Daufuskie Island.

If you are looking for a fantastic workout, the 90-minute SUP Yoga class will give you a fresh take on the ancient art of yoga. With the salt marsh as your scenery, flow through this vinyasa experience while keeping your balance on your board.

If you have some experience and would prefer to hit the waves or the creeks on your own, our paddleboard rentals are a great option. Hourly rentals are available on the water at Palmetto Bluff, or rent by the day, and hit the water wherever you choose!


Be safe. Before launching at a new location, always ask a knowledgeable local guide for advice. Local guide companies will gladly offer free guidance. Here are a few of the things a local guide should advise you about.

Oysters: Located adjacent to the marsh in all the small creaeks and not visible at higher tides, oysters are razor-sharp. It is best to paddle a new location at low tide to learn where the oyster beds are located, so you can safely paddle around them at high tide.

Currents: During full and new moons, the tidal currents can be quite strong. When the wind is blowing out of the west, the outgoing tidal current is stronger than usual. Do not paddle into shallow creeks on outgoing tide, or you may find yourself with too little water to get back out. It is never a good idea to paddle into shallow creeks, as there is the danger of your fin hitting the bottom throwing you off-balance, possibly dumping you into an oyster bed.

During the summer months, the best time to paddle is before 1:00 p.m. Why? Typically, a breeze picks up in the afternoon, and the chop can create challenging conditions. Also, aim to paddle before 10:00 a.m. On the weekends because there will be fewer boaters.

The law requires that you have a personal flotation device (PFD) and a whistle.

If you are surfing at the beach, wear a leash that attaches your leg to the board.


Here are a few locations to take a lesson or a guided tour or rent a paddleboard to explore on your own.

Wilson Landing, Palmetto Bluff

Sales, rentals, lessons, and tours to the public are available at Palmetto Bluff. Rentals are available seven days a week. Palmetto Bluff is an ideal location for all skill levels, beginner to advanced. All programs and rentals at Palmetto Bluff launch from a private dock. Please note: There is not a public launch at Palmetto Bluff. Palmetto Bluff property owners and Montage hotel guests may launch their own equipment.

Public Launching Locations

Below are a few of the public locations in southern Beaufort County where you can launch your paddleboard. Please note: The ideal times to launch from public boat ramps are Monday through Friday and early mornings.
Be sure to get out early on weekends and holidays to avoid power boats.

Broad Creek and Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island

The Shelter Cove Marina location offers rentals, lessons, and tours to the public. Rentals are available seven days a week. Paddling on Broad Creek is ideal for all skill levels, beginner to advanced. You may also launch your private board from Shelter Cove Marina after signing a waiver and paying the $5 launch fee.

The May River and Oyster Factory Park, Bluffton

Located at the end of Wharf Street, this location offers a public dock to launch from and is ideal for beginner to advanced paddlers. There is plenty of parking and a restroom facility. Bring a cooler, and after your paddle, pick out some of the freshest local seafood at the nearby Bluffton Oyster Company.

The Colleton River and Trask Landing, Bluffton

A public dock is located at the end of Sawmill Creek Road across from Tanger Outlets, but there are no restrooms. This is a beautiful location to paddle from; however, the water on the Colleton River can be choppy when the wind is blowing. Be wary of the currents at this location.

Mackay Creek and Pinckney Island Landing, Hilton Head

Paddle Mackay Creek and along the shores of the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. This public boat ramp launch is located between the bridges to Hilton Head Island. Be careful on the ramps leading down to the floating docks. They are steep and slippery at low tide.
It may be difficult to carry your board down. For advanced paddlers, circumnavigation of Pinckney Island is possible if planned properly with the tidal currents.


Photography by Krisztian Lonyai

Food & Wine / Fall Recipes From Buffalos

Your Pine-ness Cocktail Recipe Before delving into the ingredients and recipe for Buffalos’ delectable Ricotta Meatballs and Sauce, it is imperative that the chef has an excellent cocktail for cooking. Pairing the sweetness of pineapple with the woody flavo...

Sep 2023
palmetto bluff neighborhoods

Real Estate / Waterfront Neighborhoods in Palmetto Bluff

Coastal Palmetto Bluff Neighborhoods Palmetto Bluff, a private community nestled along the South Carolina coastline, presents a harmonious blend of luxurious living, recreational spaces, and a vibrant atmosphere. The meticulously designed Palmetto Bluff neigh...

Sep 2023
wilson landing

Waterways / Behind the Bluff with Marina Captain: Thomas Shanahan

Meet Captain Tom of Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Landing  In the tranquil embrace of Bluffton's Lowcountry, where rivers wind their way through nature's masterpiece, an extraordinary tale unfolds at Wilson Landing of Palmetto Bluff. The story belongs to Captain Th...

Sep 2023
luxury kitchen design

Architecture & Design / Designing the Southern Kitchen of Your Dreams

Your Guide to a Luxury Kitchen Design The kitchen has long been the heart of the home, where cherished memories are cooked up and shared. When it comes to Lowcountry living, a well-designed kitchen is not just a place to prepare meals but a space that encapsu...

Sep 2023
summer bucket list

Culture / Summer Activities to Check Off Your List Before the Fall

10 Activities You Have to Cross Off Your Summer Bucket List While the days are long and the sun hangs high in the sky, summer offers a golden opportunity to create lasting memories and partake in a variety of thrilling activities. Before the cooler breeze of ...

Sep 2023

Conservation / Water Way

Palmetto Bluff is an ecological wonderland, with its maritime forest and tidal rivers, its salt marsh and abundant wildlife. But perhaps one of the most unique features of this wedge of Lowcountry is the impressive inland waterway that wends through the landsc...

Aug 2023

Artist in Residence / Places Around Palmetto Bluff to Paint Plein Air

Plein Air Painting and Our August Artist in Residence Palmetto Bluff is a paradise for art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike with its breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and serene atmosphere. With that being said, the Bluff is the perfect canvas f...

Aug 2023
coastal living

Waterways / Experience Health and Happiness By Living on the Coast

5 Health Benefits of Coastal Living Did you know that life by the coast is not only the most idyllic way to live, but it also improves your health? All in all, coastal living is a rejuvenating experience for the mind, body, and soul. From the cool, salty bree...

Aug 2023
south carolina lowcountry

Culture / 9 Enticing Facts About the Lowcountry

Discover the Charm of the South Carolina Lowcountry Where history and nature intertwine with effortless grace, the South Carolina Lowcountry is a region that allures visitors and residents alike with its timeless beauty, enchanting landscapes, and diverse cul...

Aug 2023

Conservation / Behind the Bluff with Palmetto Bluff Conservancy Educator: Aaron Palmieri

Aaron’s Journey to the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy   In the heart of the Lowcountry, where lush landscapes and diverse ecosystems flourish, lies a hidden gem known as Palmetto Bluff. This breathtaking sanctuary serves as a haven for an array of wildlife, offer...

Aug 2023
Community Villages
Palmetto Bluff Club
On The Water
The Arts Initiative
About Us