Can You SUP Paddleboard On The East River In New York?

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The most open space in New York City might not be on land but rather on New York City Water Trail’s coastal waterways. Tidal rivers, bays, and ocean beaches reach across the five boroughs, all connected to New York City’s heart, Manhattan, and the harbor that wraps around it. As an avid paddler, you might be wondering whether you may paddleboard on the East River in New York.

Several Brooklyn-based boathouses offer free, non-membership paddleboarding sessions and lessons that allow you to paddle on the East River for up to 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can paddleboard independently, but this will require a boating safety certificate.

The once-derelict waterfront left behind by previous industry is being transformed into new living spaces and sprawling public parks. Even for experienced paddlers, the East River’s strong tidal currents, waves, and heavy boat traffic make for a challenging environment to navigate. Therefore, it is essential to research before you and your paddleboard tackle the East River.

Can You Paddleboard On The East River In New York?

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of summer in the city, but if you need to cool off, why not try paddleboarding in New York City? You can appreciate many of the city’s attractions from the East River, which provides some of the best views in the area.

If you have your own SUP paddleboard, you’re ready to go. Alternatively, numerous organizations throughout the city strive to reconnect urbanites with nature and the aquatic ecosystems. Small groups of paddlers lead short trips through New York’s waterways, providing a calm, relaxing, and educational adventure.

From a protected embayment in Brooklyn Bridge Park, you can enjoy views of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan. Paddling in Brooklyn Bridge Park is hosted by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse and is available between 10:00 and 14:00 on weekends from June to September and from 17:30 to 18:45 on Thursdays from June to August.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouses is a popular option out of the various community boathouses. Volunteers provide all your gear and an introduction to the fundamentals of paddling, and they float nearby as support boats. Paddlers can look forward to a 20-minute session to explore the area between Piers 1 and 2, which is protected from the East River’s currents and boat traffic.

There are no reservations for the free paddling program, and boards are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early for a session. It is best to arrive early on Thursdays since it is generally quieter.

Alternatively, The LIC Community Boathouse offers free and non-membership-based paddling sessions suitable for paddleboarders of all skill levels. Volunteers offer paddling lessons and insight into the estuary ecology of the East River. This boathouse boasts a Manhattanhenge excursion which includes a paddleboarding trip to view the sunset over the East-West grid of the Manhattan streets.

The LIC Community Boathouse program does not require reservations. However, all participants on the water must be able to swim, and a parent or guardian must accompany those under the age of 18. Furthermore, you will be required to sign a waiver before kicking off your 20-minute river excursion. The dates and times are highly weather dependent, so check the boathouse’s website when planning your trip.

What You Need To Know Before Paddleboarding On The East River

With thousands of miles of rivers, reservoirs, and lakes and a significant portion of these waterways restricted to non-motorized boating, New York is a popular state for paddling. The East River boasts some of the most exciting paddle trips in the city. However, it is essential to know where, what, and how to paddleboard on the East River, to ensure that you get the most out of your experience.

Do You Need A License To Paddleboard On The East River?

The Department of Environmental Conservation establishes and governs New York paddling laws, and sanctioned Department of Environmental Conservation employees enforce paddling rules and regulations. In New York, you don’t need a permit to paddleboard; all you need is a boating safety certificate. You do not need to be registered to paddleboard if you have a non-motorized boat.

To register for a boating safety certificate, below is a list of all the requirements you’ll need.

  1. Identity proof
  2. Ownership proof
  3. A completed boat registration application
  4. Sales tax payment proof, bank card, check, cash, or money order for the cost of fees

Are There Any Regulations To Paddle On The East River?

When exploring the waterways of New York, the last thing you want is to run into a problem with the authorities. For a hassle-free paddling experience, it is essential to take note of the following requirements for paddleboarding on the East River.

  1. You are required to wear a personal flotation device while paddling.
  2. Under the influence of any substances, you will not be allowed into the launch site.
  3. You may not disrupt any natural land feature or wildlife while paddling.
  4. For paddling, the permit allows you access to the city’s facilities.
  5. To paddle in New York, you must be a strong swimmer. When fully clothed for ten minutes in deep water, you should be able to sustain yourself and swim two-body lengths at six feet.
  6. The permit prohibits you from practicing immersion escape techniques, scuba-diving, water-skiing, swimming, and windsurfing in the water accessible to the launch site.

The Best Time To Paddleboard On The East River In New York

New York weather is unpredictable, with moderate precipitation all year. Summer months guarantee warmer, calmer waters which are ideal for paddleboarding. This makes weekends and holidays during summer notoriously busy and tricky to get spots at boathouses.

If you are interested in a paddleboarding experience rather than a routine, it is advisable to plan your trip during mid-spring, late summer, or early fall to avoid the crowds.

For the brave-hearted and more experienced paddlers, winter is the quietest and most thrilling time to take to New York’s waterways. Thankfully, snowfall is usually more prevalent during January and February, which leaves most of December and March open to cold water excursions.

However, paddling in colder conditions requires careful planning and experience. As a safety precaution, paddlers follow this rule when planning their winter paddle: add the air temperature + the water temperature + the wind chill. Paddlers must wear special cold water gear if the sum is 120 degrees Fahrenheit or less. We do not recommend paddling if the temperature is less than 80.


Several boathouses offer free, non-membership paddleboarding sessions and lessons that allow you to paddle for up to 20 minutes on the East River. You can also paddleboard independently, but this will necessitate a boating safety certificate.

The East River’s strong tidal currents, waves, and heavy boat traffic make it a challenging environment to navigate, even for experienced paddlers. As a result, inexperienced paddlers or those lacking adequate safety precautions should not attempt this.