How to Decontaminate a SUP to prevent the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

Aquatic invasive species threaten the biology of the lakes and rivers that we love and the economy of the recreation areas that we rely on. Decontaminating your SUP can slow the spread of aquatic invaders and can help preserve these areas for native wildlife and future generations.

Follow this guide to find out more about aquatic invasive species and learn how to decontaminate your SUP to prevent the spread of invasive species. 

To prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) it is important to take measures to decontaminate your SUP or other boat. Additionally, many bodies of water also require that a SUP or boat be decontaminated before launch. Follow this guide to find out more about aquatic invasive species and learn how to decontaminate your SUP to prevent the spread of invasive species. 

How to Decontaminate your SUP

how to clean your paddle board

The goal of boat decontamination is to kill and remove any aquatic invasive species that may have attached themselves to your vessel while it was in the water. Many aquatic invasive species are not visible to the naked eye, so even if your board looks completely clean, there is still a chance that it is hosting species that could disrupt the ecosystem of a lake or reservoir. 

 

The first step to the process is always to check your paddle board for any mud, plant matter or other debris and clean your board off with a rag and water from a hose. Debris provides a potential habitat for invasive species and can make any of the decontamination methods below less effective or harder to implement. Any plant material on your board could be from an invasive species such as Eurasian Milfoil so removing any is important.

paddle board

Remember that runoff from washing your board may drain into local rivers or lakes so do this step at the original body of water when possible to avoid contaminating your home watershed. If you can’t avoid doing this step at home, make sure to do it on dry land, away from any storm drains.

 

Drying

If you have plenty of time between trips to different lakes and reservoirs, drying is the easiest method for decontamination. Aquatic invasive species need water to survive (hence the name) so this method works by drying out and killing any organisms that might have been missed from checking and cleaning your board with water.

stand up paddle board

To dry your board, leave it laid out in a dry area such as a shed or garage. Try to avoid sunny areas as the UV rays from the sun can damage the deck pad over time. Make sure any plugs or vents on your board are open so they get a chance to dry too and flip the board once the top is done to make sure both sides dry completely. Do the same with any gear that you brought with you such as a paddle, life jacket or kayak seat. Once you think that your board is completely dry, check areas like the deck pad, accessory mounts and vent plugs to make sure that these areas have dried completely and then store your board as you would normally.

 

Steam/Scalding Water

Another form of decontamination that is often used is scalding water or steam. This is less common for small, easy to dry vessels like paddle boards but it is still a good option if you have access to boat decontamination citations in your area. This method works by using hot water above 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any aquatic species that may be hitching a ride on your boat. 10 seconds of exposure to the 140 degree water will kill any aquatic invasive species on your board. These temperatures are not high enough to damage your inflatable paddle board.

You can also use a household clothing steamer to decontaminate a SUP. The process is similar to using hot water where you expose every part of the board to the hot steam for 10 seconds to kill any aquatic hitchhikers. This method is effective but it is a lot harder than simply drying your board or taking it to a boat decontamination station. 

how to decontaminate your paddle board

 

Chemical Decontamination

Chemical decontamination can be an effective way to kill certain invasive aquatic species but it isn’t the best option for a couple of reasons. The first is that chemicals that are really good for decontaminating are not easily available to the public and can be potentially dangerous in the hands of someone who isn’t trained in their use.

The second is that it is relatively difficult to apply chemicals to the outside of a boat for long enough to kill aquatic invaders. A third reason is that not all aquatic invasive species can be killed as effectively using the same chemicals. This method of decontamination is most effective when used in combination with other decontamination methods to get at certain areas that are hard to dry (such as vent plugs and accessory mounts) and when scalding water is not available. It is important to do your own research about what species are a concern in your area and which chemicals are most effective at preventing their spread.

 

One effective use of this method that is fairly easy and can use chemicals found at home is using distilled white vinegar to kill invasive zebra mussels. Distilled white vinegar was found to cause complete mortality on zebra mussels after a 4 hour exposure.

It’s not realistically possible to have that level of exposure to vinegar on the hull of a standup paddle board without the vinegar just evaporating so this method is really only useful for hard to dry areas like accessory mounts on fishing boards like the O2 Angler or on pieces of gear that can easily hold water like coolers.

 

Why decontaminate?

Aquatic invasive species cause significant damage to habitats, native species and interfere with recreation by damaging boats and making swimming, paddling and fishing harder and less enjoyable. Invasive plants outcompete and replace native plants and in turn get rid of the preferred habitats of native fish and bugs which causes ripple up the food chain, making it harder for waterfowl to thrive.

Eurasian milfoil makes fishing more difficult and often causes fishing lines to get caught and broken, leading to litter in the water and making it harder to fish which can impact businesses and resorts that rely on recreation. Sharp Zebra Mussels growing in swimming areas can make swimming unpleasant and even dangerous and many boat ramps are contaminated with invasive mussels to the point of interfering with boat launching.

Conclusion

 

Aquatic invasive species threaten the biology of the lakes and rivers that we love and the economy of the recreation areas that we rely on. Decontaminating your SUP can slow the spread of aquatic invaders and can help preserve these areas for native wildlife and future generations.