I get this question a lot! After being on Hilton head for more than 10 years, here is my opinion...
High tide is great if you want more “ground to cover” and low tide is great for “catching more wildlife” but there’s a catch to each! I hear a lot of people say they would rather SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) at high tide as to not get messed up with the oysters. I find the opposite to be true because if you can SEA the oysters, you can stay away from the oysters. Low tide paddling gives you that layout of the land where you can start learning to avoid if youre just beginning your Paddleboard journey! At high tide, it is impossible to see the oysters under water due to the clarity of the water. Catch 22 since oysters are filtering the water and making it cleaner, right?
Paddleboards have fins so sometimes you need to plan for an additional 1 foot drag. If oyster beds are just covered up with an incoming tide, your fin can still catch On whatever might be under the water at the right level. The opposite holds true for an outgoing tide. So ultimately, know where oyster bed areas are and if you’re not confident about the tide level, it is probably best to go around where you think an oyster bed area might be or at least sit down till you are in your safe zone. I like high tide best for getting into areas for marsh clean ups!
I do love low tide, especially when it is SO LOW, you get some muddy paddles. Paddling around some of the oyster areas but also giving approximately a boards length distance to them, really allows for some special views. Like spitting oysters on a dropping tide, dolphins feeding from a distance and birds galore hiding in and amongst the oyster beds, and knowing where a perfect inlet is you can get to to see all of the fiddler crabs, periwinkle snails and other secrets of the marsh. Sometimes I do find myself sitting more frequently, just to enjoy whichever show you might catch.
Since this area has a 6-10’ tidal variance, sometimes you can look at the pickings or docks you pass to see where the last high tide level was . Always keeping the tide in mind and the direction the water is flowing is your best plan! Go the hardest route first, and remember we all make mistakes so it’s always good to also know where you might be able to rest or get out and Off your board if needed.
I will paddle here I will paddle there I will paddle everywhere, at low tide or high. Go find your Catch on the water at any public launch site around Hilton Head Island!