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There are some beautiful waters around the world that many paddleboarders would love to explore but don’t. Who’s stopping them?
Well… they’re green, 4 foot long (on average), and weigh around 230kg. Today we’re talking about Alligators.
There’s never a good time to find yourself face to face with an Alligator. And surely, the one the worst times this could happen is when you’re trying to balance on a paddleboard with nothing to protect you but your boardshorts.
Where do Alligators live?
There are two main types of Alligators. The American Alligator and the Chinese Alligator.
Chinese Alligators are the smaller of the two breeds. Their average length is around 1.5 meters and they usually weigh around 30kg.
The American Alligator is huge in comparison. Weighing in at around 230kg and 4 foot long on average, these beasts can be found in the South East of North America. They like warm, swampy conditions where they can both swim and sun themselves.
Do Alligators eat humans?
Alligators are carnivores and are notorious for not being very fussy eaters. They will eat whatever they can get their claws on. Even if it’s been dead for a long time or if they have to steal it from someone else.
They usually eat fish, turtles, and rodents. However, they will happily eat larger mammals if they come close enough.
Do they eat humans? Alligators have been known to eat humans if they get lucky enough to catch one. They tend not to seek them out, but will often take the opportunity to attack if one arises.
Is it dangerous to paddleboard with Alligators?
In an average year Alligator attacks only account for 1% of human deaths. Does this mean that there’s only a 1% chance of dying if you paddleboard with Alligators? Well, no.
Wild animals expert Dr. Jarrod A. Forrester, MD, states that wild animals are not very likely to attack humans. However, Alligators are very aggressive and do not like to be distrubed. The males in particular are incredibly territorial, even outside the mating season.
The females can also be very aggressive if they have just laid their eggs, or they currently have infants with them.
The most important thing to remember about Alligators is how they hunt. They move quickly in short bursts. However, they have no interest in lengthy or long-distance chases. However, you are very unlikely to be able to outrun them on a SUP.
Alligators like to stalk their prey. Most of the time they are able to sneak up on others and attack before the prey has even noticed. It would take very little effort for the Alligator to knock you off the SUP. If you fall into the water your chances of survival are very low.
This being said, the overarching advice from wild animal and paddleboard experts alike is to NOT paddleboard in areas where Alligators reside. While you may be treated to some fantastic views that most people don’t see – the risk is not worth it.
The key areas to avoid are large parts of the south of North America – particularly Florida. There is also a small area of Eastern China that has native Alligators. These Alligators are smaller but are no less dangerous or aggressive.
If you do accidentally find yourself paddleboarding in an area full of Alligators you should avoid the shoreline – use a dock to dismount. You should stay aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for movement under the water and never fish in Alligator filled waters.
Is it dangerous to kayak with Alligators?
Alligators are less likely to engage with kayakers than paddleboarders. So, if you are looking to investigate the swamps of South East North American then Kayaking may be your best option.
That being said, kayaking with Alligators is not without danger. You should avoid the activity during mating season, as this is when you are most likely to get attacked. Alligators will get incredibly aggressive if they are worried about the safety of their nests and young.
If they are protecting their young, then they are quite likely to try and warn you off rather than stalking and attacking you. Particularly, if you are in a Kayak, and therefore less vulnerable. If this happens then you should move on as quietly as possible. Banging your paddle on your Kayak may make the Alligator think that you are planning to attack.
If you are planning to Kayak in these areas then you should read up on the local guidance before doing so. You will most likely find some advice on where to avoid. They’ll also be able to help you find the most picturesque routes.
You will even find companies offering guided Kayak tours of these areas, that will give you an opportunity to observe these creatures from a safe distance.
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I’m an Colorado native, who learned to surf in the Pacific Northwest, and SW Canada. I live inland near the mountains now, and love to get out on my SUP. It’s weird, but I love windy, choppy days as no-one is out and I like the challenge.