Thinking of trying stand up paddle boarding (SUPing) or looking forward to making paddling a regular activity in your life? To make sure that you have the best time possible out there on the water we want to make sure that you stay safe out there. I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 SUP safety tips guide to keep you enjoying your paddling time out on the water.
1. Bring a Buddy!
Ah, the buddy system…
It’s true though, bringing a buddy with you out paddling not only adds to the experience, but adds to the safety of the entire expedition. Especially, if you are doing open ocean paddles & don’t have the past experience of paddling in an unfamiliar territory. Definitely bring a buddy. If something happens either of you, the other can get help. If you’re concerned about conditions, then you can discuss it with someone else. Besides padding just being better by sharing the experience, bringing a buddy is one of the biggest things you can do to stay safe.
2. Use a Leash
One of the most overlooked things that paddlers often ignore is the leash. Whether your going out on a completely glassy lake or out in the surf the leash is an important piece of gear. It makes sure that no matter what happens you do not get too far from your board which you can use in the case of an emergency as a floatation device. Even just falling in on flat water on a lake can send your board far away from you. With a leash, you can insure that it doesn’t get too far away.
If you’re wondering what type of leash is best for you then you have to consider what type of paddling you are doing. Generally as a rule of thumb, your leash should be about as long as the board that you are riding. For flat water paddling on lakes, ponds, marinas, & reservoirs, a coiled leash is ideal because it will not drag & catch on things in the water. For ocean paddling, your best bet is a straight leash because it is less likely to get tangled up.
If you are planning on going down whitewater rivers then you should NOT wear a leash without a quick-release belt!
3. Wear a PFD (Personal Floatation Device)
Besides being a requirement by the United States Coast Guard, the PFD is the other safeguard against danger on a SUP. It gives an extra precaution against getting stuck in the water without a board or paddle.
Please note, that according to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), paddle boards are considered a vessel & so they are technically required to have a floatation device (life jacket) on board. If you are 13 years or older, you are not required to wear it, but if you are younger than 13 you are required to wear the life jacket or PFD. This is only required when not in swimming, surfing, & bathing zones, but this may be difficult to distinguish while on the water so it is a good idea to always have a PFD available.
Not into wearing a giant orange vest? The good news is that now PFDs come in all sorts of sizes & styles. They have PFDs in a belt style that are low profile, but still get the job done.
Keep up to date about the US Coast Guard regulations for stand up paddle boards here.
4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
This may seem like common sense, but tides, wind, & just having fun can drift your board farther away then you may expect. Besides that, like driving, it is important to look for potential obstacles & other things in the water like shallow rocks that besides possibly hurting you may hurt the board that you are using as well.
Assume other people on the water do not see you even if it seems obvious that other vessels or swimmers on the water see you.
5. Check a Wind, Swell, Sunrise/Sunsets Times & Tide Report
It is critical to check conditions before a paddle. Nothing can make or break a paddle more than going out when conditions are not ideal. It’s simply no fun paddling against 15mph winds and a 7ft swell. Luckily, this is easily avoided by checking the weather & swell report on sites like magicseaweed.com.
6. Wear Sunscreen
This one should be obvious. If you’re skin burns, wear it. If it doesn’t, still wear it. The last thing anyone needs is to come in after a long day of paddling with a horrific sunburn.
7. Bring Water
Yeah, bring way, way more water then you think you need. I find myself sometimes chugging down 3 liters of water in about an hour & one half while paddling sometimes. If you’re planning an overnight trip, don’t forget to account for using water for cooking. While the general rule is to bring one gallon of water per person per day. You may use more water then the “average person.” Know yourself & plan accordingly.
8. Inspect & Have The Right Gear
Make sure your gear is fully functional & without defects BEFORE heading out on the water. There is nothing worse than finding out your gear is broken when you are already many miles paddling from where you started. Along the same lines, don’t live dangerously & use gear that isn’t adequate for what you’re doing. You don’t want to end up needing a throw rope & only having a PFD to throw out to a person. Planning is serious out in nature.
9. Bring A Whistle / Reflector
If all else fails, bringing a whistle or reflector could make all the difference if you’re separated from your board and need to be rescued. A lot of PFDs have whistles built into them, so check out your gear first.
10. Dress Appropriately
Dress for the occasion. Wetsuits are almost always a good idea if you are in colder water. If you live in Hawai’i or another tropical paradise, cold water precautions probably do not apply to you. Instead, make sure you bring a hat, sunscreen, & plenty of water for longer & more enjoyable paddles all day long.
Did I miss anything? What are your beginner SUP safety tips? Write in the comments below!