When stand up paddle boarding the number one priority should always be safety. With just a few simple precautions, every SUP session can be fun, but also safe!
Wear a Leash
A SUP leash is a tether that connects you to your board. It is connected to both the tail of your board and your ankle and prevents your board from getting away in case you take a spill. We feel that all stand up paddler boarders should wear a leash regardless of skill level or conditions. In surf or rougher waters your board can quickly get away from you and can become a hazard to others. Even in calmer waters the unexpected can happen and wearing a leash is your first step towards being a safe paddler.
Have a Floatation Device
A personal floatation device, or PFD is another safety tool that comes highly recommended. Rules and law can vary state to state so consult your local authorities to determine what is required where you paddle. Generally, it is either required that paddlers wear a PFD, or have one on their board. If you plan to wear a PFD selecting a comfortable, yet US Coast Guard approved that does not restrict your paddling stroke is best. Inflatable style PFD’s are also a great option as they are less cumbersome than a vest style PFD, however do need to be inflated to offer floatation. If you plan to not wear a PFD yet have it on your board, they nicely store underneath the bungee tie downs that come on most Cruiser SUP Boards. Regardless of the style PFD you chose, be sure it is US Coast Guard approved and meets your local or state laws. Remember, a PFD can only save your live if you have one!
Know the Weather
Be sure that you check things like wind, tides, temperature, and the time the sun sets.
Paddling in the wind is tough, and you should be aware of forecasted wind speeds, or changes in direction during the time you will be paddling. Avoid heading out in strong winds, and bear in mind that paddling into the wind is substantially more effort, and will take more time to cover distance than paddling with the wind.
If you paddle in an area with tides, knowing the tidal forecasts is key when planning a paddle. Changing tides can carry you quiet far, and can also change the water conditions of your launching area. The nice area of beach you left your back pack before heading out may be underwater when you return. Know the tides and plan your paddle around them!
The great thing about paddle boarding is that it can be done in almost any air temperature as long as the water isn’t frozen. However, going for a paddle in shorts when it is 40 degrees likely isn’t the safest move. Know what the high and low temperature will be dress accordingly. Dress in layers so you can remove or re-add layers as your body temperature changes.
The temperature of the water should be on your safety radar as well. If you will be paddling in cold water, hypothermia is a reality and a wetsuit or dry suit will offer much needed warmth.
Use your common sense as well when it comes to paddling in the cold. Stay close to shore, dress properly, and follow our safety suggestions.
Paddling in the dark is never a safe idea. Most weather forecasting websites will give an exact time the sun will set, and it is a good idea to aim to be back to short 30 minutes before the sun will set. This will give you ample daylight to return to shore, but also a little bit of a buffer in case the trip home takes longer than you expected due to a change of wind speed, or fatigue.
Paddle in Pairs if Possible
When possible, avoid paddling alone. Not only is it more fun to paddle with others, but it is safer. In case one runs into trouble, there is someone there to help out. Unexpected things like a broken paddle, or fatigue can and do happen and having someone with you to help out makes these situations much safe. If you do plan to paddle alone, be sure to follow all the safety rules outlined here, in particular the next one!
Have a Plan
Often called a float plan, this is a simple itinerary of where you are going, when you are leaving, and when you will be back. Let someone else know your plan before heading out. And, out of courtesy to them, let them know when you are back so they know you are safe! Regardless if you are paddling solo, in a pair, or in a larger group, always have a plan!
Know Your Limits
Be realistic when considering your skill and fitness levels. If you are just leaning how to SUP surf, start out on small wave days and slowly work your way up to bigger conditions. Going out for your first time on a big wave day can be dangerous to not only you, but others. When touring or cruising in calmer waters, consider your level of fitness and don’t plan a 5-hour paddle if the longest you have ever paddled is 30 minutes. Slowly increase your time or distance as your fitness and endurance levels rise.
Know your conditions
Regardless of what style paddling you are doing, from calm water touring to surf, observe the conditions before heading out. If surfing, watch a few sets of waves come through to get a sense of their size, the number of waves per set, where the waves are breaking, and how often sets are coming through. Also watch for how other paddlers are getting back out through the breaking waves.
If you are paddling in flatter water, look around for things that could be hazards like submerged things in the water, locally strong currents, or heavy boat traffic. We know you are excited to start your SUP session, but a little observation can go a long way!
Hydrate and Fuel
Stand up paddle boarding burns a lot of calories, so make sure that you are well fueled before heading out. If you are planning to be out longer than an hour, consider packing energy bars, gels, or snacks to keep your energy levels up.
The same applies to hydration. Be well hydrated before heading out, and if you are going to be out for longer than an hour, bring along some water to drink. The bungee tie downs on your board is a great place to store a drink.
Like any other sport, avoid alcoholic drinks as well. Don’t drink and paddle!
No one likes getting a sunburn. Think of this as a long term safety tip as excessive UV exposure can cause some pretty harmful effects. Wear a high SPF sunscreen that is both sweat and water proof, and even consider a hat, sunglasses, and UV protective clothing like a rash guard.
Practice Safe SUP
Stand up paddle boarding is a great way to get exercise and spend time on the water with friends and family. We hope that you use these safety tips to ensure that not only are your SUP sessions fun, but also safe each and every time.