Standup paddle boarding, commonly referred to as SUP, is a sport that is growing in popularity. It is a great way to actively explore open bodies of water like lakes, canals, rivers, oceans. Before you hit the water, you need to remember there are risks involved. Before you start paddling out, make sure you have the proper safety gear and know how to monitor the weather among other factors that will keep you safe, while enjoying the ride.
- Essential Safety Gear for Your Paddle Board
- Getting to Know The Different Water Conditions
- How to Check the Weather Conditions Before Paddle Boarding
- Other Safety Suggestions for SUPers
Essential Safety Gear for Your Paddle Board
Just like any other sport you come across, standup paddle boarding comes with its own unique safety gear. Some of these items are designed to ensure you don’t get injured if you fall in the water while others simply ensure that you are always connected to your board. This way, there is always a flotation device within reach. The following are the most important. Remember that even the most experienced paddle boarders will need to use this safety equipment, so it is crucial for beginners.
The leash for paddle boarding is the most important piece of safety equipment for the reason mentioned above. You want to always be connected to your paddle board and the SUP leash will ensure that that is the case. This serves several functions. Most importantly, it makes sure that your board is always within reach so you can use it as a flotation device whenever that becomes necessary. Of course, the leash also helps make sure you don’t lose your board since this equipment can be expensive.
There are multiple types of paddle board leashes to choose from, but you always want one that is about a foot longer than the paddleboard you are using. Straight leashes are ideal for paddling in the ocean since it is designed to avoid tangles and dragging that you might notice in more turbulent waters. Coiled leashes are ideal for those on flat water since the leash will typically remain coiled on your board. This way, it is out of your way and won’t slow you down by dragging in the water but is ready to be used at a moment’s notice. Breakaway leashes, also known as quick release ones, are necessary for standup paddling in rivers. These leashes can be quickly separated so you will not be stuck underwater or drown if your leash or board get tangled in branches or another underwater hazard.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Even if you are an incredibly strong swimmer, you still need to have a personal flotation device while paddle boarding. This will supplement your ability to use the board itself as a flotation device and enhance your safety. Remember that if you are paddling beyond the small area on the water designated for bathing, surfing, or swimming, you legally are required to wear a flotation device that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard since paddle boards in this area are considered vessels. The ideal is to opt for a life jacket that maximizes buoyancy.
Getting to Know The Different Water Conditions
There are several types of terrains for standup paddling with the designation being related to body of water you are on. Each has its own skill level requirements and unique safety concerns, so be aware of them.
Standup paddle boarding is a great way to explore rivers, but it poses some risks in the form of underwater branches. If your board or leash gets tangled in these, you can be dragged under or submerged. Remember to use your leash so you are always close to your board as it will keep you afloat and opt for a detachable one so you can separate it if you get tangled.
SUP surfing is simply a hybrid of surfing and using your standup paddle boarding. Before doing this, make sure you know your skill level so you don’t get in the way of other people surfing or paddling, putting them or yourself at risk. If you are a beginner, never join a crowded lineup as the chance of collision increases.
If you want to paddle a longer distance, then you will be using a touring standup paddle board. These are designed to be more comfortable as well as more capable of handling the distances. Just remember to know your limits and don’t push yourself too hard or paddle in unsafe areas.
How to Check the Weather Conditions Before Paddle Boarding
As a skilled sport, standup paddle boarding is dependent on the weather conditions to a large degree. You need to monitor the weather before and during your boarding adventures so you are prepared for any sudden changes in wind, rain, or anything else that can put you at work. The following are the most important conditions to monitor before you get on your standup paddle board.
Wind is the most important weather condition to track before you head out and while you are stand up paddle boarding. Remember that if the wind gets stronger, the water will become choppier. While this may be okay for experienced paddlers, those who are relatively new to the sport will not be able to handle it. With particularly high winds, you will spend more time trying to stay on your board than enjoying the scenery or reaching your destination. Most experts agree that if the wind is less than 10 knots, you can typically go out and paddle regardless of skill level. If the wind gets above 10 knots, then you should only go out if you are an experienced paddle boarder.
Monitoring the wind can also make standup paddle boarding easier for you if you know what you are doing. Try to paddle with the wind instead of against it if you haven’t planned your route yet. This way, you will be doing less work and not get tired as soon.
Although you don’t need to be an expert in navigating tides, you should at least understand the basics. Tides can carry you very far in just a matter seconds. Because of this, you can frequently expect to spend significantly more time paddling back to shore than paddling out. Plan your route accordingly and pay attention to the tide so you don’t get too exhausted.
When there are swells, the waves get bigger and the water gets harsher. Never underestimate how strong the water is and people whom are fairly new to paddle boarding should avoid water with high swells. Remember that the calm ocean waters can be very different than large swells that occasionally pickup in the ocean. Before going into an area that is likely to have swells, evaluate your skill level and the amount of energy you have. If possible, plan your route to avoid these swells.
While standup paddle boarding is challenging at any time of the day, it gets even harder when it is dark. If you know you plan to go out, make sure you know when the sunrise and sunset are for that day so you can ensure you get back to shore well before sunset.
Other Safety Suggestions for SUPers
In addition to being familiar with all the above information, SUP safety involves taking a few smart safety precautions.
Avoid Certain Areas
Before getting on your standup paddle board, know which areas to avoid. These may be areas with dangerous waters, boats, or something else. You should also try to stay out of the way of others enjoying the water, whether they are stand up paddle boarding or swimming.
Don’t Paddle Out Alone
You will always be safer and have more fun if you paddle with at least one other person. Whether you have a minor incident like your leash snaps or you get lost or a serious issue such as being dragged underwater, having a partner will increase your chances of safety.
Remember Sunscreen and Water
Don’t forget to protect your skin as well as the rest of your body. Anytime you go paddle boarding, put on sunscreen for water sports that is water resistant. Bring some along to reapply if you will be out for a while. You should also ideally wear sunglasses and a sun hat. If you feel comfortable, wear a lightweight long-sleeve surf shirt, or rash guard, as well to add a layer of protection for your skin. You should also bring a bottle of water to avoid dehydration, particularly since you might be paddling in the hot sun.