Stand up paddling is a fantastic way to get out on the water, explore, and exercise. It’s relatively easy to pick up, yet you can make the sport as challenging as you’d like. But like any water sport, it’s important to lay down a few safety rules before diving in. Whether you’re new to stand-up paddle boarding or you’re an experienced SUP’er, be sure to practice these basic safety tips while out on the water:
1. Check the weather.
Wind and rain can make it hard to use your SUP board properly—not to mention that it’s dangerous. In fact, your body can act as a sail in windy weather and push you and your board around. If you’re paddleboarding in a river, heavy rain can cause water levels to rise rapidly and the river to surge. Check all surrounding areas as well. Heavy rain upstream can cause flash flooding in your area as well, even if you don’t have any rain. In addition, thunderstorms pop up quickly in coastal areas, so be sure to check the weather forecast before you head out for a day of SUPing.
2. Consider the time of day.
If you decide to paddleboard in the late afternoon, check what time the sun sets. Once the sun goes down, it can get dark surprisingly fast. And if you’re far out, you’ll have trouble finding your way back (not to mention that others cannot see you if you need help).
3. Monitor the currents & tides.
Currents and tides can change drastically in a short period. Riptides are especially notorious for causing you to drift far and fast. Depending on your area, you can check tide charts online for specific areas and beaches. Now, many apps also provide riptide and strong current alerts for your area. Most public beaches display a flag or warning system on the beach or at the entrances to warn beachgoers of the current conditions. Always take these seriously, no matter your experience level.
4. Heed local knowledge.
Don’t be shy! Asking locals to tell you what they know about the area gives you insight into what to watch out for. No two beaches are the same, so local expertise may help you to have a much better (and safer) SUP experience.
5. Keep your distance.
A good rule of thumb is not to get too close to swimmers, surfers, and other stand-up paddleboarders. If you get too close, you run the risk of running over swimmers, bumping into surfers, and potentially injuring yourself or others.
6. Wear a leash.
Wearing a leash helps keep you attached to your board and prevents it from becoming a projectile if you fall off and wave catches it. A leash is also helpful even if you are in calm waters as well. If you want to cool off in the water for a bit, your board won’t drift away from you. Try Smooth’s coil leash designed with comfort in mind.
7. Remember your PFD & whistle.
Wear a PFD (personal flotation device), and bring a whistle, especially on longer excursions. If you’re an experienced swimmer and find traditional lifejackets too bulky or that they hinder your paddling, consider purchasing a buoyancy aid or waist belt. They’re low profile but still provide some assistance if you need it. A whistle could come in handy if you’re far from shore or out of view and have to get someone’s attention.
8. Check your equipment.
Before heading out into the water, be sure to check over your equipment. If you have an inflatable SUP board, make sure it’s properly inflated, and make sure your paddle is in good condition without chips or cracks. Don’t forget to double-check that your leash is secured to your board.
9. Dress appropriately.
Wear the proper attire based on weather and water temperature. A long-sleeved rash guard can protect you from the sun if you’re out on the water for long periods, and your sunscreen starts to wear off. A hat and sunglasses will also help to protect you from the sun. Even though you’re in the water, heat strokes and sun damage can still happen!
If you’re paddling in cold weather and water, wear a wetsuit and be mindful of your body temperature. If you’re starting to feel too cold and chilly, don’t be afraid to head back in and warm up. Hypothermia is a real possibility and can set in quickly! Don’t ignore your body’s signs or symptoms that something is off.
10. Paddle with a buddy.
Going out into the water alone can be dangerous depending where you are or how long you’ll be out, so consider paddling with a buddy! Not only is it fun to paddle with a friend, but having a SUP buddy is also safer. If something were to happen to you or vice versa, you have a friend there to step in and help.
11. Let someone know where you’re going.
Always let someone know that you’re going to be out on the water and where you are. Letting someone know where you are, especially if you decide to SUP alone, is extremely important if things happen to go awry. Someone will know your location and be able to get help if anything happens. You can also let this person know to contact help if they don’t hear from you within a set amount of time (be sure to wear a watch so you can arrive back before that time).
12. Practice falling in.
Practice makes perfect! It won’t hurt to practice falling in and getting back up on your board. This way, you’ll be confident that if you get knocked off your paddleboard, or if your board happens to flip, you’ll be able to quickly and easily get back on! Remember, fall to the side--don't try to jump off the front.
13. Keep calm and float on.
If, for whatever reason, you find yourself out in the water without your board or a flotation device, and you need to wait for rescue, remember this: keep calm, and float on. Practice floating on your back as this requires the least amount of effort on your part and allows rescuers to have time to come and help.
Having a plan in place and knowing these basic stand-up paddleboard safety tips are crucial to having a safe and fun time out on the water. From beginner to experienced SUP boarder, consider reviewing these tips to make the most of your SUP adventure!
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