Guide To SUP Safety
On the danger scale, paddle boarding rarely reaches the realm of extreme sports. While there are athletes out there that attempt to paddle their SUPs through rapids and over waterfalls, the vast majority of paddlers are going to opt for a lower level of excitement.
Nevertheless, simple steps should be taken to ensure that your paddling trip ends with a smile. This is not an exhaustive list of safety considerations, but here is our quick list:
The first step is to make sure you are familiar with the conditions that you are going to be paddling in. You want to make sure that you know any major threats beforehand.
What hazards are there in the lake, river or other body of water where you are paddling?
Are there any dangerous wildlife that you should look to avoid?
Is the water moving swiftly?
Are their boat lanes to avoid?
What are the weather conditions? Could the weather and/or water level change rapidly?
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
The technical term for a life jacket, a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is the fundamental piece of safety gear. In swift water or water with strong currents, a PFD should always be worn. Make sure that your PDF fits correctly and is rated to the conditions that you will be paddling in.
Non-swimmers should always wear a PFD, while strong swimmers may opt for a PFD belt.
Whistle and Leash
In an emergency situation, communication is critical. A whistle is the easiest way to get attention and alert others of the emergency. Likewise, a leash can also be helpful in a worst case scenario. The leash is designed to prevent you from being separated from your board, and is important to use in swift moving water or strong currents.
Clothing also plays a vital role in safety. There are several things that you will need to pay attention to when picking your clothes.
- You need to be able to swim. Avoid baggy clothing as it restricts movement when wet and can drag you down. Swimwear and rash guards are an ideal choice.
- Choose bright colors. If you are in an emergency situation, high-visibility colors can help rescuers locate you. Red, yellow, neon green and similar shades are ideal choices.
- Dress for the weather. Overheating and dehydration present a challenge in extreme heat, while hypothermia can set in at the other extreme. Make sure you choose clothes that will protect you from the sun and extreme temperatures.
While a lack of water is probably one of the last problems you would predict when planning a day on a kayak or paddleboard, it is one you will definitely want to plan for. Dehydration can lead to a number of problems in addition to making the trip less enjoyable. You will want to make sure you keep plenty of water and electrolytes in your system while you are paddling.
Make sure you pack a water bottle and start off your paddle trip well hydrated.
Finally, you will need to paddle within your limits. While paddling can be a great form of exercise, it does have some risks, and exhaustion magnifies those risks. To combat those threats, there are a few steps you can take.
- Avoid paddling alone. If you paddle solo, make sure you let someone know that you are going out, where you are paddling, and when you expect to return.
- Avoid pushing the limit. Don’t paddle in waters that are above your skill level or exceed your physical abilities.
- Stay healthy off the water. Many boating-related incidents stem from heart disease or other no water-related causes. However, because paddling adds a level of exertion and isolation, it can compound the dangers of these events. Living a healthy, active lifestyle can help mitigate some of these risks.