So you've fallen in love with SUP? It's not surprising. Paddle boarding has become one of the fastest growing sports in the USA. It's relaxing and relatively easy to get started.
Naturally, you might set out on a SUP adventure without overthinking things, but make sure you're also paddling wisely and safely. Here are ten important standup paddleboarding safety tips that you should remember every time you go out on the water.
Take SUP Lessons
The more you learn, the more confident you will be in your ability to enjoy the experience even more! Take a SUP course locally or online through the ACA to improve your SUP skills.
Join a SUP Paddle Board Group
Facebook, Meetup and Reddit are full of Paddle SUP groups who can offer valuable information and support regarding your first SUP, where to go, which SUPs are the best, etc. Tap into these groups for valuable information as well as new friendships!
Paddle with a Friend
It's always more fun to Stand Up Paddleboard with a partner, just like anything else. It's always fun to have a friend or a group along to share in the moments and make memories, but there's also the added benefit of having someone there to help if something unexpected happens. Accidents and injuries do occur, and there is greater safety in numbers.
Check the Weather Before You Go
Always check the weather forecast before venturing out. For wind and wave predictions, consult your local weather station and the National Weather Service (http://www.weather.gov/), as well as the NOAA (http://www.noaa.gov/). Understand what the weather forecast is for the entire day. Don't assume you'll only be out for a short time because the weather can change and move quickly.
When there is threatening weather nearby, don't take any chances or try to paddle in between storms. Even if a storm is not in your immediate vicinity, winds and waves may suddenly and unexpectedly increase ahead of a storm, and if the weather is generally unstable, an unexpected pop-up storm is also possible. Always be cautious and informed before venturing out!
Be Prepared for Anything
Being prepared for your SUP adventure is a good idea for both safety and comfort. Consider using paddleboarding accessories such as a dry bag to store small necessities such as high-energy, non-perishable snacks and water for hydration.
If you intend to be out for an extended period of time, consider investing in a lightweight hydration backpack with an internal water bladder to ensure you have plenty of fresh, clean water to drink. A small first aid kit, insect repellent for biting flies and mosquitoes, sun screen, lip balm with 30+ SPF, a sun hat and sunglasses to protect you from the sun's harsh UV rays are also recommended.
Bring a repair kit, too! You never know if your SUP may spring a leak.
Wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
A PFD is one of the most important paddleboard accessories, and it cannot save your life if you are not wearing it! Even if you are a strong swimmer, things can happen quickly and you may not have time to put on your PFD safely and correctly, so wearing it is always best! PFDs come in a variety of styles and types, so do your homework. Check with your local government agencies for specific rules and laws regarding PFD requirements, check online, and shop around locally, asking sales associates at sporting goods stores for assistance in selecting the correct PFD for you.
Use a SUP Leash
A leash is one of the most important stand up paddleboard accessories you'll need. Wearing a sup board leash ensures that if you fall off your SUP, you can reach it safely and quickly to get back on or use it as a floatation device. SUPs are easily picked up by the wind and blown across the waves far and away from you. Using a leash keeps your board within reach at all times.
Bring Your Cell Phone
Bring a cell phone in a waterproof dry bag to keep it safe and ready to use if you need to call for assistance. Before you leave, text a friend or family member your location as well as your expected return time.
Wear High Visibility Clothing
Because a SUP is flat, it can be difficult to see it from boats or other moving watercraft. Wearing brightly colored UPF swim clothing will make you more visible to other paddlers. Wearing a long-sleeved, bright-colored rash guard top will not only make you more visible, but it will also protect your skin from sunburn and overexposure.
It is a good idea to protect yourself from hypothermia in cooler and colder weather by wearing additional protective layers and gear such as a wetsuit and paddle water shoes. Wetsuits (or dry suits) come in a variety of styles and fabric weights for different seasons. More information on wetsuits and/or dry suits.
Wear UPF Protective Clothing
Don't underestimate the effects of the sun or a sunburn! When you're out on the water, it's easy to lose track of time. Wearing UPF 50 protective clothing or packing a rashguard in your bag can help save you from severe sunburn.
Know the Direction of the Wind
This may seem trivial, but knowing which way the wind is blowing and whether it is expected to change direction later in the day is crucial. Whenever possible, paddle out into the wind so that you can return with the wind at your back. Returning with the wind at your back will aid your return and require less work, which is especially beneficial if you have become tired. Always be aware of your capabilities and realistic about them. Also, be aware of and consider off-shore winds, which can be powerful and take you out far and deep very quickly. Never paddle out further than you are confident you can return. Underestimating yourself and Mother Nature could have serious consequences. Take your time and be aware of your limitations!
These are just a few basic safety guidelines to get you started. Check with your local and state law enforcement agencies, as well as the US Coast Guard, to learn more about SUP Safety and the appropriate safety equipment required for Stand Up Paddle Boarding in your area. Every state is likely to have its own set of rules and regulations. Happy SUP-ing!