You never know what's going to happen on your next SUP board adventure. Anything’s possible! That’s the beauty of SUP boarding- the mobility and ease allows you to go practically anywhere. But with that comes some pretty strange possibilities...
Though you can’t prepare for everything, there are certain paddle board safety requirements that will make your SUP time awesome, no matter what unexpected encounters occur!
SUP safety is easy and effective when you do it right, so we’ve got an exhaustive list of tips, tricks, and hacks that will have you SUP boarding like a pro!
SUP LOCATION SAFETY:
DETERMINE THE AREA OF USE
There are different regulations for different areas and bodies of water, so it’s imperative to know where you are SUP boarding beforehand and understand the specific, local regulations that apply.
Swimming, Surf, or Bathing Areas-
These areas consist of more shallow waters, where people swim and there are no motorized boats. In these areas your SUP is not considered a vessel so you are not required to wear a life vest, whistle or other “carriage requirements”.
Beyond the Surf Break/ Other Waters-
Once outside designated swimming areas your SUP board is considered a vessel, such as a kayak, and falls under the designated “carriage requirements”, which we will get more into below- in the safety gear portion.
CONSIDER THE 3 W’S:
Once you’ve decided what area you want to take your SUP board out on, you have to prepare for the different elements you will be dealing with…
Wind is not a force you want to recon with on your SUP board. You can catch a lot of breeze standing atop your board, like a mini sail. So, always check the forecast! Winds can cause choppy waters and make for a bumpy ride. Wind speeds below 10 knots are usually safe for most skill levels. But anything above 10 knots- you should know how to handle more extreme conditions before paddling out!
Extra SUP Board Wind Safety Tips-
*Before launching, figure out which way the wind is blowing and paddle against it, that way when you return, more fatigued from a day of paddling, you won't be fighting against the wind. Instead of pushing against the wind the wind will push you.
*If you are caught fighting against the wind and find yourself struggling to get back to shore, lay flat on your stomach and use your arms to paddle back to shore. This is more aerodynamic, stopping your body from catching wind and sending you further away from your landing point.
Sometimes big waves can be totally tubular, that is if you’re out there SUP surfing. No matter what reason you find yourself out on the water, it’s always safest to be mindful of the swell. Underestimate the waves, and you could get pushed farther out than intended, tumble off, or exert more physical strength navigating than you planned. Always research the coastline before taking your SUP board out and get a good sense of the wave patterns. Decide if you want to chill in calm waters or wipe out on some gnarly waves dude
Your safety while SUP boarding is largely dependent on your understanding of the water you’re dealing with. Always consider the water’s temperature, current, and tides. The shoreline when you launch will most likely look different then when you left. Always plan your route using currents and tides to your advantage to avoid getting stuck out at sea or over exhaustion on your return.
And to ensure total safety and enjoyment always dress for the right water temperature.
One of the best parts of SUP boarding is that you can pick up and go whenever you want. It’s that freedom that make it so great, but can also be a safety risk.
Once you’ve decided on the perfect place and time to go SUP boarding, you have to let someone know where you’re going, and when you expect to return- even if it’s a quick text, especially if you’re going alone.
This is a simple safety precaution for the very small chance something goes wrong. Always let a land-bound person know you’re SUP boarding before you go incase of emergency… and telling your dog doesn’t count!
SUP SAFETY GEAR:
For SUP boarding in the areas specified above.
PFD (Personal Floatation Device)
Sound Producing Device
Navigation Light -after sundown
Visual Distress Signal (VDS) -after sundown
PFD (Personal Floatation Device) / Life Jacket
Children 12 years old or younger are required to wear a USCG type I, II, or III life vest at all times.
SUP LEASH SAFETY:
Your SUP board is more than just something to stand up on, It’s also a flotation device. So staying tethered to it is the safest thing you can do- when you have the proper leash. In the off chance that you fall off, or become injured, staying connected to your board will keep you afloat.
Personal flotation devices are best known as life vests, but they come in may shapes and styles. Depending on your experience level, and where you are SUP boarding, there are specific PDFs that work best. For instance if you are SUP boarding in the rapids with jagged rocks- an inflatable PDF wouldn’t be the smartest choice as it could get punctured. A foam core life jacket is generally the best choice for most SUP board activities
SUP GPS SAFETY:
If you are going a long distance on your SUP board, it’s best to bring your phone along for GPS purposes. So, throw that baby in a waterproof case and go! Your phone can also give you access up to the minute weather conditions, which is also handy for safety reasons.
SUP SAFETY INSPECTION:
Always give your gear a thorough safety inspection before heading out on the water. Normal wear and tear can cause your leash to snap, or PDF to puncture easily, which would seriously put a damper on your SUP adventure.
Also don’t forget to charge your phone and check for service availability in the area you’re going SUP boarding.
SUP SAFETY GEAR HACKS:
*The Wetsuit Plastic Bag Trick- If you’re headed for more chilly waters, you’ll definitely want to sport a wet suit for safety reasons. But we all know the pain of trying to scrunch those tight neoprene leggings over our feet. Slide a plastic bag, like a sock, over your feet, then those wetsuit legs should glide right on. Then just pull the bags off your toes through the holes in the bottom.
*Adjustable Paddle-It’s always safe to expect the unexpected, so opting for an adjustable paddle will help you be prepared for anything.
*DIY SUP Board Grip- If you want that extra foot grip on your board, simply stick a bathmat on the part of SUP board you want more traction on. Yeah, it’s that easy!