Stand Up Paddle Safety
Updated: Aug 17, 2021
In the past few years, there has been a massive rise in the popularity of paddleboarding. You will see SUPers not only on the coast but also on every lake, river and flat bit of water that you can find. And we think that’s great!!
This is the beautiful and simple nature of Paddle Boarding. It is not overly expensive to get started and very easily accessible to most adults and kids alike. What's not to like!
However, as with any water-based activity, it should always come with a warning label. And this has become ever more evident with recent events which always rock the SUP community to their core.
With the ease of access to equipment and no licencing or training required before you get on the water, it is inevitable that boards can become deadly when coupled with an inexperienced paddler.
We can see this with the number of call-outs our rescue services have received recently and unfortunately they anticipate continuing to grow this season. This is of course all very preventable with the right knowledge.
We feel obliged to ensure that when you purchase a board from us you are getting the advice you need to set you up for a safe SUP experience. We will even offer a free lesson after purchase. But we also recommend taking a few classes wherever is local to you with an experienced SUP instructor when you are starting out on your SUP journey. A safe paddle is the best paddle.
This is in no way a complete safety guide, more a selection of tips to ensure you have the best day on the water possible.
I'm John Power from Paddle Boards Ireland. I have been in love with the sea since I was 16 and spent many of the last 28 years on the sea teaching or being taught. I can honestly say that I have never once believed that I know everything there is to know about the sea and safety and I believe that a little caution and preparation is all that is needed to enjoy this beautiful island of ours.
TOP 3 ESSENTIAL ITEMS
The most important tool when it comes to paddleboard safety is a leash. Whether it is your first time out or you are an elite paddleboarder, this piece of equipment could be the difference between a great day or a disastrous day on the water.
A leash is what connects you to your board, without a leash, should you end up swimming, that board can float away from you in seconds.
The best leash to use is one that is a foot longer than your paddleboard, and the style depends on the terrain in which you are paddleboarding.
If you are an ocean paddler, a straight leash is the best. This type of leash provides safety without the potential drag and tangle that might occur in turbulent white water.
If you are paddleboarding on flat water, the coiled leash will be your best friend as it stays on top of your board and will not drag in the water or slow you down.
Note: if you are a river paddler, it is mandatory to wear a breakaway or quick release leash because that prevents you from getting dragged in the event of you getting tangled in underwater branches.
PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE(PFD)
The next most important tool in stand up paddleboard safety is a PFD or personal flotation device. You would think extremely obvious but you would be surprised how often this one is ignored.
You should know that a paddleboard is considered a vessel and as such, it is required by law that you wear a buoyancy aid. Here you want to use a PFD that provides maximum buoyancy and comfort of which there are many. So do your research and find one that suits your needs.
See what the RNLI recommend here.
WATERPROOF PHONE POUCH
This is an absolute necessity for very obvious reasons. It's important to have a way to contact the emergency services should you run into difficulty. We have all seen this play out in many rescues, where having a phone on the casualty was the difference between life and death.
AHEAD OF YOUR PADDLE
Check the weather. Never paddle with offshore winds, paddle with a buddy, check for tides. More on this below.
WHAT TO WEAR
This will have many variants, depending on the time of the year and where you paddle. If I'm surfing I wear a full wetsuit all year round. If I'm going for a short paddle along the canal I only wear a pair of shorts and PFD. The point is you need to make a decision based on your location and ability. I always recommend a wetsuit and PFD. Once you get confident in the water you will then be able to make more informed decisions based on your experience and needs. If in doubt, just ask.
What you should know before each paddle
Standup paddleboarding may look effortless but it is important to note that it is a skilful sport that demands awareness of dangers that may arise due to the changing forces of nature.
The first and most important weather condition to be aware of before paddling out in the wind. Higher wind speeds create choppier waters that are dangerous for inexperienced and experienced paddlers alike. On days that wind speeds are high, you may find yourself battling to stay afloat and balanced as opposed to paddling out to where you had planned.
Therefore, it is important to check the wind forecast before paddling out. As mentioned before, never paddle in offshore wind.
Swells give us bigger waves and therefore harsher waters to paddle on. Rising wave heights can lead to you paddling out and getting tumbled, so it is important to never underestimate the power of water. Even if you are confident in paddling out into calm waters of the coast, waves can add a whole new level of difficulty that requires more physical strength than you regularly need.
A basic understanding of tides and what causes them is key to ocean navigation on your paddleboard. Awareness of the tides will prepare you as they can carry you very far in a small amount of time. Paddling back may take much longer than it took you to paddle out and therefore be exhausting if you don’t plan on it ahead of time. Therefore, it is important to plan your route around the tides so that you make it safely back to shore and avoid exhaustion.
Sunrise / Sunset
It is important to know the times of sunrise and sunset so that you are never paddling when it is dark. Knowledge of the times of sunrise and sunset can help you time out your paddle so that you never go out before it is light out and also so you have enough time to get to shore before the sunsets.
I'm always asked for good apps so below is a list of apps I have on my phone all the time. I don't use any “one” app for winds and tides. I tend to look at a few and see what the weather and tides are doing and make my route plan from there.
Tides near me/tides Ireland
See more tips and info from RNLI
Remember if you get into trouble or see someone else in trouble always pick up the phone and dial 999 or 112 - Ask for the Coast Guard
DO NOT assume someone else has, you could very well save a life.
There is a wealth of information out there so please do your research and where possible support the RNLI and Emergency Services they do an incredible job and deserve all the support they can get.
Lastly share - share - share, the more people that are informed about water safety the safer we will all be.
This is not a sales pitch veiled as a “safety blog” but more our moral commitment as sellers to ensure that we do as much as we can to educate our customers on the importance of Water Safety.
We feel it is our obligation to ensure that when you do get on the water on a product that we supply we want you to Stay Safe.
Thank you so much for reading, we know it’s a long one but we felt it absolutely warranted it.