Paddleboarding is dangerous. Although the paparazzi photos of bikini-clad celebs and their backwards paddles would make this statement seem ridiculous, there's lots of evidence (sadly) to support it.
Any time you are on the water and exposed to the uncontrollable elements of nature, there are inherent risks to your life. Since SUP exploded on the scene, there have been numerous drownings and near-misses all due to lax safety practices and uneducated participants. To maximize your enjoyment on the water and improve your chances of being able to repeat the experience, we have an easy 3-step plan for safe SUP practices. All you need to know are the 3 C's of SUP safety: Comply, Connect, and Communicate
Step 1 COMPLY
- The United States Coast Guard made a ruling to classify paddleboards as "vessels" and required to have on board an approved Personal Flotation Device, sound signal (whistle) and light at dawn or dusk.
- The safest place for personal flotation is on your body. You can wear a manually inflated belt pack type or a buoyant vest type (safest, as it will keep you floating if unconscious).
- If you choose to attach your PFD to your board, it is imperative that you wear a leash. Which brings us to the next step...
Step 2 CONNECT
- Wear a leash to stay connected to your largest and most buoyant object, your paddle board and prevent it from running away forever or running into objects (like people and stuff).
- There are three basic leash types which should be used for the specific paddling application. Coiled leashes are good for flatwater so they sit coiled on the board deck instead of dragging in the water which will slow you down. Straight leashes are typically used in the surf and will keep you safely connected and out of harm's way in all conditions. Breakaway leashes are used primarily in whitewater and attach to your PFD instead of your leg. This is a critical safety point for whitewater conditions.
- Leashes come in different lengths and thicknesses. Choose a length at least as long as your board and choose thickness based on the conditions. You will need a thicker leash for heavier/rougher conditions and a lighter leash for walks in the park.
- When to use a leash? When in doubt remember that Leashes Save Lives.
Step 3 COMMUNICATE
- You can prevent a crisis with proper communication.
- Before you go, text one or two people your "float plan" and tell them where you are launching, where you are going, and when you expect to return. When you return text those same people and let them know you are safe.
- Take a phone/radio/GPS tracker with you in a waterproof case.
- Check weather conditions and communicate with locals and/or forecast services for wind and wave reports. Know what you are getting into and the potential for adverse conditions.