SUP Safety Tips – Ignore At Your Own Peril!
Don’t even consider going out without a PFD / Lifejacket - The most popular option for SUP is an inflatable belt pack PFD with a CO2 cartridge triggered by a pull tab that is secured to your waist or can tethered to the board. The only situation where PFD's are not generally used is in surfing on the ocean. This is a special situation because the buoyancy provided by the PFD does not allow the surfer to duck dive under the water to avoid impact with the board. While surfing, sensible precautions include never surfing alone and receiving proper safety training, while recognizing that surfing is an inherently risky activity. An inherently buoyant life jacket is the best option on rivers as it will keep your head out of the water if knocked unconscious.
Use a SUP leash appropriate to the situation - A leash prevents you from being separated from your board and being left without flotation, while also preventing your board from injuring others in the water. However, when venturing out on rivers with moving water, it is critical to receive proper safety training, including modified leash usage to prevent entrapment and entanglement. Leashes with quick release mechanism have been developed to reduce this risk, but proper training and understanding of risks is your first defense in river paddling. Additional information on leash safety on rivers can be found in this article by Earth River SUP.
Take your phone – Having a cell phone can be critical if you run into trouble while far away from assistance. GPS can keep you from getting lost, and Find My iPhone or the equivalent can allow family members to track your location if you are going on a long excursion. To keep your phone (plus keys and other valuables) safe while paddling, we recommend using a waterproof phone case or roll-top dry bag.
Consider an anchor - An appropriate anchor can prevent drifting while performing Yoga, Fishing, or taking a lunch break on the water. We recommend an 8-10 lb mushroom anchor, which has a smooth bottom that will not damage your board, with approximately 15 feet of rope.
Take a lesson - Learning to SUP is easy. Most people get the hang of it in less than an hour of practice. But proper instruction in paddling forward and backward, turning, getting back on the board after falling off, and general safety practices will give you a lifelong foundation for safe and fun paddling. We recommend taking a lesson from an instructor certified by a recognized paddling organization such as American Canoe Association (ACA), Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI), World Paddling Association (WPA), or Professional Stand Up Paddle Association (PSUPA).
Beware of substandard equipment – When shopping for a board and paddle, beware of bargain basement products that might let you down and put you in harm’s way. An overly cheap paddle can break, leaving you stranded, and a poorly made board can break or fail, leaving you without flotation. So shop carefully, do your research, and be prepared to pay a little more for quality equipment. It will last longer anyway, saving you money in the long term.
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