The Stand-Up Paddle Safety Check List

New to  stand up paddle boarding? Being on the water is epic, however practising watersports always carries a risk. Sea states and wind direction can change dramatically when you least expect it! Risks are also present in inland waterways, items such as floating debris, roots present danger so even the ‘safest’ spots could potential be hazardous. Paddle Logger boss David Walker gives TotalSUP a comprehensive list of how to be safe in the water, and how Paddle Logger is designed to help paddlers who find themselves in tricky circumstances.

It is true being on the water is epic! It’s why we do the sports that we do, it’s what motivates us to paddle in the freezing cold and at the crack of dawn.  The global trend of SUP means that the sport is becoming more and more accessible with online retailers and brands developing SUPs in the cost effective price range. Right now, there are more and more paddlers taking to the water without prior experience or knowledge. At Paddle Logger we feel that as an industry we all have to do our part to promote best practice where possible, so we have put together a quick list of things to bear in mind before you grab your gear and jump on the water – especially as it starts to warm up again!!

1. Stand-Up Paddle Equipment

Before you head out on the water, make sure your equipment is not damaged, it is all present and correct. You have the right fin and it is tightly screwed in and there is no damage to your leash.

2. Your paddle

Simply put, I don’t think many people would regard this as a direct safety issue, but you want to be the most effective paddler you can, especially if the conditions get tough. Make sure the paddle is round the right way (blade angled away from you), the blade is angled to allow you to effectively catch water in the blade and generate the most power comfortably possible from the stroke. If you spin it around and ‘scoop’ water towards you,  the fluttering effect will not only be uncomfortable after a long distance, but it will also reduce the efficiency of your paddle stroke. The last thing you need, when battling into a headwind, which requires a max power output!

3. Wear a Leash!

Depending on where you paddle a leash is a vital piece of kit, which attaches you to your major personal flotation device, your board. Out in the ocean it is vital, whether you are cruising along the coast or racing. When surfing, make sure you use a straight leash to avoid recoil, which can damage both yourself and others. However a leash is not always best practice and can be a hindrance. Running rivers, it may be best to not wear a leash and wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) instead. My personal opinion is if you are unsure, always wear a coiled leash unless you are surfing. If you are cruising down a river it may be best practice to wear a quick release waist leash, so if you do get caught you do not get dragged under.

4. Don’t forget your PFD

Buoyancy aids and personal flotation devices have their place in SUP. As I mentioned earlier, your leash keeps you attached to a major personal flotation device. However as you have seen a leash is not always appropriate. Whitewater SUPers, like kayakers, will be wearing one and have a helmet on as well. If you have a lesson at a club it is likely you will be asked to wear one as part of their policy  until you have completed a competency exam. In many cases a PFD vest, can be a hindrance in scenarios other than the above, so I tend to ride with a small rapid inflating device that sits around my waist. Like most things, it is a case of redundancy, if my inflatable decides to burst or my leash snaps causing me to fall in,  I still have something which I can hold on to and will keep me afloat until help can arrive.

5. Wear the right clothing

Ryan from SUPUrban touched on this in an earlier piece he wrote about paddling in the winter. Wearing the appropriate clothing can be the difference between having the best paddle ever, or hypothermia if you fall in. Lightweight quick drying clothing is a winner here. If you aren’t expecting to go in, 1-3 mm neoprene is good, either in trousers, tops or jackets. A Long-John suit is super versatile as it keeps your core warm from the win, your legs protected from the spray, leaving your arms free to paddle. Plus you can roll your long john down to the waist  if you feel yourself overheating.

6. Check out the water and weather conditions

Before you jump on the water, make sure you check the conditions. Look at the weather reports to see where the wind is blowing, how strong and for how long. If you are not sure what is a good wind speed to paddle in, find a day when conditions are perfect, then afterwards look up online what the wind data was when you paddle, then note them down and this will then provide a reference for that particular spot! Remember just because the conditions seem nice great at the time of paddling it doesn’t mean it will be the same in 30 mins or an hour, Too many times I have headed out into the wind expecting a nice easy journey back with the wind behind me as I tire out. 5 minutes into the return paddle the direction has changed making it a more of a  hard slog than I really wanted! It is worth pointing out that the land shapes and topography can have an effect on the wind. So while prevailing winds may be one direction, the wind at water level may be being funnelled down a valley or equally, really calm just under the cliffs where you want to paddle.

7. Stand Up Paddle with a friend

The first time you paddle a new spot, go with someone who knows the areas and the currents. Paddling with a buddy is heaps more fun and safer! Take a phone or a radio if you have access to one. This might seem over the top, but if you get into difficulty and need to tell someone it isn’t. High quality dry bags are very affordable, you can also stash an emergency energy bar in there as well.

8. Use the Paddle Logger app and the new Pit – Paddler in Trouble feature

We have lot of people asking if they can use their latest Smart Watch without having to take their phone on the water. The answer I always give is this – “Yes we designed Paddle Logger to work for the Apple Watch, however we do recommend that you take a phone with you and stow it safely in case of emergency.”

This does bring me neatly onto Paddle Logger PiT (Paddler in Trouble), for the last few months we have been working on this new feature which will sit separately to Edition. We want to change the way responsibility is viewed on the water, removing the hassle and reducing the number of steps that can make safety a chore. One of the easiest things to do to be a responsible paddler is to check in with someone before and after you go paddling. We have integrated this into one step, the same step the paddler does to start a paddle, before stowing their device and getting out on the water. PiT will be entering a Public Beta, initially available to those who are part of the Paddle Club (found under the More tab within the app), then enter into a wider release later this year.

At Paddle Logger we want people to have the best time they can on the water, as the season starts to pick up we hope experienced and new paddlers alike are able to get on the water as much as possible.

Happy Paddling everyone!!

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About the Author

Helen Trehoret

SUP, OC1, V6, Surfski ... and field hockey coaching, Helen is a busy British mother of two who lives in Bretagne, France with a passion for all things Ocean. Helen runs Barrachou SUP, a SUP tour company specialized in excursions around Bretagne and Scotland.

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