Paddle Smart With These 9 Important SUP Safety Tips

Posted by on 3/20/2018 to Kimberly Ciesla
SUP Safety Tips It's easy enough to set out on a SUP adventure without over-planning things, but be sure you're paddling smart too. Here are 9 important safety tips for standup paddleboarding that you should review and keep in mind every time you plan to hit the water.

Paddle with A Partner

Just like anything, it’s always so much more fun to Stand Up Paddleboard with a partner. Having a friend (or multiple friends!) along to share in the moments and making memories is always a good time, but there is also the added benefit of having someone there to help should something unexpected happen. Accidents and injuries can and do happen, and there is more safety in numbers!

Know Before You Go

Always check the weather before you go. Check with your local weather station and National weather service (http://www.weather.gov/) , as well as the NOAA (http://www.noaa.gov/) for wind and wave predictions. Know exactly what the weather is expected to be for the entire day. Don’t assume that you will only be out for a small amount of time, as the weather can change and move fast. Don’t take any chances when there is threatening weather nearby, or try to paddle in between storms. Even though a storm may not be present in your immediate area, winds and waves may increase suddenly and unexpectedly ahead of a storm and if the weather is generally unstable an unexpected pop-up storm is also possible. Always be safe and know before you go!

Be Prepared

Being prepared for your SUP adventure is smart for safety as well as for your comfort. Consider paddleboarding accessories like a dry bag to pack some small necessities items such as some high energy, non-perishable snacks, and water for hydration. If you plan to be out for a long period of time consider a lightweight hydration backpack with an internal water bladder to ensure that you have plenty of fresh, clean water to drink. Other beneficial items to pack: A small first aid kit, insect repellent for biting flies and mosquitoes, as well as sun screen, lip balm with 30+ SPF and sunglasses to protect you from the suns harsh UV rays.

Wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

A PFD is one of the most important accessories for paddleboards, and can not save your life if you aren’t wearing it! Even if you are strong swimmer, things can happen quickly and you may not have the time to safely and correctly put on your PFD, so wearing it is always best! There are many styles and types of PFDs so do your research. Check with your local government agencies for specific rules and laws regarding PFD requirements, check online, and shop around locally asking your sporting goods store sales associates for assistance in choosing the correct PFD for you.

Wear a Leash

Another one of the most important stand up paddleboard accessories you need is a leash. Wearing a sup board leash will ensure that if you fall off of your SUP you will be able to reach it safely and quickly to get back on or to at least use it for a floatation device. SUP’s can easily be picked up by the wind and tossed across the waves far and away from you quickly. Having a leash on ensures that your board is always within reach.

Take a Cell Phone

Bring a cell phone in a waterproof dry bag to protect it from damage and to have it ready and available should you need to call for help. Texting a friend or family member your location as well as expected return time is also a good idea before your head out.

Wear Visible and Protective Clothing

Since a SUP is flat it can sometimes be difficult to see it especially from another moving watercraft. Wearing bright colored clothing will help to make you more visible to others while paddling. Wearing a long sleeve, bright colored rash guard top will not only help to make your more visible it will also help to protect your skin from overexposure to the sun and sunburn. 

In cooler, and colder weather it is a good idea to protect yourself from the possibility of hypothermia by wearing additional protective layers and gear such as a wetsuit as well as paddle water shoes. Wetsuits (or dry suits) come in many types and styles, as well as fabric weights for different seasons. Again, check with your local sporting goods store sales associate to learn more about wetsuits and/or dry suits!

Know Which Way the Wind is Blowing

This may sound silly, but knowing which way the wind is blowing and whether or not it is expected to change direction later in the day is actually rather important. Whenever possible, always paddle out into the wind so that you may have the wind to your back as you return. Returning with the wind to your back will help assist you in your return and will require less work which is especially beneficial if you have become a bit fatigued. Always know your capabilities and be realistic about them. Also, be aware and consider off-shore winds as they are sometimes powerful and can take you out far and deep very quickly. Never paddle out further than you know that you can handle to return. Underestimating your abilities and Mother Nature could result in some serious consequences. Take your time and know your limits!

Level up your SUP!

The more you know, the more confidence you will have to enjoy the experience even more! Up your SUP skills by taking a SUP course locally or taking one online through the ACA. 

These are just a few basic safety tips to help get started. Always check with your State and local law enforcement agencies as well as the US Coast Guard to learn more about SUP Safety the appropriate safety equipment required for Stand Up Paddle Boarding in your area. There are likely different rules and regulations in every State. Know the requirements for yours.

Additional Resources

“SUP: Leashes & Lifejackets - When to Wear, When Not to Wear” 
ACA “American Canoe Association” 

“Life Jacket Rules”  
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources 


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