How to Keep Safe When Paddle-boarding
Paddleboarding has now established itself among people holidaying close to the coast or bodies of water as a must-do activity. During the pandemic, Instagram helped promote the world of SUP with appealing shots of people paddling surrounded by stunning scenery, SUP has also been highlighted as an excellent activity to practice now that people’s attitudes are more open towards mental health and well-being.
The mean appeal of paddleboarding of course is the accessibility and ease, pick up and go without any previous experience, knowledge, or training, anywhere and any time, with most people managing to master the basics quickly, like standing and paddling, or at least kneeling and paddling in a straight line. With any adventure sport that grows quickly in popularity, there are, unfortunately, increased numbers of incidents and situations where people endanger themselves or others, which might possibly lead to loss of life, like the tragic incident in Wales where 4 people drowned after becoming trapped in a weir.
We have put together a short list of ways you can help keep yourself and other potential water users safe when paddleboarding on open or closed water areas.
1. Checking your paddleboard is setup properly.
A. Valves are working correctly (holding pressure) and not blocked with sand or damaged in some way, and up to the board’s recommended pressure.
B. Ensure fin is correctly attached, and clips are in place or screwed in as they should be. Taking a spare fin with you paddleboarding is a great idea especially if you’re planning a longer journey.
C. Wear a leach, some people prefer quick-release waist belts, either way, they are essential. Even carry a spear to attach to other boards if needed.
D. Paddle – check clips are in place (if they have them). It’s easy to store a spare paddle under the bungee cord at the front of your board, a good idea if you are planning to paddle away from shorelines.
2. What personal safety equipment should I take paddle boarding?
First, you need to decide where and when you are going paddleboarding, are you going for a 20-minute paddle or a tour? are you staying close to shore or going away from populated areas? There are many different scenarios we could create to justify packing certain items so as a rule of thumb, if you’re looking to paddle more regularly here is a small list of things to consider.
Mobile Phone/VHF - In almost all situations you should be able to carry and store a mobile phone when paddling. Dry bags cost almost nothing, and most paddleboards should come with a bungee cord to store such items, if not, a waterproof case with string to wear around your neck.
Whistle – Small, lightweight, and cheap, they are a great way to attract attention.
Dry Bag – Keep everything you have stored away nice and dry. They come in all shapes and sizes, there are even ergonomic ones that sit flat on your board so it’s more aerodynamic.
Snack/water – Probably better suited for longer excursions, adding water and a couple of energy bars is a great way to stay hydrated and avoid the effects of dehydration or hunger/loss of energy.
Suncream/hat – Good for keeping the sun off you on long hot days.
Spare Fin – Small and lightweight, will get you out of trouble if your main fin is lost or damaged.
3. Do I need a buoyancy aid to go paddle boarding?
Buoyancy aids are without question the easiest way to keep yourself safe on the water. Unfortunately, as we live in an Instagram generation it’s not always seen as ‘cool’ to wear one. However, for anyone heading out paddleboarding the advice is ‘always wear a buoyancy aid’. Conditions can change quickly on the water, tides, wind, and swell have a massive effect on you and the board, even if it’s a clear blue sky day it’s good to remember that other water users e.g boats, paddlers, swimmers, even commercial businesses (the list goes on) may be present and can present danger. Buoyancy aid prices range from £30 to upward of £200, most will have a rating of N50 – N60 which is a measurement of how buoyant they are. The fit is very important, too loose and the BA might sit high up on your body when you’re in the water which could easily restrict your ability to see or even swim, too tight and it might restrict your breathing. Crewsaver, PeakUK, Gul, Nookie, YAK, and Sola are just some companies that produce great fitting BA’s.
4. How do I plan a safe paddle boarding journey?
A. Weather – This is always going to be the deciding factor on whether you should head out paddle boarding or not. The ideal conditions would be a perfect sunny day with no wind, however, in the UK this is rarely the case. Rain, fog, wind, and air temperature should all be taken into consideration carefully when planning short or long paddles. Use apps like Met Office for a general weather report but make sure to check for updates, there’s no point in looking at the weather the night before, then handing off in the morning. Windy App is great for localised wind directions and speed, Magic Seaweed will tell you everything related to tide height and swell conditions Some local harbour offices might have websites with cameras pointing at the sea. If you’re in a tidal area, you’ll want to know when high and low tide is. Some estuaries can dry out very quickly after high tide, if you’re ever unsure about an area you’re visiting try asking a local fisherman, harbour office, or surfer with local knowledge.
B. Always tell someone your plans – Make sure someone always knows where you’re planning to paddleboard, if you change the location at the last minute be sure to update that person. Tell them your intended route and how long to intend to be on the water, it’s a good idea to suggest a time you’ll be back so that if you don’t return, someone can raise the alarm quickly.
5. What type of board should I buy?
The cheapest isn’t always the best option here! Although it might be tempting to get a bargain from the local supermarket, you might want to think about the build quality, shape, and size before opening your wallet. If you’re truly interested in getting into paddleboarding then we’d recommend going with a respected brand such as Red, JOBE, Starboard, and Two Bare Foot which deliver on quality and range. Some of the board options available are (standard/all-around, touring, race, and SUP-surf). Talking to a brand representative will provide you with all the details you’ll need. Think about where and how you might use your paddleboard, will it be on a river, or open water, or maybe a lake? How far would you like to travel, short 20 minutes blasts, or 2-hour tours around an area of coastline? This should be a good deciding factor in what shape you go for.
It’s highly recommended to seek a lesson from a professional paddleboard instructor when starting out, even if you feel confident on the water. A professional instructor should be able to advise you on paddling technique, boards, the right paddling conditions, and so on. In most cases, you’ll almost always come away from your lesson having learned something new and with a greater respect and appreciation for the water. You can book lessons and tours with Adventure South by visiting our website www.adventuresouth.co.uk, calling, or emailing directly.
Enjoy the water and safe paddling.