Forrest Wells // December 14, 2019
Stand Up Paddle Boarding is not only a ton of fun and a great workout but it also can be relatively safe. A proper understanding of your environment and gear is the best way to ensure that you have fun and stay safe during your next SUP outing.
It is always a good idea to conduct a risk assessment before you head out on the water for any activity. This assessment not only needs to include whats is going on in the environment, but it also needs to honestly assess the proficiency and experience of all of those who are participating. If you find a number of things to be "risky" then maybe reconsider or amend your planned outing. Get some training, know your limits and always be honest with yourself and others.
When conducting your risk assessment you should consider the four W's: Where you are paddling, Weather, Waves and Wind.
Novice stand up paddle boarders should be paddling on bodies of water that are protected and remain calm. Wind can ruin a paddlers day quickly so know before you go and check the forecast.
Always wear a life jacket especially when out of a designated swimming area or the surf. If you’re a strong swimmer you can consider an inflatable PFD, which is lower profile and out of the way.
When teaching SUP I refer to the paddle board as our island of safety. In keeping with that theme the leash, in my mind, becomes the most important piece of safety equipment for any stand up paddler. The leash ensures that you never become separated from your island. Leashes come in many configurations to match your activity. Whether you are a novice or pro paddler on a downwind run, always wear your leash! *This does not apply to those paddling a SUP in the river. If you do wear a leash in the river, make sure it is waist mounted with a quick release that you can reach with both hands. River paddlers run the risk of entanglement with a leash.
Wind, lightning, fog and quickly-changing temperatures are weather dangers to avoid. Check the weather forecast before going out. Motorized traffic is another hazard to consider; grant any powerboat the right-of-way.