11 Paddle Board Safety Tips You Should Know

paddle board

SUPing is a great way to build strength, endurance and skill on the water. But we all know safety matters.

26% of water sport related deaths involve paddlers, which does include kayaking, canoeing and paddling. Whether you’re a beginner or expert, being safe while having fun helps you to stay out there for longer.

Let’s look at 11 tips to staying safe on the paddle board.

Show Humility

This isn’t necessarily the first thing we think about when enjoying our paddle board.

We start here because it all begins here. You need to stay safe while still getting the most out of the water by knowing your limits. This will help you to avoid serious injury. Are you ready for that rapid or surf? Can you handle having that many surfers and boogie boards in the water with you?

Are you a strong enough swimmer to handle this current or distance from the shore? You should constantly push your limits to get stronger, faster and more skilled.

But knowing where those current limits are allows you to challenge those limits while staying safe.

Learn How to Swim

But you’re wearing a life vest and you’re connected to the SUP. What could happen?

Sadly, you could still drown. You can be carried under the flow. You can get exhausted before you make it to the shore. You need strong swimming skills to enjoy the paddle board with safety in mind.

If you get exhausted while swimming to shore, you’ll:

  1. Lie down prone on the paddle board
  2. Go nose toward the nose of your board
  3. Place the paddle under your body with the top jutting out from the nose of the board

Wear A Leash

Do you need a leg leash, ankle or a waist leash? How long should it be?

Most experts agree that the leash should be about a foot longer than the paddle board. Those who walk on the board would do best with a leg or ankle. A coil leash prevents drag by keeping the coil out of the water.

If we’re SUPing in water that is likely to have underwater branches to get caught on, we go with detachable to prevent being tangled under water.

Detaching from the board otherwise is ill-advised.

We should consider the water type and our style to find the right leash. But more importantly, we should wear it.

Value the Right Attire

A collision with a motorboat, jet ski, sailboat or another boarder could happen in an instant. Paddle boarders should wear bright colors to be seen on the water.

You should also wear a hat to keep the unobstructed sun rays off of our faces and water-proof sunscreen to protect exposed skin surfaces.

For warmer weather, board shorts, rash guard, trunks or a swimsuit work perfectly. They should be water resistant and dry quickly to prevent hypothermia on mild days or extra weight. In colder weather, wet suits are essential with hood, booties and gloves when it’s below 50 F.

You should be careful not to go too thick on the suit to avoid restricting movement.

Wear a Life Vest

The US Coast Guard considers stand-up boarders to be vessels. They therefore require you to carry a lifejacket or PFD (personal/professional flotation device) when outside designated swimming or surfing areas.

For paddle board safety, always have a PDF ready for an emergency.

Be Accountable

You should always tell others where we’re going. Someone should always know your route and when you plan to be back.

If something expected happens out on the water, you’ll be glad you did.

Be Social

Paddle boarding is always safer with friends. When possible, paddle board with others.

Don’t Underestimate the Weather

Weather can change abruptly. When out on the water there is little protection from a storm and less opportunity to get to shore. Always check the weather for wind speeds, and for the potential for lightening.

Evaluating the waves before we get out on the water helps you know what to expect.

Have a Signal

When out on the water, always have our sound-making device like a waterproof whistle.

Carry a flashlight when you board around dawn dusk or dark to ensure that other vessels can see you.

Know the Laws

Many states have laws specific to the board and other vessels. Activities may also fall under local laws.

Before getting out on the water or taking a friend, check on things like:

  • Do you need a license?
  • Are there age limits?
  • Do vests and PFDs meet regulations?
  • Are any areas restricted or do any sites have unique rules to follow?

Know the Rules of the Water

Beyond laws, there are also rules to follow. These help you to stay safe and keep others safe.

We’ll just go through some basics.

Vehicles with motors and sails always have the right of way. They take longer to stop and start. A besides, you wouldn’t want to force your right of way with a motor boat anyway.

Be particularly careful around prone paddlers who have much less visibility and maneuverability.

And for those riders who are new, a beginner never paddles into a crowded lineup of surfers, paddlers or boogie boarders. It disrupts the flow. Plus, someone could get seriously hurt.

That someone will most likely be you. This is especially true since you have less control over the board when learning.

Even if that’s where the fun is, you need to hone our skills first when fewer crafts are on the water.

Be Safe on the Paddle Board

The most important things we can do is use some common sense and respect the space of others.

When new to the sport, knowing what’s sensible may not be so common. But as you continue to develop skills, you’ll better understand how to stay safe on the water.

Until then watch others, practice, learn and keep pushing yourself to get the most out of your board.

What would you add to our 11 tips for safe paddling? We’d love to hear from you.

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