This SUP Safety Guide is designed to make you aware of what areas you need to consider and plan for when embarking on a SUP adventure so that you are fully prepared for any issue that could arise.
The key areas to consider when making your plans are:
Weather – Pay particular attention to the wind speed and direction, this is a key factor for people to consider when going out for the day paddleboarding. It is a safety risk, anything above 12 knots, I would not recommend going out in as a SUP can easily get affected by the wind by being blown into obstacles or blown off course. Beware of off-shore winds that make it difficult to return to shore.
Keeping warm - When dealing with a water environment you need to consider how are you going to mange to keep warm and dry. Being submerged in water without suitable kit will make you cold and could result in hypothermia. So make sure you have a wet or dry suit that has been properly maintained and will work effectively.
Location - what are exist / escape routes if you need to bail. Any potential risks with the location where you are paddling?
Type of water - Will you be facing any tides, tidal races or gnarly white water? Are you skilled to deal with different water conditions you may face on your journey? Its all about preparing your sup journey based around your ability. If not then consider taking a course to equip you with this knowledge .
Communication - How are you going to communicate for example to the emergency services? Also you need to consider how are you going to access your comms and how to keep it dry? Its no good to you if they are all stashed away in a dry bag on your board and you become separated, how will you communicate for help?
Kit - You need to know what kit are you going to take with you on your SUP journey. You need to use a leash (which connects to your board) and/or personal flotation device. Also know how your kit works, don’t be that person who ‘has all the gear but no idea how to use it", thoroughly test it and feel confident, so that in an emergency you will not panic.
Food & water - have the right food with high enough calories and the right nutrition so you don’t suffer with any fatigue. Also it's important to keep hydrated whilst out paddleboarding.
Rescues - Are you fully skilled with self or peer rescues? Are you first aid trained to deal with an emergency?
I strongly recommend before embarking on a SUP journey that you need to train dealing with a number of scenarios so you feel fully prepared for your expedition. For example practice dealing with a scenario of being trapped by your leash, repairing your board whilst being on the water, accessing a flare, rescuing someone who is unconscious, dealing with hypothermia.
Remember whilst out paddleboarding not only do you need to consider yourself, but any impact you might have on others, for example the emergency services and the general public.
My advice is to SUP in a safe environment and get to know your board, your kit and how to use it all in an emergency situation s and in different weather conditions. Practice self rescue and peer rescue. Understand your environment and assess the risks and mitigate those risks.
In the outdoors, accidents are rarely caused by a single disasterous event, it's more of a 'domino effect'. Accidents are often the results of decisions and events combining together that add up to create sufficient potential to cause an accident.
My recommendation for people who are keen to try paddleboarding is to book onto a lesson with a qualified professional. If you are hooked and feel inspired and want to go on your own SUP adventures, book onto a SUP Safety and awareness course so you have the right skills, tools and knowledge to SUP safely.
Further information of SUP Safety & Awareness Skills courses can be found here