What Are The SUP Safety Essentials?

SUP is one of the fastest growing water sports. It’s a wonderful sport that’s accessible for a wide range of people. However, there are a wide range of Safety Essentials that you need to remember before starting out. Safety is the most important part of having a good time out on your SUP. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before heading out on your SUP for the optimal SUP adventure. No matter what experience you have in SUP or other watersports, it’s always useful to go through a safety checklist before heading out on the water.


Have you got your leash?

A SUP Leash keeps you attached to your board, should you fall off. It’s a useful tool for making sure you aren’t separated from your board in the water. In rough weather or high winds, your paddleboard can act as a vessel. However, if the situation calls for it, you may not wish to be attached to your board. A quick release leash is one of the best tools you can have, especially if going out on flowing water where the risk of getting snagged on loose materials in the water is slightly higher.

For useful information on SUP Leashes, the British Canoeing Awarding Body has created a useful video on Sup Leash Safety.


Have you got your PFD or Buoyancy Aid?

As well as a leash, an appropriate buoyancy aid is one of the most important accessories you will use on the water. British Canoeing strongly recommend that you have a primary form of flotation (your board) AND a secondary form of flotation (a PFD or BA).

Different forms of paddling call for different forms of flotation device. Go Paddling have spelled out the best devices for your style of paddling. In Flowing Waters where you are more likely to fall off, your BA or PFD is actually going to be your primary flotation device. Therefore a hardier flotation device, such as a hard foam BA or PFD, is necessary for flowing waters. Whereas Flat Waters, where you are less likely to fall off a lot, call for waist belt PFDs.


Have you checked your board?

Before heading out on the water, give your board a good look over to check for any damage. This is important before you head out at any time, but it is especially important if you have had your board in storage for a while.


Have you checked the weather and wind forecasts?

Make sure you know what the weather will be like before you leave home: Wind, Waves, Water, and Weather can impact your trip drastically. There are a few weather phenomena that can make your SUP trip a bit less enjoyable; wind, fog, lightning, and quickly changing temperatures can make a SUP trip a bit more tricky.

If you’re a beginner then you should stick to a day where there is minimal wind, so you can develop your own abilities in calmer conditions without having to battle the elements too much. Wind affects different waterways in different ways, so your best route is always going to be talking to your local SUP school. They’ll have a clearer idea of how your local area is impacted by strong winds or adverse weather conditions; they should also have some weather resources that you can use.

The safest wind speed for Paddleboarders, especially those that are just starting out, is anything below 12 knots. Above this wind speed, the water will become choppier and there will be more wind resistance as you paddle – meaning you have to exert more energy.


Have you planned your journey?

Not only can the weather affect your safety, but the wind patterns can change what might be the best route to take. Try and time your journey so you paddle into the wind at the start of your journey and have the wind behind you on your return. This should, in theory, help you use your energy more efficiently:  using the power of the wind to support you when you are probably a bit more tired.

Use local knowledge, or your own, to plan what route is best. For UK Paddling trails that are designed for different difficulty levels, Go Paddling have created a list of Paddle Points. It’s also a good idea to check if you need a license for the area you want to paddle ahead of time!


Do people know where you are?

One of the most important safety tools you can bring with you, other than a Buoyancy Aid or Leash, is a friend. It’s always more fun going for a SUP with friends anyway! If you are going out alone, then make sure you tell some responsible people where you are going, and what time you should be leaving and coming back. Ensure you have some form of communication device with you, even if you are bringing a friend with you!


Can you reach people in an emergency?

Don’t leave the house without an appropriate communication device. If bringing a mobile phone, make sure it’s in a waterproof bag, so it won’t be damaged in the water.


Are you dressed appropriately?

In terms of fashion advice, SUP doesn’t need to be a formal affair. But you should be aware of what the weather will be like and how that might impact your day. If you’re going out in the Winter, then you should be aware of how cold the water may be. Whereas in Summer you may need to prepare for protecting your body from any damage towards the sun.

You should bring a dry bag with a spare change of clothes. If you get a bit cold or want to take a layer off at any point, a dry bag can be invaluable.


Is your board correctly inflated?

When using an iSUP, you should ensure your board is at the correct pressure. Check over the instructions for your board to recheck what the ideal PSI is, and ensure that your board is within that range.


Do you feel practised enough?

When the sun is shining and the water looks just perfect it can be tempting to just head out on the water. But if you’re a beginner, or haven’t quite mastered standing up on your board yet, then it may be worth heading to a local SUP school in  order to develop your SUP skills. A few good training sessions can make all the difference – teaching you the right techniques, getting important safety tips, and also connecting you to the local SUP community!