Safety Spotlight. 'SUP'er Safety tips for paddleboarding

 Paddleboarding is one of the fastest growing watersports and it’s not hard to see why.

Stand Up Paddleboarding (the board is often referred to as a SUP) can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, it’s relatively affordable to buy or hire equipment and it’s a great way to keep fit too. But before you pick up that paddle and set off into the waves, we’ve put together some safety tips from the experts to help you enjoy your time out on the water and ensure your experience is memorable for all the right reasons.

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Whether you choose an inflatable stand up (SUP) paddleboard or a solid one, the principles are the same. See our 9 top safety tips further down in this blog.

Credit: Alexader Rhind for Red Paddle Co.

James Instance, Coastguard Controller based at Falmouth Coastguard Operations Centre, one of 10 centres around the UK, said:

“We’re expecting more people to take their holidays in the UK again this year and to enjoy recreational watersports, whether they’re beginners or more experienced. And we’d encourage everyone to do it safely so it’s a fun rather than a frightening experience,” 

Sea water temperatures are now slowly starting to warm up and could reach the usual average in the summer of between 15° to 20° degrees Celsius. Take extra care at this time of year as the water is still cold and cold water shock can set in when the water temperature is 15°C and below. A keen watersports enthusiast in his spare time, James explained that cold water can catch anyone out at any time.

“Cold water shock doesn’t discriminate and can happen to the most experienced of people. It’s very dangerous because your body reacts by gasping for air so if you fall off your board, the risk of getting into difficulty is very real and it happens quickly. So if you’re setting out for a paddle, it pays to be paddle-prepared so you’ve got the best chance if the worst happens. Ideally wear a wet suit, a flotation device and a leash so you can stay with your board,” he added.

Here’s our 9 top 'SUP'er safety paddleboarding tips 

1.     Mobile phone: Take a fully charged phone in a waterproof pouch (these are widely available in sports shops and on-line for just a few pounds. So you can call 999 and ask the Coastguard to help if you need it.

2.     Buddy up: go with someone else if you can. It’s more fun and safer too. If you’re going on your own, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

3.     Watch the wind: A gently breeze on shore can be deceptive. Offshore winds are a big cause of trouble as they can get stronger the further out you go and blow you out to sea. Stay within your comfort zone.

4.     Weather and tide check: Check the weather and the tides before you go and if in any doubt, don’t go out.

5.     Personal Flotation Device (PFD): Especially important for beginners and novices. Not all of them are bulky and it will help to keep you afloat if you do become separated from your board.

6.     Leash: It helps keep you connected to your board. But if you’re using a leash in a harbour or an environment where it could snag on objects such as boat lines or weed if you fell off the board, make sure you’re able to release it quickly.

7.     Wet and Dry: Do invest in a good wet suit (and potentially a dry suit for cold conditions) it will help to keep you buoyant and protected. In warm and calm conditions, swimwear may be sufficient but consider taking a dry bag so you can have some warmer clothing available if you need it. 

8.     Learn the skills: Why not take some lessons to brush up your skills? There are watersports coaches and centres around the UK. Good techniques can help keep you SUP-safe and make the SUP experience even more fun. 

9.     Identify your SUP: Identify your SUP with your name and contact details can also help us to help you. Use a permanent marker pen or laminated stickers.

If the worst happens

If the worst happens (and it can happen to the most experienced of people). Don’t hesitate to call for help. We’re on call 24/7 and the minute you make that 999 call and ask for the Coastguard, expert emergency teams will be sent to help.

And if you see anyone sitting or lying on their SUP and waving their paddles in the air, it’s likely they are in difficulties and you should make that 999 call. #999Coastguard.

Additional Resources

There are lots of associations providing advice on how to enjoy paddleboarding including: BSUPA , British Canoeing, the RNLI and from Go Paddling

With thanks to BSUPA for assisting with the images. Credit for all stills images in this blog: Alexander Rhind for Red Paddle Co.



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