Standup Paddling Safety for All Levels

It occurred to me at the Donner Lake Memorial Day Paddle Race last weekend that it would be beneficial to write an article on some basic safety tips for Standup Paddling. Standup paddlers will embark on all types of water this summer from the San Francisco Bay to Tahoe to Stinson Beach. That’s really the beauty of SUP, you can take a board wherever you go and paddle. Here are a couple of safety tips that I follow which can be applied almost all paddling locations:

  1. Wear a leash: The simplest things are not always the most obvious. Wearing a leash is your lifeline to your board; getting separated from your board can lead to lots of different issues that can be avoided with a leash. Leashes are the least expensive piece of safety gear. Note: Leashes are a must in if you plan to go in the surf.
  2. Personal Floatation Device (PFD): I know it’s a hassle to wear a PFD but the fact of the matter is many places are requiring that standup paddlers wear or have a PFD on board. In fact, on Lake Tahoe there are rumors that standup paddlers have received tickets for not having a PFD. PFD’s are not really that much of a hassle to wear or have on board, they come in many shapes and sizes, so go to your local shop to find one that works best.
  3. Get acquainted with your paddling location: One thing I see time and time again when I am on the water is paddlers who do not pay attention to what the wind and tide are doing.  Before they know it they have been blown downwind and are struggling to get back to their destination. Before you hit the water, get an understanding of what the tide is doing (if it’s tidal) and determine the prevailing winds for that location you are paddling from. Ask other paddlers or the rental shop you are renting from about wind, tide and if there are any restricted paddling areas (such as a channel with boat traffic).
  4. Paddle with a buddy: As much as I paddle, I frequently paddle alone. Before I go out I let someone know what time I hit the water, where I am paddling from and about how long I will be out. It’s easy these days to shoot a text to your wife or friend just letting them know what you are doing. Of course it’s easier, safer and more social to paddle with a buddy or a group.

Hopefully these safety tips will enrich your paddling experience wherever you go this summer. Have fun out there and stay safe.

Paddle On.

Feature image: Heidi Wilson