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SUP Safety Tips for Salt Water

SUP Safety Tips for Salt Water

Equipment and Preparation

The wearing of a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) is universally considered a hazard and a hinderance to all surf orientated board-sports, as a result of reduced agility both on or in the water which in itself can put the individual at risk. Falling, retrieving and recovery, are inherent, natural components of SUP`boarding, as per windsurfing and surfing, not ‘critical’ events as associated with kayaking or canoeing. While this view may seem incongruous with other water sports, SUB`s present no inherent risk of entrapment, swamping or suffer from the potentially disabling consequences of capsize, being inherently safer from these points of view than a kayak or canoe and ‘unsinkable’.

If you do decide to paddle in saltwater, inquire among surf and kayak shops on where to go, any tips, etc. Get a local boating or paddling guidebook for more info as well. And buy a tide chart, learn to read it, and use it to plan you paddles. High winds are good for  downwinders, love super glassy days are good for quiet paddles and cleaner boat wakes. Low tides can make waves quite large, high tides provide a shorter carry to the water from the car. Winter means less people in the water, quite a few calm days but fun windy days as well. Summer is obviously warmer but more chaotic d. Pros and cons of each, find out what works best for you. Winter will mean more high tides in the day, while summer has low tides during the day.

Terms for Paddleboarding in Saltwater:

  • Tide Chart: Shows the vertical change in water which affects beach, dock, and boat ramp access.
  • Current Chart: Shows the horizontal movement of water. This only applies to areas of high current above 3-4kts.
  • Ebb – Outgoing tide or current.
  • Flood – Incoming tide or current.
  • Slack – Period between ebb and flood, sometimes calm, and in some location current direction may seem confused.

If you’re training for a race, you’ll find that tidal currents, wind, and boat waves will add more challenge to your paddles better preparing you for the unexpected conditions of a race. In a recent race in Seattle, many paddlers complained that the side wind forced them to paddle on one side for a few miles which was exhausting. Paddlers in the race who paddle in saltwater, found those conditions similar to what they regularly experience daily with strong tidal currents which push and pull on on a board/boat in open water.

Self rescue

Self-rescue techniques taught/learnt as an initiation to SUP`ing; paddling assuming a kneeling or sitting position, paddling prone using the hands and advice as to when to use such techniques (strong off-shore winds, broken paddle, strong currents etc) A distress signal can include waving the paddle side to side above the head whilst straddling board or waving arms above head, side to side to attract attention.

Stay with your board

Stay with your board at all times, which is more visible in a rescue situation than a lone swimmer and will provide in most cases an adequate platform of safety.

Avoid offshore winds

Avoiding paddling in offshore winds (or tidal flow) and know how and when to respond if needs be (self rescue).

Define boundaries

Define the limits of use of SUPs and appropriate, safe venues and situations in which future learning should take place.

Sequential learning

Instruction must be sequential introducing simple through to more complex skills; mastery of basic paddling and board skills, balance and board recovery, fostering achievable outcomes, limiting attrition rates, and higher levels of safety.

Don’t underestimate the physicality of the sport

While the initial experience of SUP may appear ‘effortless’, it must be stressed this is a skillful, physical sport the demands of which significantly increase as natural forces intensify i.e. wind, wave action, tidal flow.

On-water sessions must include defined paddling areas (boundaries) understood by paddlers for their safety and others and the overall management of the learning environment. The use of markers, buoys or fixed objects can be used if necessary.

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