Paddle Board Safety
So you have your board, a paddle and you can’t wait for all your adventures on the water! But hold on! Before you set off, it’s important to understand some of the safety elements of paddleboarding…
Safety on and around the water is something our parents tried to drill into us and yet sometimes excitement or overconfidence can push this into the back seat. Paddleboarding can be a very safe adventure whether on the ocean, a lake or on a river. A few items and a bit of training will help make all of your adventures safe and fun. Let’s start with the basics, no matter where you are paddling.
A leash is a key safety item. Falling off the board isn’t the problem, it is what happens if the board gets away from you. On a windy day, it is easy to have a board blow downwind as fast or faster than you can swim for it. The board is a floating platform to keep the non-swimmer safe and if it is cold water, it can get you out of that numbing water.
So, get a leash, make sure it is attached correctly and practise getting out of the water and onto the board. To practice this, you can “T bone” the board by using the handle and the far edge of the board and kick onto it. Or you can go to the back of the board, pushing down on the tail while sliding it under you. You can then wiggle and pull yourself up onto the board. Practise makes perfect.
Next on the hit list is a lifejacket. A foam jacket is least expensive and can help you stay warm in colder conditions. They sometimes are problematic for long paddles as they can cause chafing. An inflatable lifebelt, while not always Coast Guard approved, is a very common floatation aid for warmer times. Make sure your pressure cartridge is correctly installed and in date. An inflatable with no inflation juice is kind of useless.
The best combination of both is a jacket from Mustang called the Khimera. This is a foam jacket that fits most people and is easy to paddle in. The jacket itself provides some floatation and a bit of warmth. Once you hit the water, if you feel like you want the extra floatation due to wave state or your own comfort level, you can pull the inflation tab and it gives you a full 15 LBS of floatation which is the industry standard for most Coast Guard Authorities. It is a bit pricey, but they are beautiful jackets.
That is the very basics. To make everything complete, you should have a dry bag with a warm, windproof jacket. This can be a lifesaver as well. A 10 L dry bag or small dry pack like this Sealine Skylake 18 L pack is a great option to keep all your gear dry.
River paddling is a bit of a different beast and can make even class 2 water very fun. If you are whitewater paddling, your skill set and ability to read water will be different than a beginner SUP paddler. If you are brand new to paddling, you might not want to start in the whitewater. Personal protection like a helmet is mandatory and you might want to consider good footwear, knee pads and elbow pads. Also crucial is a detachable leash. If you go one way around a rock and the paddleboard goes the other way, you will want to release yourself so that you can swim to shore and not get caught in the water. River paddling is a ton of fun.
Finding proper training so that you don’t get into trouble is a great thing. Ocean paddling has tides, wave and weather conditions that you might not have to worry about at your cottage lake. You can find great training at Paddle Canada and if you are on the west coast make sure to see Norm Hann and his team to get your training done. Norm and I have done a lot of paddling together and I have never seen such a capable and patient teacher or expedition leader. Click here.
Lastly, don’t forget a sun hat, sunscreen and water to drink on those hot days as well. Get out there and have some fun!