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Four Fundamental Rules for Safe Paddle Boarding

In another video from Bill Dawes, he’ll be delving into the topic of paddle boarding safety equipment. With years of experience as the National Safety Officer for New Zealand stand-up paddleboarding, I’ve conducted extensive research on paddle boarding safety equipment. In collaborating with tens of thousands of paddlers, I’ve come to recognize four essential rules for paddle boarding safety.

Many discussions online tackle paddle boarding safety. However, our discussion will center on these four critical rules, offering a unique perspective that many might overlook. From my experience, numerous paddlers aren’t adequately prepared. Even though they might own safety equipment, many aren’t confident about its proper usage. Our focus today aims to bridge this knowledge gap.

So, what constitutes safety equipment in paddleboarding? Generally, there are four key items:

  • An appropriate leash suited to the conditions.
  • Suitable flotation or buoyancy equipment, often referred to as a PFD.
  • Reliable communication means.
  • Proper attire, considering every piece of clothing plays a role in ensuring safety.

Intriguingly, the number “four” seems synonymous with paddleboarding safety. Let’s explore these safety tools through the lens of the four golden rules I’ve identified.

Golden Rule 1: Equipment must be fit for purpose.

It might seem evident, but ensuring your equipment is in good condition is vital. For example, check if your leash is sturdy and not frayed. If you have a belt pack PFD, is it functioning? The idea is that each piece of equipment should be suitable for its intended purpose.

Golden Rule 2: Your safety equipment should be easily accessible.

Safety gear, like leashes or communication devices, should be on your person, not just on your board. In emergency situations, having these tools within arm’s reach can make a significant difference.

Golden Rule 3: Familiarize yourself with your safety equipment.

Your first interaction with your safety equipment shouldn’t be during an emergency. Take, for instance, the belt pack PFD. Most people don’t test them until they’re needed. Regularly checking and practicing with your safety equipment, from understanding how many puffs it takes to inflate your buoyancy aid to ensuring your communication devices work when wet, can be lifesaving.

Golden Rule 4: Don’t let your safety equipment give you a false sense of security.

Owning safety gear doesn’t inherently make you safer. For example, having a buoyancy aid doesn’t exempt you from the risks of cold water shock. Safety equipment should complement your awareness and skills, not replace them.

In conclusion, when evaluating your safety equipment, consider:

  • Is it fit for purpose?
  • Can you access it quickly?
  • Do you know how to use it?
  • Is there a risk that it’s making you overly confident, leading you to riskier situations?

We hope you find this information beneficial and allow you to have many hours of safe fun on your paddle board. For more insights on paddle boarding safety, and other general how-to tips, visit our learn to paddle board page.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.