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Mastering the Four Cornerstones of SUP Safety: Essential Guidelines for Paddleboarders

Bill Dawes from discusses the four pillars of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) safety to help paddlers avoid trouble on the water. As a national Safety Officer for New Zealand’s stand-up paddleboarding, he emphasizes the importance of safety and education, based on his experience and the books he has written on the subject.

1. Planning and Preparation: Before leaving home, paddlers should check the weather forecast for wind speed and direction, temperature, clouds, and rain to ensure conditions are safe. They should also understand tides and currents, which can significantly affect paddleboarding safety. Additional planning includes considering the paddling location, parking, necessary permits, and how to manage A to B trips. Checking that all equipment is ready and suitable for the chosen environment is also crucial.

2. Knowledge of the Environment: Understanding the paddling environment is essential. Changes in weather and water conditions can have significant safety implications. Other factors to consider are other water users and wildlife interactions, for which certain rules may apply. Constant vigilance and adaptability to environmental changes can prevent emergencies.

3. Knowing What to Do When Things Go Wrong: Paddlers should anticipate potential problems with equipment, environmental changes, or personal health issues. Discussing emergency plans and considering “what if” scenarios with fellow paddlers can be beneficial. Examples include handling a snapped paddle or changing weather conditions. Quick and logical thinking can transform emergencies into manageable situations.

4. Safety Equipment: Safety equipment acts as a last defense line and includes:

  • A leash to prevent separation from the board
  • A buoyancy aid (PFD) for flotation
  • Communication devices like phones, VHF radios, or locator beacons for emergencies
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for varying conditions

Following these guidelines ensures a safer paddleboarding experience, where preparation, environmental knowledge, emergency planning, and proper safety gear are the keys to avoiding and handling potential hazards. Bill encourages paddlers to educate themselves further by reading his books and watching supplementary safety videos in our how to paddle board section.

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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.