Like any other ocean / water sports there are inherent dangers that you need to be aware off. As a stand up paddler one of the biggest dangers are offshore winds i.e. a wind that blows from the land out to sea. Remember the same applies to lakes and rivers.
A key point before you go out on your SUP or any watercraft for that matter, is to check the local weather conditions and pay specific attention to wind direction. Online there are a few weather services, like WindGuru etc. that give detailed information about wind and weather conditions. Take time to familiarize yourself with the forecast, wind direction and any expected changes. You don’t want to get caught by an approaching storm whilst you are a mile offshore and all the elements are against you.
If you are a SUP beginner, take note – the wind always has a huge influence on when & where you are paddling, you need to make sure you don’t put yourself in a situation where you are getting blown out to sea or putting your life at risk.
If there are strong offshore winds and you are not sure if you can handle it, rather stay out of the water. Tomorrow is another day.
With the above in mind, here are a few safety tips to consider:
1) Use Proper Safety Equipment:
Always use the appropriate proper safety equipment and always, always wear a leash! This cannot be emphasized enough, the ocean is unpredictable at best. Many strange and totally unforeseen things have happened, even on a sunny windless day – be prepared. (In reference to strange and unforeseen things happening, read my blog post on how I got knocked off my SUP by a Whale)
2) Tell someone Where You Will Be:
Always let someone know where you will be going and give an estimated time that they can expect you back.A good idea is to make sure that all you and those close to you have the contact details for the NSRI in your area.
3) Get SafeTrx – The NSRI’s Free Safety App:
This is the official app of National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) – RSA.
The SafeTrx app allows you to register your vessel (SUP) and plan your journey on your Smartphone.
The RSA SafeTrx includes a number of features:
•An Emergency Call button which allows you to quickly make a distress call from the application. The app sends an Emergency location update to the MRCC and your emergency contacts if you have a cell phone connection.
•Track only mode can be used to begin tracking at a touch of a button.
•Personalised Checklists aims to promote safety awareness by allowing you to create and review your own list of checklist items prior to departure.
•A Mobile Logbook stores up to 20 trips on your phone, and can be replayed at any time within the app in video playback mode.
4) The Lay Down SUP Technique
One of the most important safety techniques you can learn while standup paddling is how to prone paddle i.e you lay down on your SUP like you would on a surfboard to paddle in against the wind.
When you are standing up right on your SUP your body effectively acts as a sail. However if you lay down, there is way less wind resistance and you are able to paddle in through the wind a lot easier. So remember that if the wind picks up and you can no longer paddle forward, simply lay down, wedge your paddle in between your chest and the board and use your arms to paddle you back into shore.
5) The Kneeling SUP Technique
Other good technique in situations that could be potentially be dangerous, such as heavy wind chop, a heavy shore break or a rocky area that you are not comfortable with is to simply drop to your knees. This technique allows greater stability and allows you to paddle the SUP like a canoe. Just slide your hands down the paddle towards the middle / bottom with a wide(ish) grip and paddle with alternating strokes until you are out of danger or back to shore.
Remember that prevention is one of the biggest factors in safety. Rather Safe than sorry.
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