Paddle boarding is gaining popularity by the minute! There are many ways to try out this new sport by either renting, buying or experiencing a lesson. Paddle boarding does not require experience to have fun with the sport however, there are some safety concerns that you should be aware of before hopping onto a board.
Be advised: These tips are great whether you are a novice or advanced paddler however, nothing will replace a lesson with an experienced paddle boarding company. Local knowledge is also required to find an ideal paddle spot for beginners. Ask a local paddle boarding company for beginner, intermediate and advanced paddle routes.
Weather conditions: Always check the radar and wind conditions before heading out to paddle. There are some great free apps that you can download onto any smart phone. I would recommend Sea Tow for wind speed/direction and for the tides. Sea Tow uses GPS in the app, which provides information for wherever you are located. You may be unaware of storms around you, therefore consider using one of the many free radar apps to see any activity around you.
Wind: When choosing a location consider the wind direction. Typically on an East wind the Gulf of Mexico is flat and calm which enhances the water clarity. On a West wind the gulf coast has larger swells that will build in time, and inshore locations will offer protection from the wind.
Beginners should also pay attention to the wind speed. Typically people are unable to progress after 15 MPH winds. At SUP Englewood, we cancel our tours and rentals at this speed due to safety. Unlike kayaking your body acts as a sail, therefore paddling will be tougher standing than when you’re in a kneeling or sitting position.
Safety Equipment: Wearing a leash is important for an obvious reason, it keeps you close to your paddle board. Protect others when paddle boarding by keeping the board attached to you at all times. Paddleboards are very dangerous to others if they get away from you.
U.S. Coast Guard Requirements: Stand Up Paddle Boards are considered vessels, therefore anytime you are paddling outside of the swim/surf area or inshore you will need to have a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) and a whistle for each person on your board. When paddling with small children under 6 years old they will need to physically wear a PFD and must have a whistle.
Paddle Board Basic Safety
Falling onto the board is the most common way that people are injured in this water sport. Prevent this possible injury by making a splash into the water, and not crashing onto the board. Try to fall to either side of your board when feeling unstable.
The paddleboard is the best floatation that you have therefore you should always return to your board after falling into the water. You can always retrieve your paddle after you are safely on your board.
Again, it is very important to receive proper stand up paddle instruction. One of the most important skills are paddling strokes for navigating safely in wind and current. Consider taking a lesson for more in-depth tips and safety precautions.
Paddle Boarding Inshore
Know your limits: Whether it’s your 1st trip or your 100th know your personal distance limits. Always take into consideration that storms can pop up fast, and winds and current can change while you’re out on the water.
Backup Plan: Whenever you are paddling alone always let someone know where you are going and when you are expected to come back. Consider carrying some form of communication with you or a GPS device.
Avoid: Always stay out of the boating channels and pay attention to wake zones. Know your limits and paddle in no wake areas if you just learning. Also, paddle a safe distance away from any obstacles in the water such as docks, signage, PVC piping, oysterbeds, or debris. These obstacles can cause physical harm if you fall on or float into them.
Bring: Protect yourself from burns and dehydration. Always bring enough water with you and sunscreen as it wears off.
Paddle Together: This tip can be applied to any paddling sport. It’s safer and more fun to paddle with a friend.
Paddle Surfing in the Gulf
Be Humble: Only paddle in swells that are appropriate for your skill level. Pay attention to the conditions and watch for rip current advisories.
Entry and Exit: The boards can be very heavy and you may become injured if the board gets away from you in the shoreline. Be cautious when entering and exiting the gulf.
Always wear a leash: The leash is primarily used to keep you attached to the board. However in the gulf the leash is utilized for the protection of all other beach patrons. Usually little children play in the shoreline, and that is exactly where your board will end up if it gets away from you!
Avoid: Paddle a safe distance from all beach patrons, at least 20 ft to prevent your board from hitting someone in the event that you fall off the board. On Sarasota County Beaches paddle boards are not allowed in the swim/surf areas.
Distance: Ensure that you can paddle back to the shoreline safely by paddling against the current. Always plan for a safe return and do not lose sight of the shoreline.
Just in case
Emergency Situations: Always call emergency services (911) in an emergency situation. It’s the safest and fastest way to ensure help. Our local emergency service providers are trained to handle emergencies on the water. Whether you encounter a medical emergency or need a search and rescue this is much a safer option than trying to search by yourself.
What to look for in a paddle board company:
Insurance: A responsible water sports company should carry liability insurance.
Safety equipment on all SUPs: This includes leashes and PFD’s with whistles.
Land instruction: A company with integrity will provide you basics about the sport and safety to ensure a fun time on the water.
Safe launch location: Avoid launching from a dock!
If you fall in the process of launching into the water there’s a chance that you may become injured from the dock itself or by the barnacles surrounding it. Look for a clean access point into the water, free from obstacles.
Staff trained in water rescue skills: Anything can happen when you’re on the water such as, fatigue, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Staff should be trained in lifeguarding or water rescues, first aid and CPR.
Ensure an enjoyable experience on the water by being aware and following these safety tips. Paddle boarding is the fastest growing watersport for a reason. Try it out once, and you’ll understand the craze.