Paddleboarding is fun, and there is no doubt about it. However, if you are ill-equipped or fail to prepare adequately, it can be dangerous. Safety is an issue that many paddle boarders take for granted while SUPing because many individuals do not realize the danger of stand-up paddleboarding particularly when you are not armed with the right protective gear.
Paddleboarding accidents and fatalities are actually more common that they should be. Sadly, most of these fatalities do not occur in extreme conditions such as the ones experienced professionals encounter. In most cases, most SUP escapades are otherwise safe trips that become disastrous as a result of lack of proper preparation.
SUP is just as serious a sport as surfing or kayaking. As such, you must always take the time to arm yourself with the right safety devices and that includes life jackets, leashes and a range of other safety equipment. Initially, it might seem like overkill preparing for an event that might never happen, but as always, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In countries such as Canada and the U.S, many state and provincial regulations require that a PFD (personal flotation device) must always be carried on a paddleboard except when you are in a surf zone or a selected bathing or swimming area. Please note that when buying a life jacket, you must try as much as you can to match the life jacket to your level of activity; the more straps you have, the more custom your fit will be for maximum safety.
When SUPing, you should always remember that you are the most vulnerable person out there in the water. Leashes are, therefore, indispensable. Leashes are a big deal and are one of your best sources of survival when paddleboarding. A leash keeps you attached to your board at all times so you should wear one at all times.
Lifejackets or leashes?
Whether lifejackets or leashes are the best pieces of safety gear for SUP is a hotly debated topic by experts and novices alike. If you have a leash on, it means that you are also attached to the PFD, which keeps you in the safest position possible. Whenever you are separated from your board, it can spell danger even for the most experienced paddle boarder.
In almost all accidents that have occurred while paddleboarding, the victim was not wearing a life jacket, when the rider became separated from his or her board. If you should fall off and your paddleboard gets caught in the wind, you will most likely not be fast enough to swim and catch up with it. If you do not have your lifejacket on, you could be in serious danger.
If you, fortunately, manage to get back on your board, the lifejacket is buoyant which will make it easier for you to climb up on it. Of course, you would not have to swim after your board if you had the right leash on. Leashes are typically tethered to the board and they keep you connected to your board even if you fall down. As a rule of thumb, both the lifejacket and the leash should be worn at all times when paddleboarding.
Now having said this, I personally believe that a leash is more important than a PFD. Maybe it’s from all of my years living in Mexico. No one ever wore PFD’s. It wasn’t macho. Personally, I find them constricting and hot (especially in the warm Mexican summer). However, I would NEVER go out without being attached to my leash. As I see it, as long as I could get back on my board it was all good.
Can’t decide if you want to wear a life jacket when paddle boarding? Fair enough. Just make sure you always have your leash attached. After all, no matter how good of a swimmer you are, eventually you will get tired swimming after your board. Then what…
The Wappa Blog
Written by Wappa's founder Layne Pennell, the blog's aim is to educate and share his love of stand up paddle boarding with anyone interested in SUP.
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