The trade off for paddleboarding and kayaking being so accessible is that many people will go buy a board or kayak and just head out without any knowledge of what they are doing. We are hearing of more and more tragedies on paddleboards and in kayaks over the past couple of years. Many of these accidents are preventable with a bit of knowledge, some advanced preparation, and some good judgement.
So in the spirit of safety first, here are the biggest paddleboarding mistakes to avoid.
Getting in over your head…Know your limits…it’s always good to push yourself a little beyond your comfort zone, but if you have only been paddleboarding a few times and there are 20+ mph winds blowing, you really have no business being on the water. You will get into trouble, and someone might need to come to your rescue, and that could put them in trouble too. Be realistic about what you can do, and be aware of what you are getting into before you put yourself and others in danger. Try to avoid going alone, and try to go with someone who is knowledgeable about the area and the conditions.
Not knowing the conditions…we all know that the weathermen are often wrong. But at least try to learn ahead of time what you are dealing with for wind speed and direction, temps, and any storms that may impact you. There are plenty of weather apps out there to help you along. The weather can change on a dime, especially on the water, so take that into consideration. You want to pay attention to wind direction and current/tide if applicable. You always want to try to do the hardest leg of your journey first so that when you are tired, you get help from the environment to get back. Pay attention the whole time you are out there. If you notice that things are changing, be willing to adjust your route to stay safe. If you are having a particularly easy time going out, pay attention to what is helping you and whether or not it is going to cause your way back to be very difficult. Once the wind and current start to overtake you, you might not be able to fight it, so come up with a Plan B.
Not filing a float plan. Make sure someone knows your plan- where and when you are putting in, how long you plan to be out, your intended route, etc. Check in with that person when you get off the water so they know you are safe. And they should have instructions to call the police if you are not back when you should be and you cannot be reached. Time is of the essence when an emergency arises. Obviously odds are better that a situation will end well the quicker a rescue mission is launched. So don’t take this step lightly.
Not wearing proper paddleboard safety gear. The vast majority of the time it is safest to wear a leash and a life vest. The water can move very quickly, and it can take your board very quickly…much more quickly than you will be able to swim. You do NOT want to get separated from your board. Your board is a floatation device. It’s kind of like the seatbelt in your car. Leashes save lives. Know the safety basics, get back on your board first and you can lie down on your board and paddle with your arms to get back to your paddle. This will be much easier if your board can only get 10’ -12’ away from you. Safety gear can also include a phone (in a drybag secured to your person or your board) sunhat, water, and snacks. If you end up out longer than you expect, you could find that these things come in really handy.
Not dressing for the water temperatures. A common cause of unhappy endings is hypothermia. This is usually a result of people not being dressed for the water temperatures. We never intend to be off of our board for long, but should you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to get back on your board, make sure you are dressed to spend some time in the water. If you have questions about what exactly that means for your area, talk to your local shop. This again is where your PFD (personal floatation device) can save your life. Vest style PFD’s will keep you afloat and provide some bit of warmth. Inflatables are not as ideal if you need to use them because they don’t do as good of a job keeping your head above water and helping to keep you warm, but are still way better than having your PFD tied down to your board, especially if your board is floating away.
Not knowing how to self-rescue. It’s all fine and good if you’re such a good paddler that you never fall off of your board, but news flash…this isn’t something to be proud of. If you have never fallen off, that means you don’t know how to get back ON your board. And the time to figure that out is not when you are in a dicey situation. You should practice moving around on your board. Getting comfortable with what the board does when you are in different positions will help you handle it in different conditions. Try things that will get you wet so you know what it feels like to go down, you can learn how to fall properly, and you learn how to get back on your board. Paddleboarding is a watersport. Don’t be afraid to get wet.
Not taking a lesson…or preferably more than one. A good instructor can teach you about everything we just mentioned in more detail, geared toward where you paddle. And that knowledge can make the difference between a great experience and a sad ending. Working on your paddle technique will make you more efficient and can help you tremendously if you get into wind or other potentially dangerous conditions. Teaching you how to get back on your board before you find yourself in a dicey situation, explaining some of the potentially dangers to look for on the water, and giving you tips on places to paddle that are appropriate for your level of experience are all valuable lessons. A good instructor should also be a wealth of information about the sport and the local area. Don’t be afraid to ask them.
Panicking…don’t panic. Panicking won’t help you get through a tough situation. Stay calm, and use what skills you do have. If things are getting out of control, now is a good time to use that phone to call for help. But please pay attention and use common sense and good judgement so you don’t get to this point.
Our biggest goal is to give you the tools to paddleboard safely and have fun on the water. Use your resources to make sure that you are properly equipped for your adventures. Again, most tragedies out on the water are preventable. Be prepared, and don’t underestimate the power of the water.
Tags: paddleboard safely, safety tips paddleboard, paddleboard safety, paddleboard instructor,sup safety, standup paddleboard safety, paddleboarding mistakes, paddleboarding mistakes to avoid, common mistakes new paddleboarders make