1. Check your equipment

Take a moment to examine all your equipment and make sure it’s serviceable. Check the pressure in your inflatable board and check your fins are securely attached. Check your paddle is in good working order too. Ensure your leash has not frayed, and that all the mountings on your board are solid and secure.

  1. Check the weather

Make sure your paddling abilities match the weather. You should not go out on the water in high winds, strong currents, or big waves.

Remember, too, that the weather can quickly change. Make sure you have an “escape plan” for if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Use sites like XC Weather that give wind direction & speed for the whole day

  1. Dress for the season 

You can paddle all-year-round but you need to dress appropriately. Very strong sunshine can lead to dehydration, sunburn, and heat stroke. In contrast, in cold weather wrap up warm, paying extra attention to your extremities.

You also need to consider the temperature of the water. If the water is very cold, you may need a shorty or full wetsuit or a dry suit to keep you warm if you fall in.

  1. Plan your trip and tell a friend

Even if you take precautions, accidents can happen.

Your board might get damaged, you might drop your paddle and be unable to retrieve it, or you could feel unwell and unable to complete your journey.

Make sure that you have a plan and tell a friend. Includes where you are going and what time you expect to get back. That way someone will know you are missing and can raise the alarm.

Of course, to avoid false alarms make sure you also tell that person when you make it back safely.

  1. Wear a personal floatation device (PFD)

Even strong swimmers should wear a personal floatation device. It pays to be safe. You could fall awkwardly or you could hit your head and be knocked unconscious. A PFD could save your life, and in some places are compulsory.

  1. Use a leash

If you fall off your paddleboard, there is a strong chance that it will glide away from you. In rough waters, your board could even be swept away from you. Wearing a leash that attaches your board to your ankle, ensures that your board never ends up too far away from you. You can also use your leash to pull your board back toward you to save you from having to swim after it.

  1. Beware of shallow water

Falling off in very shallow water could mean you hit the ground or even land on submersed rocks. Understanding this danger and taking extra care in shallow water is essential.

Kneeling down to prevent falling is a good precaution. If you do fall in shallow water, make sure you spread your arms and legs to stop you from sinking below the surface. If you are paddling where you know there are rocks, it may be prudent to wear a helmet.

  1. Don’t paddle alone in new areas

One of the best things about SUP is that you can explore. Solo exploring can be fun, but there is also an element of risk as you don’t know what hazards you may encounter.

Reduce this risk and don’t paddle alone in new areas, or at least without getting some useful information from those who know the area well.

  1. Stay Hydrated

The breeze generated by paddling often means you don’t feel too hot. Getting in the water will also help cool you off! However, that doesn’t mean you can’t fall victim to dehydration.

Dehydration will not only make you thirsty, it could also lead to overheating. And could even affect your heart and brain.

Avoid dehydration by carrying water and drinking frequently. Try to consume about one liter of water per hour or more on very hot days.

  1. Carry your phone

For safety, most paddlers should carry a phone so that they can call for help in the case of emergency, especially if you are venturing far from the shore.

The GPS on your phone will allow you to pinpoint your position so you can give clear instructions to whoever you are calling for assistance.

Pack your phone in a waterproof bag, check it’s fully charged and attach it to you or your equipment to prevent loss.

Other Advice

  • Carry a whistle to get attention if in trouble or need to alert a powered vessel of your presence.
  • Wear bright colours so that others on the water can see you clearly.
  • Don't take unnecessary risks or change your plans without telling your contact, should something go wrong and you need help precious time will be wasted if the search is in the wrong place.
  • Know the right signal to show you are in distress - wave BOTH arms to show you need help