Staying safe when Paddleboarding
There’s no denying that paddleboarding (also called Stand Up Paddleboarding or SUP for short) is fun and easily accessible. Spending an hour floating about on the water, knocking your friends in or exploring the coast and lochs is amazing. But how prepared are you for getting on the water? If you aren’t prepared you could become one of the many people the RNLI are rescuing who have blown out to sea.
You must consider the weather conditions. If it's calm and dry when you arrive this might not be the case later on, and knowing the forecast can save you a wasted trip.
Wind - how strong is the wind? Which direction is it blowing? The wind is the reason people get blown out from shore into the sea or the middle of a loch and can’t get back. Generally as a beginner don’t go out in offshore winds and any wind above 8-10mph can get a bit tricky if you aren't experienced. Then there’s the gusts to consider - base winds might be 6mph but if it’s gusting 20mph that’s a definite no. We’ll write a separate post focusing on the wind later but don't underestimate how quickly what seems like very little wind can blow you off the shore.
Waves & Tide - how high are the waves? Is the tide coming in or going out? Are there currents? Check all of this out before getting on the water.
Sun - it’s difficult to realise how warm it is when you are on the water, put sunscreen on and stay hydrated.
Cold - Are you dressed appropriately if you fall in? Take dry clothes to change into when you are off the water.
Thunder & lightning - just don’t. If you are in the water when there are lightning strikes paddle away from the strikes and get off the water as soon as possible.
Below are some apps and websites to check conditions, you should use at least 3 and cross check. However
they are not 100% accurate so nothing beats being there and checking yourself;
As well as a board you need to take a few other things with you when paddling.
Wear a buoyancy aid that is the right size and fit for you. Even if you are a strong swimmer or you think you won’t fall in, a buoyancy aid can save your life if you get detached from your board.
Wear your leash, its purpose is to keep your board attached to you so when you fall in your board doesn’t float away you of reach. If you've bought a board and there isn't a leash you need to buy one asap. Don't paddle without a leash!
Take a dry bag with essentials - a spare fin, spare leash, first aid kit, floating rope. Take your phone in a waterproof phone case, make sure it’s charged!
Wear a wetsuit. The sun might be out and the air temperature might be warm but in the North of Scotland the sea temperature doesn’t rise much above 15 degrees Celsius. Even if you are a cold water dipper or open water swimmer you can get cold water shock, wear a wetsuit.
You should also consider if your board is appropriate for your weight and height. We'll do a separate post about this too.
Can you self-rescue? Let me say that again, can you self-rescue? If you fall in, can you get back on to your board without any help? If not, get a lesson. This is an essential, and potentially life-saving, skill that is non-negotiable for being on the water. There are lots of different methods and a good coach can help you find the best method for you.
Do you know how to paddle in the wind? Wind can change direction and pick up unexpectedly, you need to be prepared for a hard paddle. Stay as low as possible to get back to shore.
Paddleboarding is fun and provided you do your research on conditions and the area and have the essentials it's pretty safe. Stay safe on the water, look out for each other, check the forecast, check your kit and get a lesson.