The four secrets of safe paddling

Inflatable paddleboards open up the world for exploration.  Coasts, lakes, rivers and estuaries are all your new adventure playground.

Paddleboarding is a very safe sport.  But when things go wrong, they can do so quickly, and tragically.  The RNLI has saved over 70 paddleboarders lives in recent years.  Sadly, there are at least 6 paddleboarders in the UK who have tragically lost their lives in the last three years.

So, whether your an absolute beginner, someone who’s paddled a few times, or a total pro, there are a few things you should do every time you paddle to keep yourself, and others, safe.

Follow these four safety tips to keep yourself safe:

  • P. Use a Personal floatation device
  • L. Always use the correct Leash (a quick release waistbelt leash unless you’re surfing)
  • O. Watch out for Offshore winds and Obstructions
  • T. Take a Telephone in a waterproof case in case you need to call for help
Thanks to Red Paddle Co Ltd who devised the P.L.O.T campaign, and Supboarder who developed the SUPsafe video explainers linked below.

Personal flotation device and buoyancy aids

You should always wear a well fitting Personal Flotation Device (P.F.D.).  Even if you’re a very competent swimmer, a buoyancy aid (a type of P.F.D.) will give you flotation assistance if you get into trouble in the water.  

The majority of rescues made by the R.N.L.I. in the last few years have been due to paddlers caught out in offshore winds.  In choppy seas and squally conditions, even the best swimmers can find it difficult to get back on the board.  A buoyancy aid gives you that little extra helping hand until support arrives.

You need to be wearing a bouyancy aid with at least 50N.  When you try on a BA, make sure all zips and buckles fasten securely, and ensure that the BA doesn’t move about if you raise your hands above your head.  A poorly fitting BA can actually be more dangerous than no BA.

It’s also worth considering a BA with pockets so you can keep your phone (your means of calling for help if things go wrong) secure.

Using the right leash

Leashes save lives, but only if they’re the right kind of leash.

If you’re surfing with your paddleboard you’ll need an ankle leash.  For all other types of paddleboarding you should wear a coiled leash connected to a quick release waist belt.

Every single board we sell comes with a quick release waist belt and a coiled leash.

If you want to know more about different types of leashes, this article by our friends at Rapid-Skills is very informative

Offshore winds and obstructions

Offshore winds have been the cause of hundreds of rescues by the RNLI in recent years.  Although it might look pretty calm in the cove, you don’t need to be far offshore before a light breeze becomes a howling gale that whips you out to sea.  Check weather forecasts, look at the sea state.  And if you’re a beginner, if there is any offshore wind forecast, no matter how light, put you paddleboard away for another day.

Obstructions, such as boat mooring lines or trees can lead to a tragic end to your day. Six people have died in paddleboarding accidents due to entrapment around obstructions in the UK in the last two years.  Keep yourself clear of obstructions, and wear a quick release safety belt if you’re near flowing water (tides, estuaries and rivers)  to mitigate the risk of obstructions and entanglement.

Ideally, you will never need your phone to call for help, but unexpected things can happen.

But would you want to not have it if things do go wrong.  Take your phone in a waterproof case, and keep it on your person if possible – inside the pocket of a quality buoyancy aid is the ideal location.

Never be ashamed of calling 999 and asking for ‘Coastguard’ if you or your friends are in trouble in coastal waters.

If you’re in inland waters (rivers, lakes or canals) call 999 and ask for the Fire and Rescue Service.

You can always change your plan if you are not sure.

If in doubt – don’t go out - you can always paddle another day.

Have fun. Stay safe.

We’re regularly publishing safety information through our pages and blogs.  We’re working hard to make our information more navigable to make the paddler journey from beginner to pro easier to follow, but there is a wealth of information readily available.

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