Keep on keeping on – how to stay stand up paddling with COVID-19 causing disruption
We appreciate that for some stand up paddling may be a no go for the time being. If you’re affected by complete lockdown, as many are in the world, then leaving your house/flat isn’t going to happen in the short term. If, however, you can get out for a float close to your house without coming into contact with anyone – and can do so safely – then why not?
Before you jump in though, there are a few questions to answer and safety points to consider.
Can I get to the put-in with minimal (if any) contact with others?
Self-isolating means just that: avoiding contact. If reaching your paddling destination will result coming into contact with others then we’d say avoid it. If you need to use public transport it’s almost certainly a no. But if you’re confident you can avoid others, then load up.
Am I likely to be paddling with others?
Is your SUP spot a popular put-in? Do others regularly paddle here? Maybe you should be thinking of an alternative, quieter launch location (although one that isn’t risky). Whilst being on the water away from other paddlers isn’t as bad as being hemmed inside a building, we’d still suggest you go it alone, or with another person that you’re already in contact with, to preserve the self isolation requirement.
SUP safety – you need to consider it!
Paddling on your lonesome, whilst idyllic in some respects, does come with risk. If you are paddling totally by yourself, and if there’s nobody about and should you get into difficulty then if the proverbial hits the fan you’re going to need a means of raising the alarm, among other things… This is the list of things you should consider:
Make sure you’ve checked all your kit for signs of wear and tear. If anything needs replacing, repairing or patching then do so before you launch.
Consider dawn patrols and end of day sessions when it’s usually at its quietest. Just remember to finish before the light fades.
Tell someone of your plans, when you’re due to begin and when you’re due back.
Definitely wear a leash – the correct one for the environment you’re paddling in (coiled leash fixed to waist belt in rivers for instance).
Wear additional flotation, whether that be a buoyancy aid or inflatable float aid worn on your hip such as a Restube or similar.
Carry a means of contact such as a mobile phone in a waterproof bag. Maybe even a VHF radio if you have the appropriate training/understanding of how to use it.
Pack and stow a fresh change of clothing aboard your SUP in case of dunking and/or temperature change. Being able to add layers quickly is a must.
Start your session wearing the appropriate amount of clothing. If you’re carrying a drybag then just as with being able to add layers removing clothing is also worth considering if it gets too warm.
Avoid challenging conditions. Paddling alone in such environments, where things are more likely to go pear-shaped, isn’t wise.
Get an up to date weather forecast and understand what conditions may be incoming during your time afloat. Plan your session accordingly and give yourself enough time to get in and out BEFORE any bad weather hits. If it looks particularly grotty then switch your days around.
If paddling on tidal waters then know tide times and how the ebb and flow affects your chosen location.
Where possible stick to tried and tested destinations that you’re familiar with. Now’s not the time to test your mettle in a new arena that potentially has hazards you aren’t aware of.
Be aware of water temperatures. At time of writing (March 2020) waters are at their coldest. Cardiac shock is a real danger if you happen to fall in the drink and your body’s not used to it. See point above about wearing correct paddling attire.
Use your common sense and know your limits. It’s been used before but the phrase: ‘if in doubt don’t go out’ rings true at all times. Especially now in these uncertain times.
Finally, enjoy your stand up paddling. Now more than ever chance to indulge in something fun and physical will take your mind off the world’s problems, even if just for a short while.
Let us know if you have any other tips for making your SUPing successful when self-isolating.