A COMMITMENT TO SAFETY
SUP Safety Tips
Our mission at HIKS? To introduce the joys of stand up paddleboarding (SUP) in as safe a way as possible. We began this mission in 2014 -- and have since helped thousands discover stand up paddleboarding.
A good piece of advice; “If you’re in doubt, don’t go out.” If you see something which makes you uncertain about the conditions and the area in which you're paddling, then always err on the side of caution.
And, when you SUP, remember to SPLASH!
SPLASH is our in-house mnemonic to remind our paddleboarders on how to stay safe.
Read on to learn more.
Check that your board is inflated to the recommended PSI (The recommended PSI range for our boards is 13-15 PSI) and, along with all of your gear, is in proper shape for the conditions you’re going out to.
It may be wise to have a SUP lesson before going paddleboarding for the first time.
Here are some helpful resources to gain knowledge of the sport:
SUP LESSONS (Skills): If you are new to paddleboarding, it’s a great idea to book a lesson to learn some skills before you head out. The British Standup Paddleboard Association have schools across the UK.
SUP SAFETY KNOWLEDGE COURSES: For SUP Safety Knowledge there are some great online courses including this one from our friends at the SUPfm Podcast.
PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICE (PFD)
Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or experienced swimmer, it is strongly recommended that you have a primary form of flotation (your board) via the appropriate leash AND a secondary form of floatation in the form of a personal flotation device (PFD). HIKS sells adult buoyancy aids and children’s life jackets to keep the wearer afloat in water and give you time to recover should you fall in.
You should wear a suitable PFD. Buoyancy aids should have a snug fit, but not constrict your movement. Loosen belts, zip up the jacket, and then tighten to fit.
Choose one that still allows you plenty of movement so you can paddle freely. Not only will it keep you afloat, but it will also help give you time to recover should you fall in – and chances are you will!
LEASH: WHICH ONE?
Our friends at British Canoeing have created a helpful infographic to explain when to use what kind of lease.
- Quick Release (QR) belts for tidal waterways, rivers, or flowing water
- Ankle leashes for surf or beach paddling
- All gohiks.com SUP purchases come with ankle leashes and a QR belt
Be sure to wear a quick release belt if you’re going out to flowing water or tidal waterways. They get you free quicker than an ankle leash (just in case you get tangled). For HIKS boards, simply attach the coiled leash to your QR belt.
For surfing or beach paddling, we recommend wearing an ankle leash. There is less risk of entanglement in lakes, bays, canals, or slow moving water. Make sure to wear the leash on the same leg every time for quick removal when necessary.
BE AWARE OF WEATHER & CURRENTS
Avoid offshore winds (wind blowing from the land out to sea), as the wind will drive you out to sea and make it difficult to get back to shore. Pay close attention to wind reports and weather forecasts, and make the responsible decision of skipping paddle boarding for the day if the wind strength exceeds your experience.
As a guideline, beginner or inexperienced paddlers should never go out in an offshore wind or in winds exceeding 10mph.
Remember... if in doubt, don’t go out!
You should also be aware of the risk of cold water shock - where the sudden exposure of your head and body to cold water causes a number of involuntary body reactions (more here).
Riptides are strong currents that can quickly drag you out to sea. You must try to avoid rip currents altogether. Ensure there is a lifeguard on duty at the beach you plan to go to and ask them how you can avoid riptides.
But if you are caught in a riptide, follow these steps:
- Take deep breaths and try to stay calm and do not panic
- Do NOT try to swim against the current or you will just get exhausted
- Swim parallel to the beach, and once free from the rip, swim to shore
If you see anyone in trouble, immediately notify a lifeguard or call 911(USA) or 999(UK) and ask for the coast guard.
SHARE YOUR PLAN
- Paddle with a friend (this is one of the biggest safety hacks)
- Keep your (charged) phone in a waterproof pouch on your person. You need it close to hand at all times.
- Tell someone else where you're headed
It's fun to paddle with a friend, especially if you're just starting out. Friends look out for one another!
It's always a good idea to carry your phone in a waterproof pouch and set up a communication plan.
Let someone know they can expect to hear from you at a certain time and make sure to check in on the agreed time.
Ensure that your point of contact is well informed on what to do if they don't hear from you in a timely manner.
COLD WATER SHOCK
You may be ready to jump or fall in the water now that the days are starting to get sunnier and warmer. However, the water temperature may not reflect the temperature outside.
Dressing for the temperature of the water (not the air) can help to prevent cold water shock.
If you fall in cold water when you’re not wearing the right clothing e.g. a wetsuit, the temperature may lead to an involuntary gasping reflex (cold water shock) where you may accidentally inhale water.
A wetsuit will reduce this effect and your PFD will help you to float calmly and higher in the water.
Cold water shock passes quickly, which means that you’ll then be able to climb back onto your board.
Be sure to check the water temperature before heading out and always be sure to dress for water temperature and wear a PFD.
Weirs help control the flow of the river and look like man-made dams or waterfalls.
On the surface, weirs may look safe to SUP or swim in, but can be extremely dangerous, particularly after high rainfall upstream.
Although weirs can look beautiful, it's important to keep well away from them, because even a slow flowing weir can conceal dangerous underwater water movements and hazards.
THE DISTRESS SIGNAL
Sudden events can arise when on the water, and understanding how to correctly signal to others that you are in danger could make a significant difference at that crucial moment.
Make sure to follow the correct distress signal as depicted here.
Stretch out your arms and wave them up and down sideways to call for help.
It’s always great to check the weather forecast before getting onto the water, paddle with a buddy, and wear the correct leash.
WEAR SUITABLE CLOTHING FOR
THE WATER TEMPERATURE!
Dress for the water temperature rather than the air temperature.
In the summer, you may be able to get away with swimwear, but if you are going to be in the water for a long time, you may want to wear something that will keep you warm.
In the winter, a good wet or dry suit is a good option.
Always make sure you wear something on your feet when you’re getting on and off the water, you never know what’s under the surface!
Too much exposure to the sun can be harmful down the road. As such, we recommend always wearing broad spectrum, waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when you're SUPing. This will protect you from the sun's UVB rays whcih cause sunburn and its UVA rays which are the root cause of deeper, long term sun damage.
Apply it 15 minutes before you go out, then reapply frequently throughout the day.
Tides come in and out surprisingly quickly. Many lifeboat and lifeguard rescues are to people getting cut off by the rising water. To prevent this happening to you, ensure you get local tidal information from the relevant place. Always keep a look out for the tide’s direction while on the beach. But remember 'if in doubt, don't paddle out!'