Paddleboarding is a beautifully inclusive sport, with everybody taking to the water from families on a day out at the beach to adventurers and surfers. Whether a novice or experienced paddler, there are some key pieces of equipment that are a must for staying safe on the water. Read on for advice on SUP safety equipment for staying safe on the water.
Why wear a leash? You wouldn’t drive a car without wearing a seatbelt and the leash is the same for paddleboarding. The leash is your connection to your SUP.
Wherever you paddle, wind, tide, currents and water flow can be at play. Even if the water looks calm when you set out on your paddle, conditions can change and tides can turn. Should you fall in, if you’re not wearing a leash getting separated from your board is a real possibility. The wind and current or tide can act differently on your body, which is largely under the water, to the lighter weight SUP which is sitting on it. The SUP may drift away faster than you’re able to swim after it, especially if there is an element of shock involved after falling in unexpectedly. The leash is the lifeline that attaches you to the largest flotation device available to you; your paddleboard!
There are a few different types of SUP leashes, each for a specific purpose.
Coiled leash > This is for use for general paddling, touring or river running. The leashes coils keep it short and prevent it from dragging in the water which minimises the risk of it getting snagged.
Straight Leash > For SUP surfing. A long (8-10ft) straight leash provides a strong connection whilst putting more distance between yourself and the board in a surf environment when falling off and tumbling in a wave is likely.
Waist Leash > For white-water river running. Normally leashes are worn around the ankle or calf, but the quick release waist leash is recommended for white water river running, as it stays well clear of the water to avoid snagging on rocks, plus can be quickly and easily released if necessary should it get caught and put you in a dangerous situation.
The leash is there to ensure the SUP board stays with you at all times, the board itself acting as a flotation platform should you get into trouble. The temptation then is not to consider wearing any other safety equipment. However, the leash should not be solely relied upon. A few potential scenarios are:
- Failure of your leash, leash attachment rope or your SUP’s D-ring could see you separated from your SUP.
- Should your leash become snagged on an obstacle, you may need to temporarily release it.
- Beach fun with the family may involve sharing a paddleboard, meaning that not everybody is wearing a leash.
Why wear a buoyancy aid? Buoyancy aids provide personal flotation, which is highly important should you become separated from your board or incapacitated in any way.
Buoyancy Aids may include other useful safety features such as a whistle for attracting attention and a pocket which can be useful for carrying items such as a mobile phone in a dry bag. It is important to wear a buoyancy aid that fits you well, so that it provides adequate flotation and doesn’t ride up over your head.
Personal Floatation Devices (PFD’s)
Why where a PFD? Paddlers are not always choosing to wear a traditional buoyancy aid, most likely partly through a lack of understanding of their importance, but also potentially due to the reduced freedom of movement that they can cause. So, a personal flotation device is a great alternative. These products offer buoyancy in emergency situations whilst being small and discreet, retaining your full range of movement and sense of freedom whilst paddling.
An example of a great PFD for paddleboarding is the Restube. It’s compact size makes it easy and comfortable to wear paddleboarding and it gives the you confidence, knowing that it is a well engineered and tested piece of safety equipment. The Restube is highly compact and can be worn either horizontally or vertically around the waist, not restricting range of movement. Should you need, pulling a tab automatically inflates the Restube thanks to a small C02 canister. The floating bag allows you to rest on the surface of the water, without expending valuable energy. The PFD is a valuable piece of personal safety equipment for all watersports, including paddleboarding.
Paddleboard packages that you can purchase online should come with a leash as standard, as this is an essential piece of kit that should always be worn when paddling. The buoyancy Aid or PFD should also be worn as a backup to leash failure, if you’re paddling two-up, or should you get incapacitated in any way. Happy, and safe, paddleboarding!