By Alex Mauer
Never cut corners when it comes to safety! I have seen some concerning pictures since the growth of whitewater paddling and surfing has started. Never ever paddle without a helmet and a personal floatation device (PFD). If you are going to use a leash make sure it is a quick release leash.
A whitewater helmet should fit comfortably. If the helmet is so snug that it gives you a headache it is too tight. If the helmet rocks around your head it is way to lose. You want the inner liner to fit snug without a gap between the liner and your head. Most good helmets also have a band that secures the helmet to your occipital protuberance which is the base of your skull on the back of your head. Also make sure that the chin strap fits snug.
My pro tip: Before you look at style make sure the helmet fits well. Later on you can paint it with a unique design or add stickers of your favorite brands!
Personal Floatation Device (PFD):
When paddling in whitewater you should wear a type 3 or 5 PFD. PFD’s are typically fitted by your chest size for adults or weight for children. If the vest is to loose it will ride up making it hard to stay above the water. A type 3 PFD will have less floatation than a type 5 giving it a lower profile. Type 5 PFDs have more flotation and often times have a quick release strap built into the vest.
My pro tip: always wear your PFD. Replace your vest every 3 years or if the vest is damaged. Over time the foam in the vest wears down, giving the foam less floatation.
Quick release leash:
Buy One Here: NRS Quick Release SUP Leash Red / Black One Size
Most of the time I opt not to wear a leash on whitewater. However, if you chose to wear one make sure it is a quick release leash. NRS makes a great quick release leash that is easy to use. The leash attaches to your board. The Velcro strap that would normally go around your ankle, straps to the inside of the bag. Then the belt goes around your waist and is clamped down. If you get in trouble all you do is pull the orange ball on the tab and the whole belt releases. The quick release belt on the type 5 PFD works the same way after the leash is attached to the O-ring in on the back of the PFD.
My pro tip- when attaching the leash to the board only velcro half of the strap. This way it works as a double quick release. If enough pressure is applied the velcro, it will come undone.
Better safe than sorry. I can’t tell you how many shins I have seen split open from rocks in the river. G-Form makes excellent low profile pads. I love the knee/shin combo! The fit should be snug enough so they won’t move around when they get wet.
My pro tip: always take the extra time to put pads on. It seems like I alway crack my shins when I don’t put them on. –Alex Mauer