Safety Gear

This topic contains 6 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by JP Egan JP Egan 6 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #55885

    In light of the multiple deaths that have occurred last year and this, talking about safety gear, loud & gear, is an essential topic. Leashes AND personal flotation devices (PFD’s) are necessary equipment to insure safety. And yet. people have questions about the difference between wearing a PFD waist pack versus a life jacket, what kinds of leashes are appropriate and other flat water paddling tips.

    Can we start a conversation about Best Safety Practices so we may educate the beginner and each other?

  • #55894

    John Judge

    The essential safety gear I paddle with is a leash, PFD/life jacket, whistle, hydration pack and a phone.

    Leash: I consider the leash to be my lifeline and keeps the best floating device (my board) near me. I prefer the coil leash below my knee for flat water because I find it’s less likely to tangle in my feet as I walk back for turns. In the surf I avoid the coil leash and go with a standard ankle leash. I find the coil stores energy and springs the board back as the waves roll over it vs. a straight leash that simply tugs on my ankle a bit. I also inspect my leashes for wear and tear. Not only the velcro, but also the cord looped through the leash plug. For those of you paddling in rivers, look into quick release options that are designed for obstacles in the water. Bottom line, LEASHES SAVE LIVES.

    PFD: I prefer a full life jacket over inflatable during intense downwinders and over my wet/dry suit in the winter. I use an inflatable around my waste for all other flat water paddles. I see no point in stuffing a vest or PFD under tie downs and would highly recommend beginners and weak swimmers to wear a full life jacket. They make vests specifically for SUP that provide plenty of mobility, light weight and include pockets for other items (keys, water, etc.). Another important note, make sure your vest fits and test those inflatables. The best advice I can give is, play it safe and if you can’t swim back to shore without the assistance of your board or inflatable, wear a life jacket. Leashes can break, you can be separated from your board and your inflatable may malfunction, so knowing your own ability is key with making the right decision.

    Whistle: some places now require by law along with the leash and PFD. I like having my whistle with me and not only does it come in handy in an emergency, but it can alert approaching watercraft or help summon a buddy who can’t hear you calling out to them. I attach mine to the strap on my hydration pack so it’s readily available.

    Hydration Pack: not just for racing! Paddling with the proper hydration and nutrition is a good idea. There have been times when I’ve misjudged the conditions or the heat and the extra water and food does come in handy. Most have pockets too, so it’s a great place to store your phone, medication, keys, etc.

    Phone: most of us have smart phones these days. I highly recommend a dry pack case so you can take it with you. Be sure it’s fully charged and have your apps pre-installed. Most of us paddle in areas with a signal, so calling 911 in an emergency can be quick and easy. Not just for you, but any emergency out on the water. And if you don’t have a signal, the GPS should work and there are a lot of apps and tools that can still provide assistance. Life360 allows you to peer with a family member or buddy so they can track you on the water. I’ve used Google maps after the fog rolled in on me which helped me navigate safely back to shore. The list goes on and on, so having your phone with you is more than just being able to take pictures.

    The last point I would just like to make is this. Years ago wearing a seatbelt wasn’t common. In fact infants were even held on mothers laps and car seats were few and far between. Fast forward to where we are today with motor vehicle safety regulations and I’m sure we would all agree the industry has matured and people have accepted change. It didn’t happen overnight and without struggle, but we’re in a much better place. I feel we’re in a similar situation with SUP safety. So if the majority of us adopt and promote SUP safety, we’re less likely to see fatal accidents.

    Safe paddling to you all!

  • #55931

    Butch Rahne

    John your to to quick on these topics. But since I do paddle with you all year long, I couldn’t have said it better. Only thing I do wish for, is when they advertise products. The person they are capturing on film or video. 90% of time they have no safety gear on at all. Giving the consumer that it’s okay not to have any safety gear with them.

  • #55954


    John makes all good points above!

    1) Leashes: I had one pullout on me just before the start of Chattajack last year. I was lucky enough have a spare. Leashes that stay out in the sun all summer are going to deteriorate faster than you think and may have to be replaced annually.

    2) PFD’s: When in doubt – Wear it!

    3) Whistles: The US Coast Guard looks at Paddleboards as vessels. Every Vessel shall have one PFD for everyone on board, a sound signaling device (whistle or horn) and an white light in restricted visibility and between sunset and sunrise (No Glow Sticks)

    4) Hydration and Nutrition: Bringing the proper amount for a trip is very important.

    5) Cell Phone and or VHF Radio: At least one person in your group should have some sort of device for communication.

    6) Clothing: Hat, Sunscreen and UPF Clothing are essential in the summer. In the Fall/Winter I wear a wetsuit or drysuit and 7mm booties with thermal socks. My advice to people is to dress as if you were going to fall in the water at the farthest point you plan to paddle to. You need to wear enough insulation to keep you warm for the paddle back to your launch site.

  • #56083


    Seems there’s we are all in agreement here. The safety gear I paddle with is a leash, PFD, whistle, hydration pack and an iPhone. But nothing replaces commonsense, protect yourself and paddle smart.

  • #57376

    I would also add, whether you are paddling in a group or alone, letting someone know that you are out and when to expect you back.
    I paddle alone 90% of the time. You never know what could happen and even with all the safety gear, there are circumstances heaven forbid, that I wouldn’t be able to use my phone to call for help. I feel safer knowing that if I am not back in a couple of hours, people will start looking immediately.

  • #57488
    JP Egan
    JP Egan

    In regard to leashes & SUP surfing, one thing I learned the hard way, is that you should really check your leash prior to paddling out – and not just the tie down to the board. Look at the leash itself.

    Turns out, the fins can nick the leash. I didn’t even think of this possibility. Anyway, these little nicks are almost invisible unless you bend the leash at bit and look closely for small tears. These nicks turn into serious cuts under a load & can easily snap clean with a heavy wipeout.

    That’s what happened to me & I ended-up without a board about a half mile off-shore. Pretty unfun experience. When the board was retrieved and I was done swimming, upon close inspection, the leash had several fin nicks in it & one of those simply let go. The leash should have been replaced long ago. It appeared fine but was wildly overused & ready for retirement. Lesson learned.

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