Keeping it safe is the most important consideration for paddling in Level 3. It’s really important that everybody really heeds this, the last thing we want is any bad publicity created by paddlers pushing their limits and ending up needing to be rescued, potentially upsetting the applecart for everyone else.
There is also the extra consideration that the guidance about not paddling in groups actually goes against the normal good practice of paddling with others for extra safety, so is yet another reason to take extra care and minimise the risk in your paddling activities.
So, remember the SUP SAFE code – if you follow these guidelines when paddleboarding, you greatly reduce the risk of coming to any harm.
1. Always wear the correct type of leash for the conditions
Under the Level 3 restrictions which require paddling to be kept safe and simple, this rule can be simplified to – wear a leash! If you’re surfing it should be a straight leash, not coiled, but on flat water pretty much any type of leash is fine – the aim is simply that you don’t get separated from your board. Just remember that an ankle leash can be potentially dangerous in areas of strong current, such as harbour mouths, if there are stationary objects in the water such as channel markers or mooring posts. This is the one time that you’re better off taking your leash off.
2. Wear a Buoyancy Aid
Beltpack PFDs are an excellent low-profile option for experienced stand-up paddlers. You don’t even know you’re wearing it, but when you need it, it will give you lots of buoyancy and keep your head out of the water For weak swimmers, a PFD with permanent built-in flotation is essential.
3. Know the Conditions Now & Forecast
Know the weather, wind strength and direction (now and forecast), tide height and flow if you are at the coast, river flow if you are on a river, and the water temperature. Is your ability, equipment and clothing right for the conditions?
4. Take two waterproof ways to call for help
Can you call for help, if necessary? Remember, it might not be you in trouble, but someone else you encounter! Take a phone or Maritime VHF (with emergency channel 16) in a waterproof case, along with a whistle. (You normally get a good waterproof whistle as part of the package anyway when you buy a good quality PFD).
5. Tell someone onshore your plans
Even if you’re paddling with others in your bubble (always safest!), make sure someone onshore knows that you’re on the water, where you’re going and how long you will be. Tell them when you get back too!
Stay safe everyone. See you on the water soon.