How to Paddle Board Safely
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to enjoy a sport that is refreshing, good exercise and fun whether you do it with friends or by yourself? Welcome to the awesome sport of paddleboarding!
Paddleboarding has become a sport that has been growing in popularity over the past few years. Take a trip to a calm body of water and you’re bound to see happy riders with smiles across their faces. You might even see some paddleboarders out in rougher water since one does stand on a surfboard-like board which is also suitable for riding many kinds of waves.
So you have the itch to give it a try? Paddleboarding is easier than you think.
How Easy Is It?
Paddleboarding is much easier than some of the related sports such as surfing or sailboarding. The reason is the boards are much longer, very wide, and incredibly buoyant. This makes standing on them fairly easy. You don’t have to maintain any speed to balance. The boards are so big you can stand on them without the board traversing at all. This is good news for all you newbies out there looking to hit the open water!
If you have ever skied, ridden a skateboard or roller-skated paddle boarding should be a breeze for you. If you haven’t fear, paddleboarding is still quite easy. You just might need a bit more practice catching your balance. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some safety precautions, however before grabbing a paddle and giving it a go.
Let’s go over some of the safety practices you’ll need to know before you try to paddleboard for the first time.
Paddleboarding is one of those sports in which everything is fine until it’s not and if you don’t have the right safety equipment it really could be a matter of life and death. Yikes, death… really?
I know that sounds scary and to be honest it’s meant to scare you a wee bit.
Image a scenario or two for a moment:
Everything is going great. You are paddling along the shoreline of a calm bay. The sun is kissing your skin and life is good. You just got through admiring some harbor seals nursing their young on a rocky beach. The next thing you know the wind changes directions and you start getting blown out farther from the shore. You get a bit nervous and begin fighting the wind. You are now paddling directly into the wind and getting tired fast. It seems you are no longer going forward but merely getting blown backward by the wind. It’s hard to tell really, the sea has gotten so rough it’s hard to tell what direction anything is moving.
At this moment there are a couple of items of paddleboard safety equipment that can quite literally mean the difference between surviving a bad situation out on the water or perishing.
A personal flotation device, or PFD for short is your last line of defense should anything bad happen while you are out on your paddleboard. Check your local marine laws, they are often required and if you are caught without one it could mean you are given a ticket!
Tickets aside your main concern is your own safety. If you are just a casual paddle boarder any coast guard approved life jacket will do, but as you gain more interest in the sport you might consider wearing a less constrictive PFD. A bulky life jacket type of PFD can get really awkward if you are paddling hard and fast for great distances, especially in hot weather.
There are some really amazing paddling boarding PFDs that allows you to paddle without the restraint of a traditional bulky life jacket. From belts to inflatable vests you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to be stylish, comfortable, and of course safe while paddleboarding!
You should always have a leash that connects you to your board. If you do fall overboard a leash keeps the board attached to you. Believe me, if it’s windy and your board goes one way with the wind and you got the other you’ll never catch it. Once an empty paddleboard gains some momentum with the wind it can cruise much faster than you can swim.
Some people like to connect their leash to their ankle while others connect to their upper calf, just below the knee. Experiment with both to see what you prefer.
Although you can very much walk right onto the board, from a dock or even the shoreline, it’s not a recommended way to begin your journey. The problem is, you could lose your balance and fall in the shallow water or worse yet, hit your head on the dock you were launching from.
It’s best then to launch in a kneeling or lying position until you are safely in deeper waters and away from hazards.
- Begin by lying with your stomach on the board or in a kneeling position
- Then transition to your knees (if previously on your stomach)
- Position your paddle horizontally across the paddleboard.
- Place your hands onto the paddle in an open, palm-down position.
- Use your balance over the paddle to push yourself up, moving your weight from your knees to your feet. Do this one leg at a time.
Never stand up unless you are confident in the situation. Weather, wind, and waves can determine what you need to do at any given time. Occasionally you may decide to stay in a kneeling position if conditions become more difficult. You don’t want to lose your balance. So if you feel most comfortable staying in that position for a while, it’s okay!
It won’t be fun if it’s not safe!
Taking a Fall!
Even the most experienced riders will lose their balance at times. From natural distractions such as birds flying overhead to some rapid changes in tide or weather. A lot can happen out there on the water… especially if you are fatigued.
Even the best-made plans do change!
You will probably fall off your board at least once or twice when you’re first trying to paddleboard. The most important thing is to get up safely, learn from your mistakes, and keep going. Don’t get discouraged! Remember, even the most experienced riders fall off.
Just stay calm and remember to follow the standing up procedures outlined above and always keep an eye on the developing weather patterns.