Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) safety rules

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) safety rules


In general, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a very accessible and safe activity. However, as it is practiced on the water, you must keep a safety-conscious attitude when getting ready for your SUP practice and during it. Here are some safety tips that will help you to enjoy a brilliant and safe paddle.

1. Choose the right SUP location according to weather

Make sure that you check weather conditions (wind, waves and tides, precipitation, and others) for the whole time when you are planning to be on the SUP board and take conscious decisions regarding where to go out paddling.

  • Wind. The ideal SUP location, especially for SUP beginners and intermediate paddlers, should be sheltered from the wind. If you cannot find any location sheltered from the wind, avoid going out with off-shore winds or in winds higher than 8 knots, and always remember to start your paddle by heading into the wind. This way the wind will be on your back when you return helping you to get back to the starting point.
  • Waves and tides. SUP is not surfing, so there shouldn't be any waves. As far as tides are concerned, keep in mind that tidal flow can be a big danger as it can move your board very fast over long distances. Always check tidal tables when planning your stand up paddle boarding activity and avoid areas with rip currents. In addition, make sure that you choose your entry and exit points so that you will be able to get out with ease.
  • Precipitation. In addition, always avoid paddling on rainy days, especially in lightning storms.

Take into account also that weather conditions can change rapidly and that weather forecasts might not be fully accurate. Therefore, do not doubt to change your plan if you experience weather conditions turning unfavorable during your paddle.

2. Evaluate the environment for paddling

If you decide to enjoy SUP in a new location for the first time, ask the local lifeguards and other paddlers about the characteristics and potential risks of the environment and evaluate whether the location is suitable for your SUP skill level and condition. In particular the place for paddling should have minimal motorized traffic and plenty of easy access to get out on shore.

3. Check that your SUP equipment is in good condition

Make sure that you are taking your SUP leash and a good life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) with you. In addition, always carry a fully charged mobile phone in a water-proof case with you so that you can use it in case of emergency.

If you are using an inflatable SUP board, double-check that it is pumped to the correct pressure (Most boards need to be inflated between 18–25 PSI).

As far as the paddle is concerned, if you are using an adjustable one, make sure that it is assembled correctly and that the clamps hold solid.

Learn more about SUP equipment in a separate article on the blog.

4. Pack your dry bag with your SUP essentials

Make sure that it contains enough drinking water for the adventure, some energy snacks, sunblock, sunglasses, a safety whistle, a flashlight, some duct tape, and a puncture repair kit if you are using an inflatable board. It is also recommended to take with you a small first aid kit plus hats/gloves, spare clothes, and warm clothing if you are paddling in cold weather.

5. Be mindful in your SUP experience

Try not to push yourself beyond your SUP experience and physical abilities. If you are paddling with a friend or a group of friends, plan your activity to meet the abilities of the least experienced paddler. It is also recommendable to let someone know your plans before you hit the water, even when you are not paddling alone.


Text: Ana “Shankara” Santos, a certified SUP, SUP Yoga and SUP Pilates instructor by the Spanish Federation of Surf (Fesurf Federación Española de Surf, FES) and the International Surfing Association (ISA) based on the Ibiza Island, Spain. She is a founder of Paddle Surf Spain and Sup YogaPilates. They provide a wide range of stand up paddle boarding activities from events and classes to holidays, camps and tours

Cover photo: Korobovaphoto / Unsplash

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