10 Downwinding SUP Safety Tips
Don’t Go Out in Conditions Above your Skill Level
Not sure? Start out in smaller conditions and see how they do. Keep in mind who is slower and who likes to dart ahead.
Check All Gear Before Leaving Shore
Check to make sure your crew all have leashes, PFDs and the appropriate boards for the conditions. Race boards are fun on flat water, but in big bumps they can be very unstable leaving you in the water more than on the board.
Tip: Everyone forgets gear. Stock your car with extra leashes, paddles and fins which are the most commonly forgotten items.
Bring Reliable Communication
A smart DW crew will have synced tethered VHF (handheld floating on tether), 2-way radio or waterproofed cell phones (in range) for each person. Use to check on slower paddlers or your shuttle drivers if you overshoot your take-out. Check to make sure everyone’s device works and is synced before leaving. Learn how to use a VHF
Pick a Line and Stick to It
Discuss the line with each member of your group and determine a backup plan if one or all of your group overshoots the take-out. Again a good time to have communication devices and a backup plan.
Be Selfless On Your Run
It may be the most epic conditions of your life but how are your buddies doing behind you, or ahead of you? is someone struggling to keep up or has a faster paddler overshot the take-out? In either case, your epic day will lose it’s appeal when you start losing your buddies.
A few years ago, a DW crew off of the coast of Cali didn’t notice their friend was missing until they got to shore. Meanwhile, he was paddling 3 miles in 30 knot seas back to shore (he made it).
Tip: Always wear high-vis colors when downwinding. You want to be seen by our friends, boats and from shore.
Get in Great Shape
DW runs don’t always go as expected. Sometimes the wind changes 180 degrees and require a long paddle upwind to your shuttle pick-up or back to your put-in. How are your upwind paddling skills? Do you know and are in shape for prone (on chest) your Sup upwind? Many of us are using race instead of downwind boards for this reason. You should be able to paddle the distance of your run on flat water.
Set Up a Float Plan
Using Facebook Messenger or via text, always have a few friends available to notify before you got out. Tell them where you’re going, your route, how long you’ll be out, what board or other craft you’ll be on, and when you plan on getting back. Once back notify that you’re back.
- Prone is the most effective but also exhausting if you don’t practice it often. Prone is also a good skill if your paddle breaks or your lose it and in non emergency situations – great cross training.
- Lots of folks kneel but if paddling upwind, you’re still are quite tall thus making it hard to move forward.
- Sitting keeps you lower than kneeling with more wind resistance. Again choke up on your paddle. Holding the handle will turn the board at each forward stroke.
Get Rescues Skills
Sh.. happens and it’s nice to be better prepared when it does. I always carry a tow rope, tethered VHF radio, flashlight for late arrivals and wear a helmet in big conditions. Many a friend have bonked their head on their board during falls. Do you the a plan if a buddy’s leash breaks? How about a Plan B or C if you miss your take-out? Get tow ropes from NorthWater, NRS.
Learn How to Surf
Not just downwind but coastal surf. Having consistently shaped waves will allow you learn board control, turning, footwork and how to work a wave to your benefit. Both will compliment each other.
Get Back On the Upwind Side
Ever have your board fly over your head like a leaf after a downwind wipeout? Get on your board from the upwind side. Doing so from the downwind side will expose the upwind rail to the incoming wind which will lift and launch it over your head. Another reason to have a helmet.
I like helmets from NRS and Gath Sports.
Tip: Having trouble standing up after a fall? Start paddling before you stand up with the wind. The forward momentum and paddle in the water will create stability before you’re on your feet. Short quick strokes! Can’t stand up? Don’t worry about it, just sit or kneel. Trying continuously to stand up will tire you out.