This summer, 10 people have died from paddling a SUP. The yearly average is usually 5 per year. It’s not surprising that a sport growing this quickly will have an increased accident/fatality rate.
Of those deaths, each were due to not wearing a lifejacket and/or leash. One or two were related to not wearing those but in addition going out in conditions above the paddler’s skill level.
A few tips on staying safe on the water..
The Problem with C02 PFD’s
In time of panic, a C02 PFD will fail if a person is in panic, has been knocked out, or they’re in heavy seas and unable to reach the string to pull. In two reported deaths in recent years, C02’s were worn but not inflated. If you wear one – test it and learn how to put them on prior to getting on the water. If you’re been wearing one for years, test it. Most I’ve spoken to don’t know what happens after you pull the string – it’s not as easy as you think. Is your canister up to date?
Wear a Vest PFD – Type 3
A vest PFD is on you – you don’t have to put it on in times of trouble. It’ll keep you warmer and good ones have pockets to put things in (food, phone, whistle, extra hat). A PFD on your board is useless if you’re not wearing a leash. In Hawaii, no one wears a PFD. Experienced paddlers there always wear a leash and are very good at swimming especially in surf conditions. Most of the SUP deaths have been in Florida, where the heat may prevent folks from wearing a PFD.
Paddling with Kids –
In the US, kids are required to wear a PFD under the age of 13. Oddly, parents rarely wear a PFD or leash with their kids. Will your child save you? Think about it..
– Communication device – Cell phone in a wp bag or VHF radio to call authorities in case of an accident. Or in our experience, if they spot someone else in trouble.
– Whistle – This is required by the Coast Guard to have on your vest (or C02 pack). But doesn’t work blowing upwind.
– Deckbag – Bag on your deck to carry extra clothes, food, etc. I use the bags by Seattle Sports and SealLine.
– Create a Float Plan – This means telling another parent or close friend of your paddling plans (departure/arrival/location).
*By 9/16, US SUP deaths for the summer had rose to 12.