Today on a Tampa news station there’s a story HERE on a missing paddle boarder.  In this particuliar paddler’s case, he’s in great shape, probably a very experienced paddler in his home waters.  A board was found.  Without knowing the details, I’ll on speculate that a leash wasn’t being worn.

Anything I say below isn’t directed towards the specific paddler listed above.

Many think SUP is so easy and such a minimalistic experience that little if no training should be involved.    Leashes and vest style PFDs are considered by one local paddler here as a ‘hassle’.  Maybe they are.  But in retrospect even as an experienced paddler on your home waters, shit happens.  Given that when I paddle in challenging conditions, moving current, high wind, or offshore, I do the following.

– Tell a friend of family member where you’re going, time you’ll be back, and leave a phone #.

– Wear a leash.  I wear mine 100% even on flat calm days because shit happens.

– Wear a PFD.  Note the first word – ‘wear’.  Even a inflatable belt style PFD should be on you.  If you fall off your leashless board and the wind or current takes it with your PFD strapped onto the deck, consider your distance of swimming back to shore or to a nearby boat for help.  I’d rather avoid that situation.  Many who read this blog know I’m a fan of vest style PFDs way more pros and cons vs a belt style, but each his own.  And in Florida or Hawaii vest style PFDs can get pretty hot.

– Purchase and bring with you a floatable waterproof VHF. ICOM makes a good one I use.  Double protect it from saltwater and put it in a drybag you can control and talk through.  Learn how to use it and keep it charged.  Also learn your local channels.  For Seattle Channel 14 covers all local marine chat for Elliott Bay and Shilshole Bay.

– Carry hand held rocket flares.  These are so small you can pack them into your PFD or fanny pack.  Double bag them with ziplocks or a good drybag.  I used these once to direct the attention of a Police boat to where we were rescuing a fisherman who had capsized in Puget Sound.  They essentially found is much sooner than if they were looking on their own.

– Drybag or similar to carry extra clothes, hydration, etc.  Getting too cold? Grab an extra hat or hoodie from your kayaking style deckbag.  Or the opposite, shed a layer and you have a place to put it rather than around your waist.

– Proper hydration for your body.  If I don’t drink enough water I get migraines.  Thus am hydrating all the time, especially in warmer temps or arid regions.

– Tow Rope. See my post on Towing.  If your buddy gets fatigued, sea sick, heat stroke, hypothermia, or is injured in some way, you have a chance of getting him/her back to shore without having to sacrifice your own leash and safety.  Some PFDs such as th Astral Green Jacket have a built in short town line.  You can make your own tow system as well.

– Paddle with a friend with similar or more experience than you.  Make sure they’re also considering some of the options above.  In this case, listen to yourself in terms of what you need to take along.  My buddy Todd says ‘it’s warm, you don’t need a wetsuit.’ But Todd never wears gloves even if it’s snowing.

– Check the weather.  Is a storm front approaching. Is the barometer ‘Falling Rapidly”?  Think before you go.  Do you know which direction the wind or current is going or may switch to and when?  NOAA has great info for your region on what’s going on in real time.  Here’s my local station for Seattle at Discovery Park’s West Point.

There’s certainly more to consider, but that’s a starting point.  Think before you go.

Any questions give me a holler: salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com / 206.465.7167
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Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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