Everyone loves paddle boarding because of it’s apparent simplicity. It’s not uncommon to see folks in open water without a lifejacket and leash.  I’ve seen friends downwind in 30 knots of wind over a mile off shore without both.  Why would you need it anyway? Nothing’s going to happen to me!

Until it does.  And sh.. does and has happened.  Here’s a story of a prone paddle boarder in Southern California who went out in big winds without a leash.  He fell, lost his board and friends, then had to swim two miles to shore, ending up 4 miles from his starting point.  Improving his chances for survival he was in 61F water, had a wetsuit on, and obviously was a strong swimmer.

A few other thoughts which could’ve helped out..
– Wear your leash.  Unfortantly not required by the Coast Guard yet it should be.  There’s few situations where you wouldn’t want one. Fall in, what does the board do 50% of the time – take off. Don’t like it on your board? Attach it to your PFD straps.  Some downwind paddlers use two leashes.

– VHF radio to call the Coast Guard or paddle partners (providing they have one too). The small Icom is waterproof and floats.  Attach it to you with a short string.  You can also use the VHF to check marine weather and call for other boats.  If in serious trouble, call out a Mayday twice, wait for a few minutes, then again. More here: http://www.paddlinglight.com/articles/how-to-use-vhf-radio/

– Make sure you never lose sight of your fellow paddlers.  At what point did they realize he was missing?  Can be tough in 30kts but not impossible.  His buddies are solid paddlers but are they trained to save him offshore in case of an injury or a long swim – hauling him back to shore on a narrow prone board or downwind/race SUP..

– PFD – Lifejacket.  Another uncool item to wear but required by the CG in everywhere except surf zones or lifeguard protected swim areas.  Bonk your head on the board, injure your arm.. a vest style Type 3 is on you, good to go.  On the board? Can u get it off in time while holding onto your paddle and board?  Type 5 inflatables are better than nothing. Know how to use it.  Check to make sure your C02 cartridge is properly attached before leaving shore.
*In the case of the article, if he had fatigued or cramped while swimming, a PFD will keep him afloat.

– Check your colors.  If in heavy wind or surf, wearing white will make it hard for your buddies to see you.  Paddling at dusk? Consider light colors.  Get a PFD with reflective striping.

– Waterproof light.  What if it got dark on him?  A bright light would’ve make him visible to searchers.  There’s several on the market which are small and durable. Check batteries before leaving shore.

– Gear check on shore.  Got my leash? Fin in securely?  Everyone’s radio’s working and in synch with the same channel?  Hydration?  Backup plan if you miss the first take-out?

Check it out..

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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