by Laurence coulombe

Safety on the Water in Paddle Board

Safety should always be a priority when it comes to being on the water with your paddle board. There are many things needed to take into consideration prior to going out on the water on a. Ice summer day (or, for those who are so passionate, that even cold winter day doesn’t stop them!). Although we may feel safe going out for a small paddle just outside the cottage, we overlook certain safety aspects, but you can never be too careful when partaking in nautical activities.

Here is your ''before leaving'' checklist for a safe paddle boarding experience:

The weather

Taking preventative measures is much better than trying to fix the problem after the fact. Therefore, the first thing we suggest you to do is to check the wind. You can either check regional or governmental websites, or even use the app Windy.

Things to consider when checking the wind: It’s strength and direction. If you’re heading into a large lake and going out into the open, you want to be sure that the wind isn’t coming towards you on the way out nor on the way back (headwind is not ideal!). Finishing your day trip by paddling against the wind is especially tiring. Will you be able to paddle long and hard enough to get back? To give you a better idea, when the wind is 30km/h or more, it’s strong enough for you to question whether you’ll be able to work with that counter-push. You should also consider looking at the gusts … wind can either be your best-friend or worst enemy when paddle boarding! Yes, wind is important, but checkout the weather too! It’s much more pleasant experience paddle boarding in the sun than it is the rain. 

Always respect your personal physical abilities!

Water temperature while paddle boarding: Cold water, hot sun?

Even if it’s a beautiful day, sunshine and all, it’s important to check the water temperature. If you’re going out in the springtime, it’s likely that the water is still very cold which increases the risk of hypothermia if you happen to fall. In this case, it’s important that you dress appropriately so we suggest wearing a wetsuit. If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve written a blog specifically about paddle boarding during the spring.

Equipment to carry with you:

If you’re leaving for a few hours, it would be smart to bring with you a drybag for you to carry your water bottle, snacks, or even extra clothes. The sun is very strong when you’re out on the water, so it’s important to protect yourself from sunstroke. We suggest bringing a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses - it’s best to be well-prepared!

If you’re leaving for more than a few hours, consider bringing Water Purification Tablets or Drops to purify your water if taken from your surroundings, in case of emergency. With this said, it’s also important you’re familiar with your whereabouts. If you’re in a new location, bring a map with you and put it in a sealed plastic bag. You can always use your cellphone of course, but it’s always smart to have a hard copy as well in case you ever lose service your cellphone dies (or even damaged by external factors). Prior to leaving, let friend or a family member know where and for how long you’ll be heading out. You should NEVER head out on the water alone.

PFD (personal flotation device) and Leash:

Is it mandatory to have a PFD and a leash with you on your board? The answer is YES. Transport Canada state that if we’re wearing a PFD, we’re not required to wear a leash or have a buoyant rope. However, if we’re not wearing a PFD, it must at least be on the board in addition to having a 15 meters buoyant rope as well as a leash. With regards to your PFD, it is required that you have a whistle or some other device capable of making a loud noise. If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve written a blog specifically on safety regulations. 

Do I have the right board for my paddle board trip?

Lake: You want to be able to move forward efficiently since there isn’t a current to give you a push. The wind may also play a factor in your ride, so you’ll want something that make it it easier to not only paddle with the wind, but against it too. With this said, our most efficient models for lakes are: Thuya, Thuya LX, Kazuzu and not to forget our Race for maximum speed. 

If you’re looking for a calmer outing, we suggest the Akoya, Awen, or Boréa. 

River: rivers hold more dangers than in the lake, so if you’re heading into a river with R2 rapids, we strongly suggest that you enrol in a SUP river course to understand the current, the safety aspects, and the proper techniques (courses are offered at some of our demo centers, such as KSF).

Expeditions down a river require advanced techniques and an inflatable board as opposed to a hard board. Our inflatable paddle boards are made with military grade PVC which make them highly impact resistant and offer greater floatation. The Kanoa Air is our favourite board for river paddle boarding. It’s width will offer good stability, it’s length will help you turn quickly, and it’s handles found all around the board will help you pop back up onto your board if you fall. The bungee cords in the front and on the back of the board will allow you to mount your personal and safety equipment (15 meters buoyant rope). The Akoya Air is also a great choice for river surfing, just change the dun for a shorter one and you’ll be ready to go! 

Pro tip: bring an extra paddle! In can be very useful, especially in river if the current decides to take it.

In conclusion...

There is so much to be said about safety on the water. Sometimes, one oversight can make all the difference when you’re out paddling. Make lists for yourself, even if you have experience, keep up the good habits! Ask yourself these questions before you go:

  • Do I have all the necessary equipment? : PFD, whistle, rope, water, snacks, sunscreen, goggles, wetsuit, map, light, phone.
  • Do I have the right equipment for my trip? (type of board and extra paddle)
  • Is the weather favorable? (wind, sun, rain).
  • Is this outing up to my fitness level?

Listen to your body and know your limits. Alcohol consumption is obviously to be avoided, even if it can be tempting to have a small Pina Colada as a refreshment … jump in the water instead!

Once everything  is well prepared, go have fun! The more you repeat this routine, the easier it will become! Have a great trip with your paddle board and be safe!