Different Safety Considerations
Life jackets are far from your only consideration when staying safe while paddleboarding. In this section, we’re going to run down a few other factors that you should consider for staying safe and secure on your paddleboard.
The first consideration is having a leash. A SUP leash is secured around your ankle, and ensures that your board doesn’t float too far away when you fall off. This coiled leash is designed so that it doesn’t interfere while you are using the board, but extends when you fall off to keep your board close.
This is an especially relevant consideration if you are a beginner or not a strong swimmer. As a beginner, you might fall off more often, and retrieving your board can become a pain without a proper leash. Or if you are not confident in your swimming abilities, it can be a major bonus to have your board close by.
Check Weather and Water Conditions
Next up, be sure to check weather and water conditions before you head out for a paddle. Depending where you are paddleboarding, there may be many relevant considerations as to the safety of your outing. These include winds, fast water, big waves, temperature, current, and undertow. All of these features are worth consideration for your safety.
It might help to consult a local before heading out onto a body of water. Those familiar with the conditions will be able to tell you what to look out for. This is especially relevant when paddling in the ocean or on rivers, as these tend to have more turbulent conditions.
Evaluate Skill Level
As an extension of the above, the safety of the weather and water conditions will really depend on your skill level. You should have a good idea of what you can handle before you head out. While basically anyone can handle flat, calm water, the intense surf is best left to experienced paddleboarders.
So be sure to have a realistic assessment of your own skills, because these will determine your safety at various points in your experience.
Finally, consider the sun. One of the most hazardous parts of a paddle can be the risk of sun burn! Be sure to either properly apply sun screen, or buy a life jacket or shirt that will cover you from sun damage. It might not be what you typically think of when you think of “safety”, but it is a relevant consideration nonetheless.
When it comes down to it, the final decision is up to you. While the US Coastguard PFD Type Classification System is a useful guide, make sure to check the legal requirements in your area. Your choice should primarily depend on your safety. However, with so many choices you can have safety with comfort and style.