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If you've been SUP surfing since you were 5, rode your barrels whilst sipping on a bottle of Bud when you were 10 and smacked the wave lips so hard that the fins came out in the other dimension you can skip this. Otherwise, read on!
SUP'ing is one of the most accessible water sports out there. It's a great way to explore the coastline, rivers and lochs. It will keep you fit too - what's not to like? There are a few things worth knowing before hitting the water for the first time on your own. If you haven't got any water sports experience yet, it's highly advisable to grab a lesson - either with ourselves or with a school near you.
Learning basics of paddle boarding, self-rescue techniques, reading wind and tide forecasts and essential water skills is a must. Here's a short list of things to keep in mind after you've had your lessons.
1. Make sure you wear a leash.
You'd be surprised how fast the board will run away from you when you come off. It doesn't really matter how experienced you are - sometimes your inner ear decides to drop you in the drink and all you can do is to enjoy the cool-down. Don’t worry, this happens to the best of us. When you come off, you'll effectively push the board away and if there's any wind it will keep moving away from you. Especially if it's an inflatable SUP board. It’s extremely hard to catch up with your board when that happens, on a windy day it’s pretty much impossible. So keep that leash on so you can pull the board closer. Also, make sure the leash is properly attached to the board - give it a good tug before heading out. And keep an eye on it making sure it's not worn out. There's no better recipe for a disaster than being separated from your board 1 mile offshore.
2. Dress appropriately.
Nah, not the surfers swag. It might be tempting to jump on the board in your newly acquired epic board shorts or a bikini but if you're using your SUP in the cold British waters you have to be prepared to fall into a cold drink. In the summer you can get away with a 3/2mm suit but when autumn hits having a decent quality 5/3mm wetsuit is a must. Have a look here at a selection of SUP wetsuits that will keep you nice and warm during the session and that don't limit the movements in the water. Take it from us - we spend most of the time in the cold north sea on the east coast of Scotland.
3. Check the wind forecast.
SUP becomes a dangerous sport when the wind picks up. If you've had lessons, you'll know that going out in off-shore winds (that is winds blowing from the shore out into the water) is a big no-no. Also, winds over 10kt can be very challenging, especially on inflatable boards and for inexperienced paddlers. Correct paddling technique makes all the difference - have a word with your local school about that. Couple of coaching hours go a long way and help you not only with paddling in challenging conditions but also help you to cover longer distances with quarter of the effort.
Make sure to always check the wind forecasts (as in plural, just in case) for your local spots - there's a bunch of decent apps but XCWeather and WindGuru are worth recommending.
4. If you're heading out in the open waters - tell someone and carry means of contact.
If you're going out alone - make sure someone knows you're out. Message a mate or drop a post on Facebook saying you're going out paddling and you'll be back before a certain time. If not, ask your friends to give guys at the Coastguard a ring. Just remember to update your friends when you come back. When I'm heading out for a long distance, open water paddle I always carry a mobile phone in my dry-bag just in case.
5. If something looks too good to be true, it is.
Got a £200 iSUP package off a shady eBay auction? Leave that for the swimming pool and get a board that won't deflate half way out on the water. Think about it - you're entrusting your life to a board that's cheaper than most of the mid-market paddles on their own. A mid-level SUP paddle on its own costs about £220. A lot of our students came to us thinking that paddleboarding is difficult and weren't sure if it's worth pursuing. Until they've tried properly built SUP boards that don't twist, bend and bounce.
Decent quality SUP board makes all the difference, no matter what's your level. It makes learning much easier and will serve you for much longer. Instead of ending up in the landfill as another piece of plastic the world doesn't need. Pretty decent SUP boards start at around £429 - with proper construction providing plenty of stiffness and durability without breaking the bank. Have a look at a selection of boards here.
Don't make RNLI's life even harder, get the right gear so you can really enjoy paddleboarding instead of wondering why this thing bends like a banana under your legs and you're spinning like a chicken on a roast instead of moving forward. If you have any doubts on what board to get - give us a shout and we’ll happily advise you.
6. Have a buoyancy vest with you.
Because you never know what will happen on the long-distance paddle-outs - a board deflates, leash breaks, one of your paddling mates gets in trouble. It’s a long list but you get the picture. If you’re paddling out far or in challenging conditions - take some extra buoyancy with you.
7. Hold on to your paddle.
As in when paddling of course too but also when falling in. If you’ve got a decent stick, it will float. If it’s one of the basic alloy/plastic paddles - it might not (give it a go in shallow water!). When you’re going down to cool off (no one ever just falls off! We’re all just getting overheated, that’s all!) chances are you might panic, especially when you’re not used to hitting the water. Make sure that you keep a tight grip on your paddle, he’s your best friend out there and it’s a bit of a pain to paddle back in prone. Although you remember how we taught you to self-rescue, right? Right, because you took a lesson before reading this. Good stuff.
Anything we forgot to mention? Drop us a message! And stay safe out there folks!
When teaching self rescue which we do at the onset of any first lesson we teach safe falling (wipe out) from your board by falling off to the side with paddle held out and high to acoid falling onto your board or your paddle. However we also advocate that if need be let go of your paddle if it is hampering your fall. This said we have checked prior to this excersise that the paddle floats.
We follow the procedure of getting back onto your board by getting onto your board first and if need be swim your board to recover your paddle, if you still have hold of your paddle lay it across the front of your board out the way whilst safely get back on your board. In addition to this we teach to never pull the board to you by the leash.
@Steve Nelson – it totally depends on circumstances and how and when you’re falling off. If it’s in the surf, paddle helps to protect yourself. Also, when teaching folk how to keep the balance on the board, we always talk about using the paddle to stabilise yourself and the bracing stroke. With majority of first time falls being actually pretty spectacularly far from the SUP board with the board being pushed away anyway. With some many folk buying the cheap junk we’ll have a lot of paddles at the bottom of our lochs and coastline sadly. So yeah, it really depends when and how you fall :)