A hazard is anything that could put you at risk of injury. Weather and water conditions present the biggest danger for stand up paddlers. It is important to always have 360 degree awareness and be constantly checking environmental conditions.
Below are some SUP hazards for the beginner paddler. This list is not exhaustive. Always be on the look out for hazards.
Understand how to read weather forecasts for storms, wind speed and direction.
Understand how to identify water conditions suitable for your level of paddling.
One of the biggest hazards for stand up paddlers is the wind.
Why is this the case? SUP boards have a large surface area, which makes it easy for the wind to blow the board across the water’s surface, with you on it. Wind can blow you far off course, making for a long paddle to get back to your starting point. It can be difficult to paddle back against the wind, tiring you out.
Only go out in winds less than 12 knots or 10 knots offshore.
Organise your paddle so you are not coming back against the wind. Learn how to identify if wind is a hazard at your location prior to paddling.
Lightning is a major hazard as the paddles act like lightning rods. Check forecasts for any storms and don’t go out paddling in a storm or if one is forecast. When out paddling, constantly check the weather for any approaching storms and get out of the water if you see any or are in any doubt.
The river may look calm, but there may be a strong water flow. Like the wind, water flow can carry you far from your starting point. Paddling against water flow is difficult.
Only go out in winds less than 4 knots.
Organise your paddle so you are not coming back against the water flow. Learn how to identify the water flow at your location prior to paddling.
Other Water Hazards
Enclosed Flat Water Locations: Include bridges, pylons, weirs, submerged items, marine creatures, power boats, boat moorings, other water users. Potential to collide with them causing injury to yourself and others.
Always check carefully for hazards prior to paddling at that location.
Exposed Waters (Ocean): Include rips, currents, swell size, wind direction, not paddling near river mouths.
Surf locations: Do not go into surf beyond your ability. 1.5 ft (half a metre) if you are a beginner. Look out for rips. Stay out of the way of surfers as you are a danger to them on your large board.
Make sure you understand what a tide is and how to read tide forecasts. Tidal ranges vary around the world from zero to approximately 16 metres (52ft). A low or high tide can mean the water becomes very shallow and you can’t paddle. Or it might mean your exit location (shore) is now totally covered by water and you have nowhere to get out.
Incoming and outgoing tides can also significantly affect water flow.
Run off from roads after rain can cause pollution in the water. Waterways become stagnant, with algae growths. There may be sewerage and other overflow by the local authorities.
Can be slippery. Be careful entering and exiting the water
Check your equipment is in good working order, each and every time you go out paddling. Check your leash is intact and secured to your board. If you have an inflatable board, check for any leaks.