How to stay safe on your stand up paddleboard

Here are the answers to the knowledge test at the end of the planning chapter in book 3. 

1. What should you be checking before any paddleboarding session?

Wind strength and direction, rain / clouds, temperature, tides, surf or river flow, if applicable.

2. What decisions should you then be making on the basis of the information you’ve gained?

Are you even going to go? Are the conditions suitable?

Who else are you going to paddle with? It’s always safer to paddle with others, and more sociable too.

Where are you going to go? Assuming you have more than one location to paddle from, which will be the most appropriate for the water and weather conditions?

When are you going to go? What times will suit the conditions best? If tidal currents are an issue in your part of the world, just don’t mess with them. Finishing your paddle session with a fight against the tide is never smart, particularly if you’re still relatively new to the sport and likely to be feeling some fatigue by then.

What gear are you going to take? Board choice, paddle choice, PFD choice, leash choice…

What else will you need? Clothing or wetsuit / drysuit, hat, glasses, appropriate footwear, launch permit, food, water, change of clothes, towel, money for parking, etc. 

3. If you’re planning on paddling somewhere new, what sort of things should you check?

Access to the water? Can you even get to it? Do you need permission or a permit? Is it safe access? How are you going to launch? What are the hazards?

Parking? Is there somewhere to leave your vehicle? Is it safe? Are there any costs?

Weather implications: Local weather effects such as sea breezes or katabatic mountain winds (see Book Two) won’t make it onto the weather apps but can still be extremely severe. Try and find someone who has experience of the area who can advise.

Currents: If it’s tidal, this means a whole bunch of information you need. Time of high/low water (along with some idea as to how accurate they are; how far away is the nearest primary tide height measuring point?). If it’s a river, there will definitely be flow issues to think about, particularly if there has been rain recently. (see Book Two). If it’s a lake, are you intending to paddle near or across any inflows or outflows? Again, recent rain can be a major factor.

Water temperature: Major implications for what you’ll wear.

Water quality: That beautiful lake you’re planning on checking out may be full of toxic algae, or a holding pond for the local nuclear power station…

Other hazards: Think about other water users (human and wildlife!), again as discussed in detail in Book Two. Are there any boat ramps in the vicinity or waterski lanes? Or indeed shipping lanes, if you’re on the coast! What about possible underwater hazards, etc

4. If you’re planning to paddle a new and unknown stretch of river, what sort of things should you check?

What state is it in? Is there sufficient flow, or indeed too much flow? Any white water, if so, what class? Any locks that you’ll need to portage around? Are there any weirs, low head dams or rapids on the river? If the answer’s yes, then these need a whole lot more investigation. Where are your put-in and take-out points, and where else could you break out from the paddle? Is there any good information available from other people who have paddled it recently? Is it even legal to paddle? Do you need a permit?