Keith Gorman, Surfdock team rider and one of Ireland’s top competing paddle boarders, specialising in long distance and endurance paddling put together his most important tips on staying safe when paddle boarding.
Get a lesson
You rented a board on holidays, went out in perfectly flat and shallow water with just a few hints from the rental centre (or none) and you had a ball. It might be tempting to just get your own board and get going, because paddling is pretty straight forward right?
I disagree. In order to get the most benefit from the sport (and to not damage your back through the wrong paddle technique) it is important to get a lesson to learn the basics, how to get on your board, off your board, paddle strokes, how to turn etc and it doesn’t stop there. During more advanced lessons you will learn about currents, swell, wind as well as self-rescue, tips on how to stay safe and more. There are many reputable SUP lesson providers in the country and by getting a lesson you will make sure to be safe and have fun on your board.
Book one of Surfdock’s lessons online here.
Wear a PFD
Do consider getting yourself a buoyancy aid or life jacket at the same time as getting your board. They are mandatory for all racing competitions and I wear mine when training as well, it’s just a good habit to have. These are not just for those that aren’t great swimmers, although they are particularly important then, which brings me on to a second point – do learn how to swim if you haven’t done so. Paddleboarding is a great sport that makes water a lot more accessible as it is a great flat water sport. If you are not a great swimmer, swim training would complement your paddle training very well, not just to get the right fitness, but also to keep yourself safe when on the water.
Don’t forget your leash (and get a good quality one)
Probably the single most important item – your SUP leash so you don’t lose your board. Not just because your board is precious and will have likely cost you a good bit of money, but also because your board is your floating friend that you can hold on to if you get caught out in waves/current/any other trouble.
Invest in a good quality one, there’s nothing worse than your leash breaking at the crucial moment.
Browse Surfdock’s SUP leashes here.
When paddling alone – bring your phone
I always bring my phone with me when I go out. I have a small waterproof pouch that I stick under the wetsuit, so I know that if I do run into a problem, I am only a phone call away from help. When paddling in a group, I would recommend that at least one member of your party brings a phone, because you never know what might happen while you’re out there.
Check out some waterproof pouches here.
If in doubt, don’t go out
It’s your day off, you’ve been planning to go out all week and have been looking forward to it. Now you’re standing at the beach, the wind is pretty strong and the sea is looking a bit rougher than you’d like, but if you don’t go out now you won’t get another chance for ages. My advice – don’t go out if you’re not absolutely sure you can handle the situation. If you are worried even before you go on the water it’s likely to be worse when you’re out there. Ease yourself into the sport, build up your paddle strength by going out frequently and learn about the locations you go to over time. That way you will gain confidence and quickly be able to safely paddle in lots of different conditions.
If you have any questions about paddle boarding, safety on the water or equipment, call into Surfdock in the Grand Canal Dock, the guys there are happy to help.