SUP Safety Tips: Never Let Go Of Your Paddle

SUP Rule No. 1: Never let go of your paddle. Photo: Black-Schmidt

Your paddle is your third leg, your throttle and your E-break.

Whether standup paddle surfing, running whitewater, gliding downwind or just knocking around off the end of your dock on a sunny Saturday, your paddle is your best friend and your lifeline. Rule No. 1 in SUP safety: never let go of your paddle.

To guarantee safe and stoked SUP sessions for endless outings to come, we put together a few tips for keeping your paddle in grip at all times.

  1. Train your brain. When you wipe out, human instinct tells you to drop everything and focus on protecting your body into safety. That’s all fine and dandy without the “drop everything” part. To override the instinct to let go, think of your paddle as an extension of your arm and constantly remind yourself of its necessity. Over time, clinging to your paddle through thick and thin will become second nature.
  2. Stay calm. Panic is the arch enemy of standup paddlers. Remaining calm in a rough situation can mean the difference between life and death, or at the very least between holding onto your paddle and letting it go. Find your happy place and ride out your swim without losing your head. In most cases you won’t be in danger and in all cases, you’ll be in less danger if you keep your cool. Stay focused on the task at hand: hold onto your paddle, protect your person and surface in solace.

    When you find yourself in a sticky situation (such as this), remember that your paddle is there to help. Keep calm, keep it close and keep your eye on the prize. Photo: Misselwitz
  3. Wipe out with style. Wiping out is a skill in itself. To avoid losing your paddle and getting injured, learn to wipe out like a pro. When you feel a fall coming on, jump away from your board and land flat on the surface of the water. Hold your arms out away from your head and grab your paddle with both hands if you have to. Stay calm and let the chaos of the plunge subside, then surface with your arms above you to protect your head from hitting your board. Take a deep breath, take your time and remount your board, paddle in hand.
  4. Swim for it. If you do lose your paddle (unless you’re on a raging rapid), it will typically land within a few meters of where you surface from your wipe out. First order of business: chase it down. Let your board extend to the end of your leash and drag behind you while you swim for the shaft; it puts distance between you and the board to avoid collision in case more waves or rough water is coming. If the paddle lands further than expected and you’re clear of rough water, it may be quicker to mount your board and prone paddle to wherever it’s located. Once you have it, grab it, stand, stroke and repeat. Just do your best not to let go of your paddle next time.

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