Paddle boarding is a relatively low impact sport and there are few opportunities for injury but we do see accidents. Most injuries happen getting in and out of the water because of the shallow surf zone. In lakes and harbors shallow water can break fins and injure feet as beginners make ungraceful dismounts near shore.

In the ocean, this near-shore zone is where the waves release all of their energy and is marked by cloudy patches of sand. Even the smallest little waves breaking in the shallows can be quite powerful. While it is best to learn away from these dangers you may have fun if you follow the guidelines below.

Getting in and out of the water safely

Don’t go in if you see a wave coming! Waves come in sets of 3 or 4 so wait for a break in the surf and hustle into deeper water. Never carry the board in front or behind you. Putting the board between your body and the waves will allow a surprise wave to smash the board into you. This can be very damaging to you and to your board. Carry your board on your right or left side, lifting by the handle provided. In this position you may dump the board away from your body or over the oncoming wave. For this reason you never follow other SUPers thru the surf. Always go in to the right or left of anyone ahead of you. Give lots of space.

What many tend to forget is that getting out of the water with a SUP can also be very dangerous. Sure, you may be a fast paddler, cruising the water with ease, but when you are getting out, you must remember that the waves are behind you. Don’t ride your SUP all the way in as a wave will sneak up quickly, drive your board into the beach, up in the air or smack down on your head. You can break your fin out, but more importantly you may get seriously injured if the board hits you. Not only is falling in the shallows very dangerous but it is also the most embarrassing way to finish a session. It’s always best to get off your board in waist deep water and carry it out quickly, keeping your eyes on any waves coming behind you.

Falling

This is  another great opportunity for injury so don’t fall. There is a rule that is true of all board sports and it is “Where you look is where you go, so do not look down!”. When you are looking at your horizon your body has natural balance and will gracefully adjust to the boards movement below. When you look down this balance becomes mechanical. Get your head up! You may be looking down without even realizing, so remember this: if you are dancing around on your board like you are in a Michael Jackson music video until you dramatically fall then you are looking down. Look up, paddle and keep the momentum.

Wind

The most important factor, whether you are a beginner or an expert paddler, is the wind. When you stand on your board, your body becomes a sail and if you lack power and control you will be at the mercy of the wind. In offshore winds, stay close to shore. Trees and buildings create pockets of little to no wind. These are called wind shadows. Even on the windiest days you may paddle comfortably in these shadows. In side-shore winds paddle in the direction of the prevailing wind. It is initially more difficult but when you get tired and turn around, the wind will help you along. If you do the opposite and follow the wind then when you are tired you must turn into the wind to get back. Paddling into a wall of wind is like riding a bike uphill. It is exhausting and if you aren’t experienced or do not have the strength, it can be much like a SUP treadmill where you’re paddling in place.

Know your self-rescue positions!

Lie on your board with your paddle blade under your chest and paddle like you would on a surf board. This low profile in the wind allows for easy paddling in the windiest conditions.Kneel on your board and paddle. This offers less wind resistance than standing and will allow for a powerful stroke. If you ever have to assist a struggling paddler, ask them to lie on their board the correct way and give them your leash to hold on to. You may now tow them along. If the board is being pulled sideways then the rider is laying too far back and if the front of the board is dipping under then the rider is too far forward. As a beginner do not paddle alone. Always let others know where you are going and for how long and be sure that there is a rescue available if necessary.

While we’re sure that there are many other creative ways to injure yourself as a new paddler, we have found that these 3 are the most popular. So keeping this in mind and go have some fun!