"Wassup!" With SUP?
By Ted Sensenbrenner
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) can be enjoyed with minimal equipment and minimal cost, and any age can participate. It's also a great workout. Grab the paddle — but not just any paddle.
For starters, a life jacket is required if you use your SUP beyond the limits of a surfing area. This means that if you're not catching a wave and surfing it toward the beach, you must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest aboard or be wearing it. In most states, children under the age of 13 are required to wear their life jackets. Some areas even have requirements to wear them on certain local bodies of water or during winter months regardless of age.
Participants must also comply with the requirement to carry a sound-producing device, to alert others of an emergency, and to make others aware of your presence. The easiest way to comply with this requirement is with a plastic whistle, which can be found at an outdoor or marine retail store and then clipped to your life jacket.
If operating after sunset or in low-light conditions, you must have a white light to comply with the running lights requirements. For this, a small headlamp will suffice and keep your hands free for paddling. Some headlamps have a switch for blinking, strobe, and SOS modes and will comply with the requirement to carry a visual distress signal when operating at night.
Don't Leave Me Now
Although not required, a leash that attaches to your ankle with Velcro is a very important piece of safety equipment. In the event of a fall, currents and winds can quickly sweep your paddleboard away from you. In ocean waves, a runaway board can be an extreme danger to others. As a general rule, leashes should be about the same length as the board.
There are two types of leashes. Coiled leashes that lie on the deck of your board are best for recreational flat-water paddling. The coil action keeps the leash from dragging in the water or inadvertently snagging something. Straight leashes are best for surf. Experts emphasize that you do not want to use a coiled leash in any situation where the board is likely to re-coil or spring back at you. And finally, when paddleboarding in swift-moving or white water, experts agree that a leash with a quick-release feature that attaches to your life jacket — not your ankle or calf — is best, or don't use a leash at all.
Taking It to the Next Level
In a survey conducted by SUP Magazine in 2011, over half of the respondents taught themselves to paddleboard and another 25 percent said they learned from a friend. Fifteen percent learned from an instructor. Retail and rental shops are great sources of information, too. A great resource for instructions on anything paddling, including SUP, can be found at www.americancanoe.org.
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