Surfing England

The National Governing Body for Surfing in England

SUP Safety 

SUP Safety 

Stand Up Paddleboarding is a fantastic way of getting on the water.   It’s a sport the whole family can enjoy and with paddleboards becoming more affordable, it’s become a hugely popular all around the UK coast.

The benefits to SUP are great, not only is it fun but it will also improve your fitness and core body strength.  Being on the water is also proven to help your mental, as well as physical wellbeing.   SUP is also a hugely versatile sport allowing you to explore a mix of coastal and inland waterways.   To do so safely, it’s really important to have a good understanding of the environment you’ll be paddling in, and what equipment you need to be using.  

Here are some simple points and tips developed with the RNLI to ensure you’re safe and to get the most out of your SUP adventures on the ocean.  

  • If you can, always go with a friend. It’s more fun, and they can help you if you get into difficulty. 
  • If you are going out alone, always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Don’t leave the house without a mobile phone or communication device. 
  • Bringing your phone to take some photos? Make sure you keep it in a waterproof pouch. That way it won’t get wet, and you can use it to call for help in an emergency too. 
  • Check the weather forecast and tide times before you set out. If the water is too choppy, you might find it difficult, especially if you are a beginner. And be aware, the conditions can change quickly.
  • Avoid offshore winds. They will quickly blow your paddleboard far out to sea, which can make it extremely tiring and difficult to paddle back to shore.
  • You should wear a suitable personal flotation device. This can be a buoyancy aid or a lifejacket. Choose one that still allows you plenty of movement so you can paddle freely. Not only will it keep you afloat, but it will also help give you time to recover should you fall in – and chances are you will! 
  • Wear suitable clothing for the time of year. In the winter, you will want to use a wet or dry suit. In the summer, you might be able to get away with a swim suit. But if you are going to be in the water for a long time, you might want to upgrade to something that keeps you warm.  

You should always use a paddleboard with an appropriate leash. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to swim after your paddleboard if you fall off. The leash will also help you stay connected to your board if you get into trouble and help you float. It is really important to choose the right type of leash for where you are paddling: 

  • A straight leash if you are surfing 
  • A coiled leash with a quick release belt for any other location, especially if you are exploring estuaries or other environments where there is a chance of entanglement on buoys or other obstacles  


Our friends at British Canoeing have some great tips on leash selection 

  • If you are launching on a lifeguarded beach, make sure you launch and recover between the black and white chequered flags. There should be less swimmers in this area, giving you more room to manoeuvre. Consider other water users by learning the rights of way in the surf. This can save you and others getting injured. 
  • If you are SUP surfing follow our guidance on safety in the surf zone 
  • Get the appropriate level of training. You might be tempted to just buy a board and head out. Having a few training sessions can teach you the right technique and you’ll be able to try out different boards to see which you might like best.  Many of our Surfing England accredited surf schools offer SUP lessons and it’s a great way to safely get out on the ocean. 

In addition to the general safety tips, when paddling on an inland waterway, lake or river: 

  • In an emergency call 999 and ask for the Fire and Rescue service. 
  • Use a quick release belt system for flowing water and tidal waterway. 
  • Be aware of hazards in your location and plan accordingly 

For more information about exploring inland waterways you can check out the GO PADDLE pages 

Useful Resources: 

SUP SAFE – SUPboarder Magazine     Some great introductory videos from the team at SUPBoarder Magazine introducing the basics of SUP and safety messaging for a range of environments the intrepid SUPer might want to explore 

Stand-up Paddleboarding Safety Tips And Advice From The RNLI   Safety advice from the RNLI with a focus on SUPing in the sea 

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