Learn about the 12 paddle board safety tips by Ian Phillips

We can't help you all in person, so here's 13 tips for beginners that will help you start off on the right foot.

Paddle in Flat Water

When you’re starting out, you’ve got a lot to think about and get your head round, so you don’t need choppy water adding to the problems.  We always run our Intro SUP Lessons on the local, Chichester Canal, which offers us super flat water, protection from wind and no current.

If you’ve got river or lakes near you, then learn about them, making sure they’re safe, and get to know the hazards.

Always stay away from boats and moorings, fallen trees and snags.  One thing we have on our local canal is the occasional floating or submerged log, so we teach everyone to never dive in head first, just in case.

Personal buoyancy aids

It is important to consider the risks presented when on the water. With that said and to minimize risk, a pfd is something that should be worn. This will give you extra support when in the water, but you must practice remounting the board when wearing it and make sure you’re capable of self rescue.

Always Wear Your Leash

Your sup board is the most buoyant thing you have around you when on the water, so it makes total sense to stay connected to it.

Using a good quality leash attached to your ankle, or underknee or a waist belt is super important. Wear it always!

Also bear in min when helping others, your leash is your life line, not theirs.  Don’t detach unless you really know what you’re doing as you could both end up in trouble

A coiled leash is for genearl use on flat water.    A straight leash is more often used for sup surfing.   A waist leash belt helps you to easily detach the leash if you come trapped by it, especially in flowing water.

Stay away from hazards like trees, fallen branches, boat moorings etc. as the leash could become tangled to the hazard.

Understand Weather Conditions

First and foremost, wind can be a total pain for beginners.  Blowing you off course, making it hard to get back to your start point, splitting you from your paddle buddies, wind will also make you get tired more quickly.

Using an app like windy.com   you should always look at the wind for the entire day, so skim over each hourly slot to see what will happen as the day moves on.

Look at the clouds, looking for dark storm fronts heading your way.

Offshore winds are lethal as you will often find they get stronger the farther out you go, so best action is not paddle in offshore winds.

Avoid Fast Flowing Water

Total beginners should stick to non or slow moving water. An example is somewhere like a harbour mouth, where you have flat water, but the in and outgoing tides, make for powerful water currents, that you may not be able to paddle against.

Keep an eye on static points so you’re always aware of your relative position. Bear in mind that if you’re far away from static point, you may not realise how far you’re drifting so keep close to it and you’ll be more aware of how far your drifting.

Kneel / Sit Down

Kneeling is an important skill to master and it is a skill you will use going forwards.   When I say kneeling, I mean the ability to easily drop down to your knees without falling, and then carry on paddling and maneouvering around obstacles.

If you’re coming in to land or shallow water, it may be useful and safer to drop to your knees, save falling off the board and bumping into a dock or landing awkwardly in shallow water.

When conditions change, you may prefer to kneel and carry on paddling or you may find you’re getting fatigued, so drop down to the knees and take a break.

Make sure you can get on the board

One way or another, you need to be able to get on the board without others helping you.  This is so important, and many people I have trained have had their own struggles with this, but we’ve found ways round it.

Most importantly is practice in shallow water and work out deeper, so you can start getting your ideas together as to how your body works and your own flexibility.

Have 360 Degree Awareness

I teach everyone from the first minute their on a board to be aware.  With everything going on around you, you can’t afford to just look down.

Keep your eyes on the horizon and spend time looking left and right, but also keep those ears open for boats, other paddlers and anything else that may be on the water with you.

Paddle with a Buddy

Aside of being nicer having someone with you, it is logically safer to have someone to call upon for help if necessary.

If you’re looking to go out alone, make sure you tell someone where and for how long.

SUP Rentals

If you’re looking to hire a sup, make sure you get some details from them on the venue, hazards etc.

As a beginner, in an unsuitable location, you may find yourself in trouble and the rental firm may not have rescue cover etc, so do your own assessment of the risks.

It is also important to assess the kit. If the boards are looking tired, having peeling up seams, a paddle that won’t adjust or stay locked at a certain height, then consider how safe it is to use.  Oh and make sure they provide you with a buoyancy aid.

Inflatable SUP Boards

In general, isups or quite strong, but there is never a 100% guarantee that they wouldn’t spring a leak or tear on something.   Never paddle too far from shore on an inflatable paddle board and make sure you have your backup buoyancy, such as a pfd.

Good technique

Even as a beginner, you need to being developing a proper technique.  This will reduce the chance of injury and make you stronger, so if conditions change, you will have the chance to paddle home with less problems.

Be SUP Safe

Take SUP lessons, to make sure you start your journey with experienced paddlers. An accredited sup school and instructors will have been assessed and had to show their skills before qualifying.

We run all manner of SUP lessons, from beginner to advanced open water paddling.


We run regular beginner to improver wing sup surfing lessons.

With over 35 years experience, we are fully insured and certified with: