Standup paddleboarding and kayaking is a popular pastime. However, it’s important to be prepared before you hit the water. This page will offer essential safety advice.
Wind is a major risk for standup paddleboarders. While you may be setting off in smooth waters, offshore winds can create breaking waves within 500m of the shore, meaning you may end up in choppy seas faster than you think.
Top safety tips for standup paddleboards:
Level 50 or Level 50S lifejackets are required to be worn on standup paddleboards when greater than 400m from the shore. However, Safe Transport Victoria recommends wearing a lifejacket whenever on the water.
Wear a leg leash
It is highly recommended that you wear a leg leash at all times on a SUP. This provides an essential link between you and your board should you fall off.
Carry waterproof communication devices
Even on a standup paddleboard, communication devices (as a means of calling for help) are important to always carry. This could be as simple as a phone in a waterproof pouch.
Check the weather before you go
Understand how offshore winds present at your chosen location. Avoid paddling in offshore winds. Use the Bureau of Meteorology MetEye or Boating Vic App to verify wind strengths and directions. Conditions can change quickly; standup paddleboards are more likely to be affected by offshore winds and can easily be blown out into deeper water.
Be aware: inflatable boards have more windage and are harder to paddle in a breeze. If you are not wearing a leash, your board may ‘windmill’ away from you.
Kayaking involves risks that may prevent return to shore – so you should take some additional steps for safety. Conditions change quickly at sea and your training and equipment are your greatest aids to survival.
Top safety tips for kayaks:
Make sure your kayak is fit for purpose
Make sure you suited to you and fit for purpose for the conditions. Be aware of its limitations and learn from owners and retailers. Make sure it has hand toggles, bulkheads, a pump, compass/map, spare paddle, deck lines and a firm-fitting spray skirt.
You must wear a lifejacket when paddling craft such as a kayak, canoe, surf ski, raft or rowboat. You’ll also need a way to remove water from your vessel.
Offshore paddling kit
An essential kit includes ways to call for help (phone in waterproof pouch, VHF marine radio, personal locator beacon), first-aid kit (with necessary skills), accessible water and food, warm dry clothing in a dry bag, and a repair kit suited to the boat and trip.
Learn support and bracing strokes. If you fall out, stay with the kayak. Learn paddle float rescue, roll or re-enter and roll. For best self-rescue, learn the Eskimo roll.
Carry a 15-metre tow rope, knowing when – and when not – to use it. Learn and practice essential rescue skills by seeking instruction on various methods of rescuing and being rescued.
This is critical for enjoyment and survival. If weather or sea conditions worsen, you may need energy in reserve to complete your journey. Be conservative in your plans until you have suitable fitness and experience.