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Blue Chip SUP School Safety

I-SUP Board Brands


The Blue Chip providence  - water sports instructor experience since 1970:
 

We have found the following information to be a very useful reference guide regarding safety and risk issues that can be associated with water sports including SUP. Please read carefully and call us on 0208 715 0040 if you need further clarification.  

In the following text we have covered the 3 main safety issues which are often misunderstood from ill-informed opinions. We have formed our opinions from over 45 years of teaching various water sports.

  1. Wearing of leashes regarding SUP
  2. Stand Up Paddleboards and Locks
  3. Wearing of PFDs

 Wearing of leashes regarding SUP :

·         The paddlers  Legal Liability:
A Stand Up Paddler is the “Master of their Vessel” and as such has a “Legal Liability” to remain in control of their board / vessel at all times, this includes being in control of your board if you fall in the water.  If you are not wearing a suitable leash, you are not in control of your board and therefore in breach of your legal liability
as a paddler.

  • The paddler's personal Safety:
    A Stand Up Paddler is responsible for their own safety, where and when to paddle, the conditions they paddle in and using the correct leash to remaining in contact with their paddleboard at all times.  
    • It is the paddlers responsibility to ensure they fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of wearing a leash and make their style of leash decision with knowledge.  

Paddle-sports are negatively associated with drowning, caused by a singular or multiple set of events which can be deemed:

‘Intrinsic’ – Responsibility of the individual to which end diminished risk management has determined the outcome.

‘Extrinsic’ – Responsibility of something or someone beyond the individual’s immediate control.

The wearing of a leash should be second nature and mandatory, 
just like putting on a seat belt in a vehicle.

The question is:  "Which leash set-up should I use for this paddle"  -  
NOT
  "should I wear a leash
?"

  • Paddling with the correct leash set up:

    • A coiled leash is advised for most paddling occasions apart from Surf SUPing  
    • If you are surf SUPing in waves then a straight leash is advised to reduce the risk of recoil after a surf wipeout. 
  • Quick Release Waist Belt:
    If you are paddling in a tidal or fast flowing river with possible obstacles and or obstructions, then we advise attaching your coiled leash to a Quick Release Waist Belt (QRWB)
  • Using a QRWB set up
    If you are using a Quick Release Waist belt with a coiled leash and were to fall in, you can quickly re-mount your board and that is the end of your predicament, any risk has been averted.
  • Paddling with no leash:
    • If you are paddling with a buddy not wearing leashes on say the tidal part of the Thames and one of you happens to fall in and in doing so (as happens more often than not) you kick the board away as you fall, your friend has to turn their board around, then decide to rescue you or your board (the board is now drifting away downstream).
    • Naturally your friend ops to rescue you.
    • Once he has you safely on board, you and your friend have to get to safety ASAP as you are now very unstable and lack manoeuvrability and speed.
    • How do you retrieve your lost board ??? which is now being washed down the Thames with the tide and will be reported as a loan board with the paddler missing.
  • Losing touch with the board:
    • A Leash should always be worn. Attaching a leash should become second nature just like putting on a seat belt in a vehicle. If the paddler is not wearing a leash, even in calm, windless conditions, the paddler can become separated from their board, which can travel and collide with stationary objects or other paddlers. In moderate to fresh wind a SUP can travel faster than a person can swim. There are few, if any conditions in which a leash may not worn.
  • Paddling in challenging condition:
    • White water, fast flowing waters, obstacles on top or under the water. Foam filled buoyancy aids should be considered, partly for their buoyancy and partly for their impact protection, along with a leash attached by a quick release waist belt so that if your leash was to snag on any object you are able to release yourself from the snagging whilst remaining in touch with your board and if required you can make a considered assessment as to the virtue of releasing yourself from the board to extricate yourself from the hazard.
    • Remembering that abandoning the board, if ever, should only be a last resort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use of a coil leash:
In most conditions a coil leash is the advised leash to use as the leash will sit on the board (not drag in the water) it is not likely to snag on any objects on or in the water. If the paddler should fall off their board the natural consequence is for the board to be pushed away as the paddler falls off. A coiled leash will extend and then re-coil bringing the board back to the paddler with little or no effort, allowing the paddler to re-board and continue paddling.

When paddling in waves the general advice is to use a straight leash.
In the waves the paddler is more likely to fall off their board and a straight lease is the best option as the board will usually be taken by the wave and the paddler will follow the board by the attached leash. Once the main transit of the board is complete the paddler can re board. In waves a coil leash could over stretch the coil and make the board catapult back to the paddler and cause impact injury.


Stand Up Paddleboards and Locks:

Locks, why would you?
Click here to see the video

To go through or to portage?

The short answer is:

There is no valid reason whatsoever for a SUP board to enter a lock

Any rationally considered risk assessment would conclude that the risks involved in taking a Stand Up Paddleboard into a lock are not acceptable.

The detailed rational is:
When giving advice on locks and SUP the considerations should be:

a)     How experienced is the paddler

b)     Is the paddler on their own board or a rented board

c)     How stable is the board they are on

d)     How competent is the paddler

e)     What are the risks involved in using a lock

f)      What are the benefits in using a lock

g)     What are the risks involved in portaging a lock

h)     What are the benefits in portaging a lock 

a)      An experienced paddle would not consider entering a lock due to the obvious and inherent high risks involved apart from the time taken to complete a lock cycle.

b)      Only an inexperienced or ill-informed paddle may consider entering a lock and an inexperienced paddler would not fully understand the consequences of the risks involved unless they had taken part in an accredited SUP lesson.

c)      If the paddler is on a rented board they are probably unaware of the design and stability limits of the board they are using and most likely an inexperienced and infrequent paddle boarder and therefore not competent in turbulent water.

d)      As only an inexperienced or ill-informed paddler would consider entering a lock it follows that they would become a risk to themselves and others during the lock cycle

e)      Stand Up Paddlers have a relatively high centre of gravity compared to say kayaks or canoes

  o    The paddler feels a lot more vulnerable when stationary

  o    This vulnerability increase many fold in turbulent waters within a confined space.

  o     An inexperienced paddler may not have been taught to always wear a leash and therefore not be attached to their board

  o    Lock sides are hard concrete

  o    High probability of falling off and impacting head

  o    No easy exit point for a panicking paddler

  o    The only early exit from a lock is a vertical ladder and if not wearing a leash there is no way of getting their board out of the lock

f)     There are no tangible benefits in entering a lock (apart from the dubious bragging rights)

g)    The risks in portaging are less than the risks involved in coming ashore at the end of a paddle. It is a fact that most lock portage points have been designed and constructed to be the safest exit and entry point available for paddlers of all kayaks, canoes and now SUP paddlers. It would be irrational not to use the safe portage points that are provided 

h)     The benefits in portaging a lock are

  o    safety

  o    speed

  o    lack of anxiety

  o    opportunity to re-group the paddle group

  o    a chance to stretch legs

  o    No inconvenience to other lock users

 

It is not sufficient to try and justify Stand Up Paddlers entering and using a lock by saying “no one has fallen in yet.” We are duty bound to offer advice with knowledge and experience,  “best practice” being the base from which we start. The portage of locks has become common and best practice for kayaks and canoes to safely negotiate lock systems.

If a group of Kayakers decide to enter a lock to add to their adventure they will probably raft up for stability. This is not an easy option for Stand Up Paddlers. Inexperienced SUP paddlers would not know or take this safety option into consideration.   

 

There is no valid reason whatsoever for a SUP board to enter a lock
and a multitude of reasons to avoid entering a lock at all costs, most of which are based on safety.

Approaching a lock on a SUP board:

·         When approaching a lock system from the downstream (lower water side). It is advised to keep a minimum distance of 20 meters away from a closed exit gate as there will be strong turbulence when the underwater sluice gates are opened to vent the water held within the lock, on some larger locks strong turbulence can extend some 50 metres into the stream. Portage points are usually located a safe distance away from the lock gates.

·         When approaching a lock from the upstream side there is often no sign of underwater turbulence but the lock will be filling from underwater gates which can also have a substantial draw into the lock. Once again, the portage points are usually located a safe distance away from the lock gates.

·         Use the upstream and downstream portage points to both exit and re-enter the water as these have been designed to be the safest exit and entry points.

 

Another consideration not to be overlooked  is the anxiety caused to a lock keeper who is ultimately given responsibility for the safety of all those using a lock.

Throwing caution to the wind.
If after reading all the advice on why you should not go through a lock on a paddleboard and you have a group of paddlers that insist they want to go through the lock, it is essential that you first make a written Risk Assessment. Then make contact with the lock keeper and provide them with your RA and providing they are willing to accept your RA and the passage of your group through their lock, knowing that they will have to fill and empty the lock with extreme caution and very slowly to avoid any turbulence whatsoever both inside and outside the lock. Only if you get permission from the lock keeper could you consider going through a lock.


Wearing of PFDs   and  self inflating PFDs  

Paddle-sports are negatively associated with drowning, caused by a singular or multiple set of events which can be deemed:

‘Intrinsic’ – Responsibility of the individual to which end diminished risk management has determined the outcome.

‘Extrinsic’ – Responsibility of something or someone beyond the individual’s immediate control.

The wearing of a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) is universally considered a hazard and a hindrance to all surf orientated board-sports, as a result of reduced agility both on or in the water which in itself can put the individual at risk.

Falling, retrieving and recovery, are inherent, natural components of SUP` boarding, as per windsurfing and surfing, not ‘critical’ events as associated with kayaking or canoeing. While this view may seem incongruous with other water sports, SUP boards present no inherent risk of entrapment, swamping or suffer from the potentially disabling consequences of capsize, being inherently safer from these points of view than a kayak or canoe and ‘unsinkable’.

Agility and freedom from constraint are essential to the paddler to permit:

·         Performance of swimming strokes for board/paddle recovery

·         Ease of re-boarding

·         Agility in being able to ‘duck-dive’ oncoming wash including waves

·         Avoiding oncoming manned or unmanned craft

·         Ease of handling board into position for re-boarding

·         Ease of paddling prone on stomach for self rescue

·         Ease of paddling

Novices:
In the case of the tuition (learning) of novice participants, the following guidelines are recommended

·         Compulsory wearing of a suitable leg leash.

·         Compulsory wearing of a *PFD if the ability or confidence of the participant following a ‘swim test’ (or other factor) is identified as being below a reasonable level of competence.

·         Given the option of wearing a PFD if the ability or confidence of the participant following a ‘swim test’ (or other factor) satisfies a reasonable level of competence.

Underestimating the physicality and skill levels required of SUP
Given perfect ‘static’ conditions, balance is little challenged. Paddling may feel effortless as a first impression, however this ‘ease’ diminishes exponentially as wind, wave, current, turbulence or tidal influences increase in combination or separately.

Failure of knowing self-rescue techniques:
Without knowledge of self-rescue techniques and distress signals, a paddler could well suffer serious consequences in failing to act without delay when required.

Navigational liabilities:
A SUP paddled on an inland waterway or at sea, can be paddled or drift intentionally or unintentionally across locations where larger, faster craft travel, presenting a substantial hazard to navigation or safety not already present, putting themselves and other water users at risk. On inland waterways you should keep to the right when it is safe to do so.

Abandoning the Board / Panic:
In the event a paddler becomes incapacitated in some way, the board may appear to provide a minimal level of safety. Some paddlers may rashly decide to abandon their board and swim resulting in increased risks. Abandoning the board, if ever, should only be a last resort.

·         Losing touch with the board:
A Leash should always be worn. Attaching a leash should become second nature just like putting on a seat belt in a vehicle. If the paddler is not wearing a leash, even in calm, windless conditions, the paddler can become separated from their board, which can travel and collide with stationary objects or other paddlers. In moderate to fresh wind a SUP can travel faster than a person can swim. There are few, if any conditions in which a leash may not worn.
 

·         Paddling in challenging condition such as white water, fast flowing waters, obstacles on top or under the water. Foam filled buoyancy aids should be considered, partly for their buoyancy and partly for their impact protection, along with a leash attached by a quick release waist belt so that if your leash was to snag on any object you are able to release yourself from the snagging whilst remaining in touch with your board and if required you can make a considered assessment as to the virtue of releasing yourself from the board to extricate yourself from the hazard. Remembering that abandoning the board, if ever, should only be a last resort.  

Falling on underwater obstructions / shallow waters:
Falling in murky or shallow water can result in falling onto hidden underwater obstructions resulting in impact or impaled injuries.

Impact injuries:
Falling between paddle and board can cause injury.

Self-Inflating PFDs:
When paddling out on the ocean such as Down Winding or coastal cruising, it is advisable to notify the coastguard of your intentions and to wear (along with your leash) a self-inflating PFD belt.  The self-Inflating PFD belts do not restrict movement or the ability to swim after your board and re-board. This type of PFD is a good safeguard against exhaustion. Remembering that abandoning the board, if ever, should only be a last resort.