SUP? Stand-Up Paddleboards and other Paddle Craft
Stand-up paddleboards, also known as SUP’s have become increasingly popular on Lake Hopatcong and all over the globe over the last several years. Originating in the Hawaiian Islands, stand-up paddleboarding is a quiet and energy efficient mode of transportation.
Most stand-up paddleboarders on the lake are conscientious and cautious, and are aware of standard boating safety procedures. Many, however, can be encountered in the middle of the lake on a Saturday or Sunday, paddling about without a PFD (personal flotation device – “life jacket”) and are nearly invisible against the background of boats, Jetskis and other watercraft.
Canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and rowboats (paddle craft) need to do all they can to be visible to boaters in powered watercraft. Choosing a kayak in a bright color, wearing light or brightly colored clothing and most importantly, wearing a properly fastened, brightly colored PFD will make paddling and rowing a much safer experience.
“If you are involved in a collision and don’t have your PFD zipped up or correctly fastened, it can come flying off and you could drown. Just wearing a PFD may not protect you, but it must be secured properly, as well.” said Larry Orlans, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Operations Officer, in a recent telephone interview.
“When boating with children, the third strap that is intended to go between the legs and fastened to the front of a child’s PFD must be secured. I often see the third strap not put on correctly or not fastened at all. A good way to see if the PFD, or life jacket, is fitted properly is to slide your hand between the child’s shoulder and the PFD – there should be no more than an inch of space. If a child is thrown from a boat in an accident, or falls out of a canoe or kayak in an ill-fitting PFD, the PFD will slide up the child’s body and not hold the child’s head out of the water.”
“When we are on patrol, we often stop kayakers, canoeists, and paddlers and give them literature about boating safety.” said Frank Federico, USCGA Public Education Officer. “We encourage them to stay close to the shoreline because of their limited visibility [to other boaters].”
“As the weather becomes cooler and the water temperature drops,” added Orlans, “the dangers of of hypothermia are increased and the importance of wearing a PFD is even greater. A paddler can die of hypothermia before drowning.”
Here are 10 tips for safer stand-up paddleboarding from the US Coast Guard’s blog; most of these tips apply to any paddle craft.
1. Wear a lifejacket and carry a whistle.
2. Be a competent swimmer.
3. Know how to self rescue.
4. Know how to tow another board/boat.
5. Know the local regulations and navigation rules.
6. Understand the elements and hazards – winds, tidal ranges, current, terrain.
7. Know when to wear a leash.
8. Be defensive – don’t go where you aren’t supposed to be and avoid other swimmers, boaters, paddleboards.
9. Use proper blade angle to be the most efficient paddle boarder.
10. Take a safety course.
"When it comes to life jackets or PFD's, a life jacket is to be worn, not carried in a compartment. Boats don't have brakes and unconscoius people don't float, Life jackets save lives."
-US Coast Guard Compass, Official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard