Dynamic risk assessment, is a common term used amongst industry professionals in the water sports educational field and it relates to best practice; read ‘safe practice.’
Ease of access and entry to the SUP has led to an abundance of wannabe SUP boarders heading for waters as varied as the people who have bought into the sport. The decision to invest in equipment itself requires a degree of assessment; assessment of ability and a recognition of the nature of the local waters you will most likely by thinking of venturing to.
Inland waterways, consisting of lakes, river and dams will generally have inland waterways regulations which means checking the extent of use permitted in any given body of water. The same is true of many coastal waters and many popular locations around the world will often have visible signage outlining the dangers and the demarkation areas of use of certain craft. It’s not as simple as, ‘have board, launch anywhere’, often it requires a change in mindset in acknowleding a responsible approach to participation. Rules do apply in many areas and hazard are omnipresent; mostly these are easy to recognise and discover with some research or simply by observing signs.
As an entry level paddler there’s a long list of areas and circumstances you should avoid; busy marine craft areas where ferries and powered vessels are operating, strong tidal flow areas, areas where underwater objects are present, areas where rip currents exists, shorebreaks, rocky launch and recovery sites, busy beaches both on the beach and where swimmers are present. The list is extensive and therefore it’s better to concentrate on where you should launch from and SUP rather than where you should not.
An ideal launch points for SUP essentially means flat, non tidal, flowing waters, which may sound easy to find but infact not so for many – indeed this describes a lake or dam perhaps and many do not have access to such a thing. Moving up the scale, it could be a creek or lagoon which may or may not be tidal, but if so, check the tidal situation, the tide times and try to paddle only 1 hour either side of high water to be safe. If launching onto the sea, it may look flat, but if the wind is blowing off-shore, out to sea (wind on your back) you could face a real challenge returning to shore if you head too far off shore. If this ever happens, stop paddling, place your paddle along the length of the board, lie prone on the board, head towards the nose and paddle using your arms; or simply try paddle-kneeling. It’s a not a rule you must use the paddle, always!
It will essentially be a quiet area in which you launch and recover with the added safety of ensuring you paddle with someone and that on-shore, someone knows where you are and aware of your approximate finish time. Add to this there are many other micro-management details to consider; have the appropriate leash for the water you’re venturing into, wade into the water firstly with your board (do you need footwear?) and assume a kneeling (paddle) or prone (hands) position to paddle to deeper water. Before standing, take in the view around you and note your start point and landmarks from the launch point; nothing worse than failing to recognise where you launched.
This short missive is simply to bring awareness to safe participation as we head into summer. Be smart and wise in your SUP activities and nurture a safety first mind-set as part of your learning process. Happy paddling!