Top 10 tips for stand-up paddleboarding


Wear your life jacket!

Stand-up paddleboarding has burst onto the beach scene in recent years and is the fastest growing water sport in the world.

With the rise in popularity, many paddleboarders often forget that being on a paddleboard requires the same safety precautions and vigilance as any other activity on the water. With National Safe Boating Week underway, now is a perfect time to brush up on some paddleboarding tips and most importantly, water safety practices.

The first thing to know about stand-up paddleboarding is that a paddleboard is a vessel when used “beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area.” If a paddleboard is used within a designated “swimming, surfing or bathing area,” the Coast Guard does not consider it to be a vessel.

What does this mean for you? When using a paddleboard beyond the limits of the swimming, surfing or bathing area, you need to be as prepared as you would be when using what is considered a traditional vessel, which includes wearing a life jacket.

Whether you are a seasoned paddleboarder or new to the activity, here are some other tips when it comes to using stand-up paddleboards.

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
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

And remember… have fun and be safe!

28 comments on “Top 10 tips for stand-up paddleboarding”

  1. Tomofob,

    Sorry you feel that way. Proper blade angle refers to the
    paddle’s blade. A paddle is made up of three main parts: blade, shaft and handle. The blade’s shape and angle varies from the type of
    paddleboarding you plan to do, for example near ocean waves and surf or on a flat lake.

    Many who are new to stand-up paddleboarding, or who are not used
    to paddle sports, must practice with their balance and the angle of their
    paddle’s blade and how that factors into their environment.There’s lots more information here:

    Hope that helps clear the air. If you have any more suggestions or tips please do leave them in the comments as well!

    Very Respectfully,
    Lt. Stephanie Young
    Coast Guard Public Affairs


      Here is a better information source. Hopefully, when the USCG writes a position statement on SUPs in the future, they will consult with an organization that understands the craft… Wearing a leash during an open water / ocean paddle is far more functional than having a PFD attached to the deck (which is where most are).

      1. Far more convenient? Yes. Far more functional? Yes, if you’re upright and paddling. But how about that admittedly rare instance when you fall, hit the edge of the board with your head, and are knocked unconscious? The tether will only be good to help rescuers find your body. A PFD may save your life. There are comfortable PFDs out there. But even the CG is not requiring that they be worn at all times.

  2. Please clarify what safety equipment is “required” while using SUP.  Specifically, is a life jacket (PFD) required to be worn or is it required to be on the paddleboard, as is the case with any other vessels?  The answer is important to law enforcement, including USCG, and to operational USCG Auxiliary personnel.  Certainly, wearing a life jacket (PFD) is a good “tip.”


    1. Yes, for daytime use.  At night (technically 1/2 hr before sunset) a light is required for signaling. I’d recommend a WATERPROOF headlamp.

      1.  Don’t know where you got the ‘1/2 hour stuff’- the navigation rules state from “sunset to sunrise”

      2. Sarek68 – look up the difference between ‘Astronomical Twilight’, ‘Civil Twilight’ and ‘Navigational Twilight’   This will help clear up the whole 1/2 hour thing.  
        My state requires drivers to have their headlights turned on from 1/2 after sunset to 1/2 hr before sunrise.  This is roughly equivalent to ‘Civil’ twilight and ‘Civil’ dawn. 

  3. An SUP is considered a vessel when operating beyond the narrow confines of a surfing, swiming or bathing area. Like any paddlecraft – e.g. Kayaks or canoes – an SUP operating outside a surfing or swimming area is subject to navigation rules, carriage requirements for PFDs, sound producing device, navigation lights and accident reporting.As with any paddlecraft, a whistle will suffice for a sound producing device. As with any rowboat, kayak or other paddlecraft, the operator of an SUP need only carry a flashlight that can be shined in enough time to avoid a collision. They are not required to have installed navigation lights.Further details/specifics on each of these requirements can be found at 33 CFR 175.As for life jacket wear, check with your local state boating offices as rules can vary from state to state, particularly with requirements for children. Go to  uscgboating(dot)org and click on the Safety drop down for additional life jacket wear (sorry links are not accepted in comments).Hope this helps provide you with more information on your questions.Lt. Connie BraeschCoast Guard public affairs

  4. Please explain why the LT. seems to suggest that a flashlight is required at all hours.  I believe that is only a requirement after the established hour for sunset.

    1. weather changes fast and if you’re stuck somewhere unable to get to shore before it gets dark, you’re prepared. No one expects to be in danger so it’s good to be prepared – JIC (just in case) rule on the water having been around water all my life. That way you can also assist an injured person on water without leaving them. I carry an LED “miners” hat lamp – small, inexpensive but bright light and has flashing option. 🙂 I have it all packed in my PFD vest so I don’t have to think about it early in am!

  5. A light is required in all conditions of limited visibility. While we usually think of this as night time, it can occur unexpectedly in fog or heavy precipitation during daylight hours and hence the need to have a light (Nav lights) at all times.

  6. Has anyone seen an increase of ankle injuries while on a paddleboard. Could be an angle that’s doing it.

  7. Anyone considering navigating in a waterway with other vessels regardless of the type
    of vessel, should be equipped with all the proper safety equipment and also thinking about Murphy’s Law, when it comes to navigation lights. 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.

  8. A light is required as equipment and should be attached to your vest. The light is carried in the event that a situation prohibits you from getting to shore and are left in navigatable waters after sunset.

  9. I suggest using the APALS from Brite-Strike, they are super thin LED light stips that come in red, green, white and have a marine grade adhesive from 3M that sticks to well.  They are waterproof and run for well over 100 hours. use them on your PDF or top of your paddleboard

  10. Lites are not only for nite time, but also in cases of Fog. Visibility, Best is if we can stay out of the Naviagble channels but the power boats might wonder out of the channel, especially if Fog is thick and they lose their direction

    1. You shouldn’t do ANYTHING on the water unless you learn how to swim competently. Unless you’re striving to receive the next Darwin award.

  11. Rule#1 If you cant swim stay out of the water.
    Rule#2 Know your own limits.
    Rule#3 You only need to be on top of the water, it doesn’t matter if its 10′ or 100′ deep.
    Rule#4 The SUP is a teathered PFD and should be considered as such.
    Rule#5 Leave the SUPpers alone!
    Rule#6 Why does the Govt have to worry about everyones stupidity?

    1. A SUP is not, repeat, not a “tethered PFD”. That is a designation that is being requested of the CG but has not yet (Aug `15) been approved. BTW the CG worries “about everyones stupidity” because they are the ones who risk life and limb to protect us from our stupidity.

  12. Congress has given the CG the authority. The definition has not been “arbitrarily changed”. It was done within their authority. It’s true the CG can not write laws but they can write regulations and set standards which must be followed. BTW Pennsylvania agrees with the CG definition and requires PFDs in certain areas and all the time in certain (cold weather) seasons. They don’t have to be worn but must be present.

    1. Well nice of Penn to give up their authority, Fl has not and defines waters under Florida Jurisdiction as well as what a Vessel is, and a SUP board under Fl law is not a vessel

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