Stand up paddle boarding

Stand up paddle boarding or SUP can be enjoyed by the whole family. It’s fun in both flat water and in surf. And by getting out on a paddle board frequently, you can improve your overall fitness and increase your core strength. As with any watersport, there are a few things to watch out for and we’re here to help you paddle safely.
Paddle boarders in choppy seas at Brighton, East Sussex

Photo: Shutterstock / Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB

Paddle boarders in choppy seas at Brighton, East Sussex

Understand the risks and paddle safely

The light, buoyant design of a paddle board means that in an offshore breeze, you can quickly find yourself a long way from the shore and it can be extremely difficult to get back.

Paddle boards are not usually used with a leash; getting separated from your board can be a danger to you.

Taking some simple steps to stay safe will reduce your chances of getting into trouble and help you get the most out of the sport you love.

Simple checks for safe paddle boarding

  • Always tell somewhere where you're going and when you'll be back. Don't leave the house without a mobile phone or communication device.
  • Check the weather forecast and tide times before you set out - they can change quickly.
  • Avoid offshore winds.
  • Always go with a friend.
  • Wear a suitable personal flotation device.
  • Wear suitable clothing for time of year.
  • Always wear your leash and hold onto your board if you get into trouble - it will help you float.
  • Always make sure you launch and recover between the black and white chequered flags. Consider other water users by learning the rights of way in the surf. This can save you and others getting injured.
  • Get the appropriate level of training.

Keeping you safe

Here are ways we’re working to help you get the most out of stand up paddle boarding and keep you as safe as possible while enjoying your sport.

  • Raising awareness
    We’re talking to paddle boarders to raise awareness of the risks out on the water, no matter how calm the tides may seem.
  • Working in partnership
    We’re also working with BSUPA (British Stand Up Paddle Association) to ensure we’re giving you and your family the best paddle boarding safety advice.

SUP safety: Useful links and resources

  • BSUPA (British Stand Up Paddle Association)
    Paddle boarders in choppy seas at Brighton, East Sussex
    Safety advice
    BSUPA (British Stand Up Paddle Association)
  • RNLI Lifeguard and sponsored surfer Mark Harris (Egor) surfing at Fistral Beach, Newquay
    Download PDF 3.2MB
    In the surf: your guide to surfsport safety
  • RNLI Lifeguard and sponsored surfer Mark Harris (Egor) surfing at Fistral Beach, Newquay

    Download PDF 2.9MB

    In the surf: your guide to surfsport safety (Welsh guide)

Figures taken from:

  • The National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID UK) 2011-2015.
  • RNLI lifeboat return of service data UK and Ireland 2016.
  • RNLI lifeguard incident data, UK only, 2016.

Don’t be a statistic

32 lifeboat launches to paddle boarders in 2015

50 paddle boarding incidents were attended by lifeguards in 2016