Paddle vs. prop
Tips for stand-up paddlers when boats are around
Stand-up paddleboarding has increased 38 percent from 2013 to 2014. As stand-up paddlers become more common in crowded harbors, busy waterfronts and other navigable waterways, sharing the water with both recreational boats and commercial vessels requires paddlers to up their safety game. Here are three easy-to-remember safety rules for stand-up paddlers.
When is a paddleboard a boat? According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a SUP is a vessel and, as such, has certain boating responsibilities. Paddlers should follow all local navigation rules and use common sense when paddling around other vessels that may not be as maneuverable or are restricted by their draft or size. Generally, a paddleboard can stop and turn more easily than larger craft, which take time and distance to stop. Typically, paddlers are safer passing astern of other vessels and letting them cross in front. Try to avoid heavy boat traffic and pick a route away from congestion.
Practice defensive paddling: Defensive paddling means preventing collisions and mishaps despite the actions of others around you. Remember, boats can travel faster and carry a large wake. Some boats have awkward blind spots that prevent good visibility at certain trim angles, so don’t assume a boater can see you, especially at dawn or dusk. Wear bright colors and wear your life jacket with a whistle attached. In narrow channels stay as far right as possible and avoid crossing busy lanes. If you must, cross perpendicular to the lane to get across quickly. If in a group, cross in a compact unit; spreading out in a line like a bunch of baby ducks hinders traffic and increases the chance for a collision.
Don’t leave home without it: A life jacket is the minimum required safety gear, but it only works if you wear it. Don’t leave it strapped to the board. If you’re concerned about comfort, take a look at high-tech, low-maintenance belt-pack inflatables or the newest vest designs that offer complete freedom of movement. Add a whistle; it beats yelling at the top of your lungs. Avoid paddling at night, but if you must, show a white light in sufficient time to avoid a collision. A flashlight or headlamp meets this requirement; a glow stick does not. And finally, wear a safety leash to prevent a potentially dangerous separation from your board.