sup safety off shore winds sup guide
Always paddle with a partner and beware those off shore winds that can carry you out to sea or lake. Be safe, everyone!
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Spring/Summer Sup Safety Starts TODAY

It was almost a year ago that I found myself hearing the tragic news… then the next tragic news. Then a day later, yet another tragedy. Three sup paddlers died over a long weekend in varying locations across America. They each were caught in offshore winds that hindered their ability to get back to land safely.  I found myself pounding my fist into the palm of my other hand until that hand was red.

These events did NOT have to happen.

Marc Ma sup safety Nevade wolf pack
Hawaii’s Marc Ma, an experienced sup paddler, succumbed to offshore winds while trying to help members of his football team paddle back to shore last June.

Anniversary Approaches of First “Worst Weekend Ever” for Sup

Warning! The middle and end of spring is when trouble can begin for paddlers who are unaware of the local winds they are about to launch in. This is the time of year when air temperatures may be toasty, but the ocean or lake temps are still low – hypothermic low.

“Even a couple hundred yards offshore it’s blowing too hard to return to the beach standing up”  -Clay on the deadly phenomenon of winds blowing out to sea or out into the lake

sup safety off shore winds sup guide
Wind is a part of paddling. Knowing how to manage the wind (and your board) is a MUST if you’re going to spend time on the water.

Study the Weather EVERY Time Before Paddling Out

This is especially a message to you Beginner Paddlers: We are rapidly approaching the first anniversary of the first “Worst Day in Sup History,” for it was the middle of last June, 2016, when the sup world lost 3 paddlers in 3 separate tragedies across America; one in Connecticut, one off Long Island, NY and the other on Lake Tahoe.

And in ALL cases “offshore winds” (winds blowing from land out to sea/lake) were the culprit. These winds take the unaware paddler by surprise, because the shore you launch from may have zero to little wind. But even a couple hundred yards offshore it’s blowing too hard to return to the beach standing up.

sup safety off shore winds sup guide
Lake Tahoe has beautiful water but can also be extremely dangerous. Most people don’t realize that once they paddle off shore the winds can increase significantly.

Do a check on your safety equipment and team before you head out there!


Practice “the buddy system” – If you’re going paddling, it’s a lot more fun to bring a friend.  Two in a worst case scenario is a lot better off than a single paddler alone.  Always paddle with a pal!

Wear your PFD – No joke, its the LAW.  A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) must be either strapped to your board or to your person if you are to be any distance from shore.  Make sure you know how they WORK too.  Don’t be a kook about it.  Wear one.

Have your ankle leash attached to your board – That board is the BEST flotation device you’ve got out there so make sure you’re attached to it.  In high winds, without a leash, if you fall off that board will be pulled away from you SUP-er fast.  Most serious swimmers could never catch it in a serious wind to with some swell.  Best to keep the leash ON the entire time you’re on your board.  Just sayin’.

sup safety off shore winds sup guide
When the wind picks up, getting back to shore can be a hard effort. Know the techniques to get you there safely!

“The middle of last June, 2016, is when the sup world lost 3 paddlers in 3 separate tragedies across America”

How to Get Back to Shore in Offshore Winds

  1. Stay Calm. You are not far from safety if you take the proper steps
  2. Kneel down on your board, “choke up” on your paddle (take your top hand off the handle and move both hand way down the shaft towards the blade)
  3. Make 5-6 successive “staccato” strokes on each side, then shift to the next side…keep that up until you can touch bottom.

If you are not making headway, then:

  1. Lay down on your board, put the blade of your paddle under your chest with the shaft pointing towards shore
  2. Paddle on your stomach, surfer style; keep this up until you get tired, and then rotate back to the kneeling position.

If you are a sup paddler helping with the rescue:

  1. If you are strong swimmer, take your leash off your ankle and hand it to the sup paddler you are assisting in to shore.
  2. Have that paddler Velcro your leash attachment to their board if possible, or to their wrist, then:
  3. While laydown paddling, tow the other sup paddler in (who is also laying on his or her stomach and hopefully trying to “surfer paddle” also).

Written By:  Standup Journal’s publisher, Clay Feeter


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Evelyn O'Doherty, editor & publisher of the new Standup Journal 2.0 is a former school teacher gone rogue. She left her career as a teacher in order to spend more time near or on the water after learning to surf turned her life around (upsidedown?). She is a year-round surfer and paddler living on the eastern tip of Long Island in NY who is a certified SUP instructor, seasoned SUP racer and avid longboard surfer. Evelyn was hired as Online Editor to Standup Journal in 2016. Her passion for the project quickly led to her success and eventually taking over the mag herself in Oct. 2018. Today, as editor, publisher and chief bottle washer at Standup Journal, Evelyn keeps her toes wet writing, traveling, paddling, surfing, and learning to foil. You can find her most days paddling out on Gardiner's Bay or surfing Ditch Plains in Montauk, NY.