Is Stand Up Paddling (SUP) Safe? You might think so.

“Four lives lost during a commerical stand up paddleboard tour accident at Haverfordwest Town Weir on the River Cleddau in Wales.”

Stand up paddle boarding / Stand Up Paddling is a fun way to enjoy the water and get some exercise. It’s also a great way to explore new places.

However, there are risks associated with stand up paddle boarding as in any hobby that is done over deep water. The most important thing is that the paddler has good swimming skills and is overall comfortable in the water.

This horrible accident where four Stand Up Paddler’s lost their lives happened in UK, Wales, Haverfordwest town Weir on river Cleddau.

The investigation found that the four stand up paddleboarders died because they fell from their paddleboards as they descended the weir and became trapped in the hydraulic towback, from which there was no means of escape.

MAIB, Accident report

The paddle tour organizers had done this same tour few times over the summer. Now the river was flooding and the Weir was a different kind of beast. There is indications that not all the participants were wearing PFD’s the right kind of clothing or leashes.

A towback on a weir can be really strong so it might be that even the right equipment would not have saved these paddlers. Sometimes a large PFD can even be a bad thing. It creates lot of resistance especially in fast moving water.

The only thing that would have saved the lives certainly if the tour managers would have called off the tour because of hazardous water conditions. Don’t paddle in conditions that beyond your skill level. Pay attention to the weather and water conditions. The conditions might change very quickly.

Standard SUP leashes are dangerous in moving water with obstacles that the leash can tangle to. If the leash is attached to your leg (angle or under the knee) the pressure of the moving water makes it impossible to reach your leg. That is why a waist leash with an quick release is very important. I would also recommend using some kind of PFD. If you are paddling on a rocky river then a helmet is recommended. Clothing according to the temperatures. Don’t wear baggy clothes that get heavy and restrict your movement in the water. Drysuit or wetsuit is the optimal solution. Read more about cold weather SUP.

  • Pay attention to the weather and water conditions.
  • Wear a PFD that don’t compromise your movement in the water
  • I would recommend using an waist leash with quick release all the time. In moving water it’s a must.
  • Use weather appropriate clothing. If you paddle a lot and also in colder conditions i suggest you to invest in an drysuit.
NorthShore quick release SUP leash.
NorthShore Whitewater Quick Release SUP Leash
Red Paddle co quick release waist leash belt.
Onyx manual inflatable waist PFD.
Onyx Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (PFD)
Red Paddle co Airbelt, waist PFD
RED Paddle co, Airbelt

Original SUP accident report

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