The Rules of Open Ocean: Etiquette of the SUP

Think of these rules of the open ocean as a lesson in good manners. Yes, there is an etiquette that everyone should know when looking to our coastlines for the SUP experience. Many of these courtesies will be extended to those who chose to surf. While there are over 740 various surfer type terms, most are used to describe the waves. But far too many apply to the people who use them incorrectly. So I thought I’d give you some things to think about on the open water, most of which will keep you safe and in doing so, will make the experience more pleasurable for everyone.

Screen shot 2014-01-01 at 8.40.38 AMFirst rule: Always wear your leash. A loose board can cause some serious injury if it gets away from you. Not only are there surfers in the area, many moving too fast to get out of the way, but there are boogie boarders and swimmers as well. The last thing anyone wants to encounter is a riderless board.

And don’t think that just because you have a leash on you’re off the hook. You need to be aware of what’s going on around you. You might even want to bring your own leash, in which case, the FCS Adjustable SUP Race Cord Comp Ankle Leash is perfect. It may be more than you need now but in a short couple of trips to the beach, the upgrade will be well worth it.

Second rule: Don’t paddle board where the surfers play. Sure, you can interact with them, although that is highly unlikely. The easiest way to follow this second rule is to just stay away from that main break they are chasing. Move down the beach.

Third rule: Practice. While that surf looks inviting, if you haven’t been practicing on flat water, you’ll probably not be very adept at navigating a moving, swirling, swelling current. Most SUP boarders will have some experience on flat water. This where you can get a feel for the board. Even with this experience, the flat water of your favorite lake is not the open ocean. The learning curve may not be as steep once you hit the coast but there are some important skills that are needed. Find a spot away from the crowd to practice getting your stand on.

Fourth rule: Spread out. You may think it’s really fun to paddle board with your group. But the rest of the people using the beach will not be thinking it is. You will be a donk!

Fifth rule: Give the surfers a chance. On a halfway decent paddle board you will have better access to the waves, be able to ride more of them, and worse, you might actually be blocking the line view. There is a lot of ocean out there and you’d be surprised how crowded it can get.

These are relatively straightforward courtesies you may not have been aware of before. Your experience isn’t you alone against the water. It is you, with possibly hundreds of other people all looking for the best day ever.

One additional thought, the Coast Guard requires you to wear a personal flotation device like the Boardworks Inflatable Belt Pack. Although you hardly ever see the pretty pictures of wave running paddle boarders with this PFD, it is something you should have.

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