A SAFE RACE for STAND UP PADDLE ATHLETES

August 13, 2016

The Stand Up Paddle Athletes Association aims at the betterment of the standards of stand up paddle boarding. In helping the sport grow, the association has taken loads of initiatives and has held several programs. While retaining all the fun, frolic and fairness involved with this particular sport, the association also wants to make it safer. The associations helps the organizers make the event a hugely successful and enjoyable one.

For the same cause, a rulebook has been made that has all the essential guidelines to help out organizers for upcoming events. With the extensive information given about safety vessel operation, course layout, safety protocol, race day forecasts, competitor extraction points and many more invaluable tools, this is one rulebook that you can’t miss out on. It helps enormously to put up a race that is both exciting and safe.
We’ve put up a few inessential guidelines to be followed to ensure safety during the racing event.

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10 GREAT TIPS TO ENSURE SAFETY IN AN SUP RACE

1. Safety water vessels are a must at all areas of the racecourse!

Ensuring that there are enough safety water vessels is an important task. SUPAA recommends there be at least 1 safety vessel for every 40 paddlers. For a beach racecourse, if the waves are of 1 meter or greater, 1 safety vessel or lifeguard for every 20 paddlers in the race is essential.
It’s really difficult for just one person to manage steering a boat and attempting to rescue a paddler. So make sure there are at least two people in each safety vessel. Also, having a first-aid kit in each vessel is a good idea in order to give necessary care as quickly as possible.
NOTE: Make sure the safety vessels do not get in to alter the results of the race by throwing a wake towards paddlers.

2. Formulate a good safe plan and share the same with the team

Come up with solutions to all kinds of threats to safety by involving both the team and the contestants. It is necessary to plan the details and ensure you have back-up plans if there are sudden issues, like thunderstorms or rains. Decide on where you’ll take the injured. Keep your team informed about every single detail.

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3. Hold a meeting for the racers

Gather all the racers and conduct a meeting to keep them informed about safety measures. The racers are the biggest safety assets of the event. The head race director should keep them informed about how to react to situations like injuries to self or any other paddler. The best protocol to seek help is to sit on their board and wave for help or paddle back and forth to signal for injuries.
Keep the racers informed about any sort of changes in weather and of places in the course they need to watch out for! For instance, if the weather is forecast to pick up to 20 knots and there is a sailboat racing at the inlet they are passing through, let them know about this at the race meeting.

4. Make sure to provide detailed information on racecourse and forecasts

The more the amount of information about the racecourse a competitor knows, the better the race plan they come out with. Competitors must be kept aware if the racecourse has a strong current and the potential of challenging water conditions. Having local knowledge will help the competitors prepare for touch racing conditions. Also, it’s important to inform paddlers who cannot paddle safely under rough conditions and help them to avoid any accidents.
Ultimately, each racer will decide for themselves but giving paddlers enough to information to make the decision is very important.
It is not right to take for granted the knowledge and comfort of the paddlers on water. Many paddlers might be participating in an SUP race for the first time ever. The more knowledge they have, the more the comfort level.

5. Make it a point to wear a leash

We do believe that PFDs can be valuable assets for safety and we recommend them at all races, we believe that the security of attaching yourself to 14 feet of floating foam is a great option. We find maintaining a solid connection to the largest flotation device available to a paddler a much safer bet than relying on a salt-encrusted CO2 cartridge to inflate your PFD.

6. Communication between the race team is very important

Maintaining communication between the race team both before and during the execution of the event is a prime aspect. Make sure everyone on the same page before the race day for the best execution of safety measures in case of any emergency. On the day of the race, make sure that all the communication systems operating between the officials on beach and in water are working properly. The head race director must be kept informed about all the happenings of the event at all times.

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7. Notify the local law enforcement and marine safety authorities duly

To hold an event, many governments require you to do this. More importantly, notifying the local authorities will only increase the safety as they will be able to provide you with the most advanced water safety teams possible. In the US, the Coast Guard and some other marine safety units have extended their services to SUP events. So, do take advantage of the people who have expertise at rescuing distressed boaters at 50 foot seas. They can make a great difference by adding to the professional safety and help maintain composure at the event.

8. Have a professional medical team at your event

While in many cases of emergency, a medical team may not be required immediately; it’s always advisable to have one at your event. To cater to the needs of those who might want immediate medical attention, there are many EMS teams that can be hired for their services at the event. If you’re on a budget, it costs almost nothing to call the local hospital, fire station or clinic to notify them about the event. The staff may decide to provide support for free or you can trade services with them for an SUP lesson. It’s left to you to get creative.

9. Always use your best judgment

Do not force the issue if there are really bad weather conditions on the day of the race. Safety of the contestants should always be your first priority. Dealing with the complaints of paddlers over the cancellation of a race is much better than having to explain why and how a paddler went missing due to a thunderstorm during the race. That’s over-exaggeration at its best but you do know what we’re talking about!
Factors like lighting, high winds, high seas, extreme cold or heat are factors that you can never control. It’s always the head race director’s final call on holding or calling off a race. So, do use your best judgment and put safety above everything else.

10. Set the race up for success!

Set up the race course in such a way that there is maximum safety for the competitors and least chances for them to get hurt in any way due to the tough course. Placing a turn buoy in a pounding for a recreational race is no way to success!
Ensuring there is enough room from start to finish is the pivotal aspect to ensure both safety and fairness in the event. We’ll be putting up a few full-fledged articles for fair and safe races soon!

The buoys must be placed in areas that are safe for paddlers to round on the basis of their abilities. Shore break buoys placed in a recreational race isn’t actually a great idea.
Using boats for buoys is a strict no-no! Propeller-dismemberment and anchor-impalement are but a few of the many dangers of using a boat as a turn buoy. If the conditions actually looks calm, then using a boat for a buoy is advisable. However, we still want to remind you of the fact that boats are better off being used for safety than for setting up a course. Do not mix them up.

So, that was a guide of things that need to be kept in mind when outing up an SUP race to ensure guaranteed safety. There’s a lot more decision-making and planning involved when it comes to actually executing the race. We make sure to include as much valuable information as we can so that our rulebook helps both the athletes and the SUP race organizers are helped during our official race courses. But, we also know that there’s always much more to cover and ways to improve. We look forward to knowing more always!

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WeSUP is born by the group of Thai SUP enthusiasts, who are deeply enthralled by stand-up paddling or SUP. Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is the fastest growing sport across the world. We want to push on it and aim to be the leading SUP Sport guide in Thailand.

Not only SUP is fun and perfect for your entire family, but SUP also has huge benefit for you. SUP opens up a whole new world of exploration, fitness and adrenaline. It's a great way to get fit, developing core strength, cardio fitness, flexibility, balance and allows you to choose your own path to better health. Unlike surfing, you don't need waves to paddleboard, you can go paddling on any open water, an ocean, lake, and even a river. If you never try SUP, Let's start!