Rob Casey is the owner of SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle, co-founder for the PSUPA and is the author of two paddling guides.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

15 Night Paddling Tips for SUPs

Many never paddle at night fearing for their safety or simply not seeing it as an option once the sun is down. Paddling at night can be an amazing experience and a good skill builder as well as a way to extend your day in winter when daylight hours are so short. Being safe and comfortable in the water at night comes down to a few basics. The following tips are just suggestions, use what's useful to you.

I offer Bioluminescence SUP tours in Seattle in late summer and early fall. To make trips safe, I need calm glassy water and experienced paddlers.  I offer a beginning SUP lesson before the tour to get folks experienced enough for the tour.  The effect is best on calm glassy conditions and no moon.  

15 Tips for Better Night Paddling:

- Use your ears to listen for boat motors especially in fog. Many small boats don't use lights.

- Don't always trust your eyes if paddling in well or dimly lit urban areas. Look for movement among the lights to look for other boat traffic. Also bright lights can effect your night vision.

- Don't trust all shore lights as a landmark. Using a house light for a landmark in coming to shore isn't a good idea - the light may be turned when you come back.

- Wear a white non blinking light also required by the Coast Guard. But, make sure it's not affecting your night vision. I put a small LED on my rear shoulder PFD strap. If a boat needs to see me, I'll turn on an additional light on my deck or front PFD to be more visible.  We'll turn our lights off when we get to a quiet calm spot to enjoy the sights.

- Some carry a bright waterproof light or laser to shine directly at a boat in case of a possible collision to direct boaters away from you. Attach this to a short string so you don't lose it. The bummer of headlamps is that if you're paddling with others and look at your friend when talking - you blind them.

- Know your route, carry a map/chart. Pay attention to tides, current direction, etc. Current or light wind can drift you offshore pretty quickly.

- Make sure you're in vocal distance of your paddling partners. Keep everyone close, especially if paddling with novices or a commercial tour.

- SUPs - Always use your leash. Losing your board after a fall isn't fun.

- Wear a PFD (life jacket): A PFD isn't just for floatation but it also keeps you warm and can provide pockets to store your light, a snack bar, hydration, etc.

- Consider placing silver reflector tape on your board/boat and paddle to be visible to others if they shine a light your direction.

- Place white tape strips around your paddle shaft to better see it if dropped in the water.

- If you stop for a break, make sure you have a place or way to attach your paddle to your board/boat. SUP can put the paddle shaft under their thigh while sitting on the board.

- Add white electrical tape to your paddle shaft in case you drop it in the water.

- Bring your cell phone and/or a VHF radio in a dry bag/box in case of emergency.

- Tell a friend where you're going on your paddle, how long you'll be out and when you plan on coming back.  Then check in when you arrive home.

More Night Paddling Tips - Preparing your paddle for Night Paddling.

Here's another link I found for paddling at night tips by Chris Lee, Here.

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