Southern Louisiana has abundant waterways for us to go out and enjoy, but we must make sure safety is our utmost priority. Below is some general information to think about before heading out on the water.
We recommend wearing an inherently buoyant, U.S.C.G. approved lifejacket whenever on the water. These foam lifejackets require no action to help you float. Inflatable lifejackets are the popular choice for S.U.P. racing and race training since they do not obstruct the paddle movement. Some of these lifejackets will automatically inflate upon immersion, while others require you to pull an inflate-handle to engage the CO2 floatation. Maintenance is required to ensure they will work properly.
Your leash cord is very important to have as part of your S.U.P. rig. Make sure the cord is untangled and does not have any tears. Although we know most people in Louisiana will not be paddle-surfing Jaws (Maui surf-spot) anytime soon, a leash will keep your board from going with the wind if you fall off. Leash cords are also very useful for hoisting your board in and out of the water, and attaching to a dock or boat if you take a pit stop.
Fiberglass/Epoxy boards are generally more maintenance free than inflatable boards, but they still should be checked for cracks and dings regularly. A saturated board will not perform well in the water, and it can lead to structural weakening and delamination. Inflatable boards should be checked for airpockets and visible signs of glue. This can lead to an inflatable-board quickly deflating while you are far from shore.
Paddles have come a long way concerning their strength, but they should still be inspected before going out on the water. The joints of the paddle should not be loose, and the blade of the paddle should be checked for any cracks. You do not want to have to convert your Stand-Up-Paddleboard into a Prone-Paddleboard.
Lights are also a necessity if you plan to be out on the water between sunset and sunrise, or even during the day if adverse conditions are making navigation unsafe. The light must be visible-360º. The light should also be placed as high as possible so it is not blocked by possible chop on the water.
Transportation equipment needs to be inspected before traveling with your stand-up-paddleboard. Roof-Rack towers and bars should be tight before loading up your board. Your board also needs to be firmly strapped to the rack. After loading up your board, we recommend "the shake-test" to help ensure your board is securely fastened to your vehicle before you get on the road.
The phrase used by rescue personnel around the world "When In Doubt, Don't Go Out" is simple - yet extremely important to follow. Even though you might have paddled the waterway dozens of times, conditions are ever-changing. Looking at the forecast and having an understanding of wind direction and its effect on the water is imperative. If you are looking at the water and questioning going out, realize that conditions on the water are often far more dangerous than they appear.
Paddling alone is never recommended, but consideration must also be taken when paddling with a larger pack. Boaters need to clearly see what direction a pack of paddlers are heading, so they can make adjustments in time... help them, help you. We also recommend tightening up your paddle group when boats are in the area. This makes navigation decisions easier for boaters since they only have to choose to go ahead or behind you, rather than which path to take through your group. If paddling in a narrow channel, paddling single-file is recommended. This will allow boaters traveling at a higher rate of speed to safely pass your crew.
We highly recommend everyone take the Louisiana Boater Safety Class conducted by The United States Coast-Guard Auxiliary before venturing out on a waterway. This class provides information on everything from navigation rules, to the importance of a float plan. Here is a link to view upcoming classes: http://wow.uscgaux.info/peclass.php?unit=081-04-03
The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation has fought tirelessly since 1989 to keep our waterways clean and open for the community's enjoyment. They also now provide weekly water quality reports on the the waterways we paddle. Here is a link to their site: http://saveourlake.org/weekly-report.php.