We all love to SUP, and know just how long it  takes to get those boards locked and loaded to hit the water. Yet, if we take some time to think about the essentials, we can have a safe, guilt-free paddle every time!

Here’s the lowdown on what really matters in the SUP safety arena:

Your clothing counts:

Dress weather appropriately – there’s a great saying that reads

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,”

This applies to paddling too, so make sure you are dressed for the temperature of the water you plan to paddle on.
Do you need a wetsuit or wetsuit top?
Clothing made from wicking fabric (like dry-fast nylon / polyester tops and rash vests) helps to draw the moisture away from your skin. The same concept holds for paddling leggings and shorts. This is better than cotton shirts or shorts, as they tend to absorb water and stay wet.
Layering your clothing also helps as you eventually warm up once you get going.
Clothing with a built-in SPF rating can be hugely beneficial against the raging sun if you plan a long time on the water.
You also need to be comfortable in your gear, and if using it in the ocean, check that it does not have zippers and buttons that will rust over time.
Neoprene surf booties are great for the feet, and protect you when heading out of the water over sand and stones. Wet shoes are a bit looser, and might become a bother if you are on and off your craft a lot of times, so are not generally advisable on a SUP.
Sunglasses are NOT an option, as they will most likely end up falling into the water in a very short time after starting.
If you are a beginner, you will most likely fall a few times, so be prepared and wear a costume underneath your gear too!

Your PFD gives layers of protection:

One of the key items if you are going far away from shore, or on a long-distance paddle, is a level 50 personal flotation device (PFD). Here in South Africa, we are privileged to have some incredible organisations like SAMSA that have set safety standards around these items.

Canoeing South Africa (CSA), with whom we are affiliated, have an info page about the standards for Personal Flotation Devices but the rule of thumb is as follows:

– it needs to keep you afloat,
– it must fit properly for your sport,
– it should have required safety features; like reflective panels, a central lifting loop, and a whistle.

Extra features like pockets that can hold your cell phone / other safety gear are a huge benefit too.
A good retailer will know all of the requirements and sizing, and will help you get the right fit. It needs to fit your chest, and should not go only according to your weight!

Remember – “the best lifejacket is the one you are wearing” – take it with you, don’t leave it on the shore! It’s also an incredible windbreaker when you need extra warmth.

phonesYour watchful eye – a tracking device:

The best news any paddler could ever hear is that there is help for them if they get into trouble out on the water! The NSRI have developed a free app called SafeTrx which has amazing features:

– It can do real-time tracking for your family / friends to follow while you paddle
– Sets up an emergency contact to alert in the event of an emergency,
You can make a distress call if in dire straits!

– Set up a group to paddle with before you go – your paddling mates will always get to you first!

Download it for free here for Android and Apple platforms..

The way to use this service is via a smartphone in a protective waterproof pouch. This can either be worn around the neck, or placed into your pfd if it has protective pockets. These covers are available from many retailers – just check to see that they seal properly if you plan a long paddling trip!

Your critical lifeline – a leash:

A good quality leash is an absolute essential. It is determined by the size of your board, and once you are a proficient paddler, you can determine whether or not to use an ankle, calf, thigh or midriff leash. The longer racing sups will use a coiled leash, while smaller boards will go with a regular straight surf leash.
Check your leash at intervals to see if the velcro is clean and still adhering on both sides, as well as if the steel joints are functional.
It’s worth spending the extra money on a good leash – this is your lifeline, and it will outlast and outperform all the cheapies that only keep your wallet happy, not your mind secure!

The wearing of a leash should be second nature and mandatory,  just like putting on a seat belt in a vehicle.

If safety comes first, then fun and fitness will come a close second!

Be SUP Safe!

Eat – drink – stretch – PADDLE!

Over the past few months, athletes around the world have slowly garnered their speed and force back into active training mode. With the hints of a few local and international events promising to soon be up and running, it has spurred on the competitive urge to action.

In light of this we asked some of our SUP and prone athletes as well as their trainers about what was helpful in the fields of nutrition, hydration and stretching. These are key disciplines for all – not just the elite squads and athletes who live out their days on the water in lives we all dream of!

If the average paddler or prone boarder took just a few moments each day to work on these key areas, it would create some very satisfying results in the months to come, and we would realise that we are all made of the same stuff – it’s just the discipline that sets some apart…

So lets look at how we can get ourselves into top gear through nutrition, hydration and stretching.

Q: Is it worth following a particular nutritional plan when paddling or training for an event, and how does this help your body? 

A: Yes, but don’t make a radical switch just before a main event, rather work in any changes in diet with enough time for your body to adjust to them and see if they will actually work for you.

A bit of sage wisdom from the professionals:

Consistency is key – know what works for you – preferably under the guidance of a trained nutritionist – and stick to the program during competition and main training sessions.

Replenish and refuel your body to help it recover after a race or training session. This will help maintain a good balance of nutrients in your system and prevent early burnout.

Eat to compete – different foods give different results:

What are you looking for to improve your game – more energy, fat burning capacity, or a complete change in eating habits? Spend some time reading up about different foods and nutrients and you will certainly gain the benefits.

– It is wise to remember that what works for one person, might not have the same impact on you as metabolism, body shape and activity levels vary from person to person.

– Know YOUR body’s needs and keep it well nourished to enable it to hit those goals!

Q: Which supplements do you use or highly recommend that help with your paddling in a highly notable way? 

A: Pre- and post-event fuelling are two key factors. Giving your body the right amount of energy reserves before a race, and helping it to replenish afterwards can dramatically assist in proper storage and retrieval of fuel by your body, helping it to recover well and fast!

Collagen powder and magnesium are huge helps in muscle recovery and are staple items in many sports kits.

One need not depend only on supplements when fat-boosters like avocados, dried wors and sardines can be a supremely effective energy source, along with bananas. Snacking during the day can help your body store up reserves for a much-needed racing or training boost.

Q: How often do you hydrate during a regular day, as compared to during high-intensity training? Do you use any particular energy drinks or just water? 

A: Water – always the essential ingredient in our life! One to two litres of water per day should be the general standard.

The main idea is to increase your intake as you increase your training. Hydrate up to 50% of your intake before a race, 30% during and 20% after – if doing long races. For shorter distances, hydrate before and after.

When looking at electrolyte-based or similar drinks, don’t just go for the “well-known” brands who have superpower marketing teams at their disposal. Once again – find out what your body needs – and look for  something that is effective for you – not just a “nice flavour” or a sugar-loaded option.

Q: What type of stretches do you think are the most important for a paddler to use to warm up with before hitting the water? 

A: It is important to recognise the differences between dynamic and static stretching.

Active or dynamic stretches are great to use before a paddle. They involve controlled movements focused on warming up the body and getting it ready for its particular activity. eg. lunges, squats, a light jog. etc.

Static stretches are relaxing post-paddle options and cool down the muscles in a fixed position by stretching them out while staying still.

Never underestimate the power of a quick stretch mid-paddle to help release some tension. Rolling and running are also often great relaxers of overworked muscles.

Q: Do you do any paddling-specific training or stretching? If so, is there a routine or website you can recommend?

A:  Strength and conditioning is so critical in every sport. Power endurance gives you the edge when you need to perform well without exhausting yourself. Be wary of following exercises that are tailored for other sports – rather look at those following the same discipline as you.

We are so privileged today to have access to an endless variety of online resources, but that in itself can be intimidating to a beginner in any sport. The key is to keep educating yourself and asking those in the activity you pursue for some guidance. Learn about static or dynamic stretching for pre- and post-training and focus on the muscles you use in paddling eg. core, legs, arms.

Key idea: choose your training based on what your body needs for paddling, but do use some cross-training for variety too.

Freedom Race is a Go!

Freedom Day dawned beautifully, with the threat of bad weather quickly dissipating. The news from the organisers was exactly what the Paddling Doctor would have ordered:

Good morning!! Rain has come and gone. Wind has died. No sign of fog. Race is a go.”

The excellent organisational skills and teamwork of the race coordinators ensured that Covid protocols were kept, and the paddlers set off in groups from 8am for the long course around the island, followed by rowers, single, double and triple surfskis at half-hour intervals. The short and medium course paddlers were the last group to set off into the grey seas as the swell started to make itself known.

Here is the lowdown from some of the participants – it’s an interesting mix of experiences and consequences of good and bad decisions, with a little help from friends thrown in along the way! 

Evette Terblanche, 15km course - Choose your board wisely!

It was one of the most challenging paddles ever! On a good day the strip between Granger Bay and Clifton 4th can be like a mirror. And that was the prediction. When we turned the corner at Granger Bay, we could see it was not to be. The swell was huge and bouncing off the rocks. I made a huge mistake and paddled on a flat-water board 23” wide. Needless to say, my balancing skills were tested to the max. and I was swimming at times –  especially turning the buoy at Clifton. We had a little headwind there that worked in my favour, but the turn meant the bounce was now on my weaker side. At least the water temperature was pleasant! My first race as a Diva !!! Can’t wait for the next one. Hopefully Neptune will deliver something special again. And into the ocean I shall go again, train harder and be more observant of conditions. Special thanks to race organisers who ran a tight ship under these strange Covid conditions.

Picture below: Evette Terblance and Elmari Renecle, both 15km SUP participants. 

Sinda Takathani, 15km course - The gift of an entry from an injured athlete to a recovering one.

Oh my gosh! The race was intense with the side swell bouncing when we were approaching Clifton beach. Worst thing was that I had a flat-water board but the race was more like a downwind.  I had a wonderful time and I’m glad I did the race after recovering from an accident where I was hit by 2 cars.

Thanks to Gary Van Rooyen and Evette Terblanche for encouraging me to do the Freedom Paddle – I’m grateful for that. Special Thanks to Steve Tripney for the entry – I could have not done the paddle if he had not given me his son’s entry. 

I finished 2nd in the men’s category, coming in after Gary And Tarryn. Yeah!

Picture below: Sinda Takathani, with his finisher’s medal after completing the 15km SUP course.

William Mapham, 15km course - The blessings of the safety crew.

It was an incredible experience, my first event like this, the organisation was pretty cool. I was really impressed by the adherence to the Covid Criteria – really well done! ….
The event itself was exhausting, but it was very satisfying to do it. I trained quite hard for it and STILL fell in a lot! I think a lot of the other guys are super-experienced compared to me, but I still had a good time and really appreciated the safety crew.
When I was battling to get out of Clifton on my feet, they came and showed me I should rather go wider and further out as it would be more stable there, which was exactly what happened, so the way back was much more pleasant thanks to them. I did not catch their names but thanks a lot to them!

Picture below: William Mapham, 15km SUP course participant. 


Jadon Wessels, 27km course on prone - The stoke is beyond epic!

The Freedom Paddle is not only the longest, but also the most gruelling race in Africa, and this year was the most epic one we’ve had so far – with epic people and memories made that will never be lost!
Not only were we met with epic conditions, but we entered 3 times as many prone paddlers than we had in the past!  This meant that it wasn’t only a bucket list event, but it was also an awesome opportunity to show the spectators of the ocean-sports world that prone is here and it is growing. We’re here to show people why we love prone and the ocean, and there’s no better way to do that than just pushing regardlessly through the pain as we love our sport.

Picture below: The winning 27km prone paddlers, from left Jonny Lucas, Levi Mayes, Jadon Wessels. 


Levi Mayes, 27km course on prone - First full Freedom Paddle at 15 years of age!

Hi Supsa community, I am the youngest person to have done this race on a prone board. I enjoyed seeing the amazing wildlife like dolphins, seals, jellyfish and also being able to see the shipwrecks and beautiful coastline along the back of Robben Island. It was so awesome to be able to paddle in such a great community with all the other people who paddled on prones – it was so nice to have them there and such amazing camaraderie. I am super-stoked to be a part of this iconic race in commemoration of Freedom day which is such a big part of South African History. It was a hard, long paddle with big ocean swells, which is what I enjoy, and I am definitely going to be doing it next year. Cheers!

Picture below: Levi Mayes, 27km prone paddler. 


Photos credits all to Prescient Freedom Paddle – from their Facebook page, and paddlers’ own images.

ICF and Starboard release safety guidelines

Read this article on the ICF WEBSITE:

The International Canoe Federation has underlined its commitment to safety on the water by teaming up with leading global paddleboard manufacturer Starboard to develop guidelines for stand up paddlers.

The ICF safety guidelines will be included in all beginner board Starboard packaging, and will emphasise the importance of knowing your limitations and being familiar with your surroundings when you take to the water.

“We are absolutely thrilled that stand up paddling continues to grow around the world, and the role we have played to help that growth,” ICF SUP coordinator Hoichan Kwon said.

“We also take very seriously our role in spreading the message on safety. SUP looks so inviting, many are tempted to just jump on a board and head out onto the water. And while accidents are rare, its important people prepare properly.

“Our SUP partner, Starboard, shares our position on this important role. As one of the world’s leading manufacturers and sellers of stand up paddle boards, what better way to get the message out to first time paddlers to be safe?”

The guidelines will also include valuable instructions on how to get started as a paddleboarder.

Additionally, the Starboard Generation boards will be available at heavily discounted prices for all clubs associated with NF’s.

Starboard Generation board has been designed to be used for surfing, racing and touring. It is easy to ride, even for those with no experience, and will help paddlers safely develop their skills.

The board comes in either carbon tech or lite tech, and in two sizes – 12’6 x 28 or 14 x 28.

Please email for more details.

The 2021 ICF stand up paddling world championships will be held in Balatonfured, Hungary, from September 10-12.

COVID-19: Beaches are open again

Tuesday February 2nd, 2021
Surfing South Africa President welcomes the opening of beaches
Surfing South Africa President, Johnny Bakker has welcomed the announcement by President Ramaphosa that all beaches in South Africa are open once again.
“On behalf of Surfing South Africa and all recreational, social and competitive surfers and surfriders we are happy to be able to enter the ocean again and surf” said Bakker. South Africa’s surfriding fraternity also includes surf shops, surf schools, surf coaches, all of which have been hard hit by the month long beach closures.
Not only has Olympic qualifier Bianca Buitendag been unable to prepare for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics but  professional and competitive surfers from all parts of South Africa have been unable to train for an extended period.
In addition, over 20,000 recreational and social surfriders have also been prevented from exercising in the ocean.
The lifting of the beach ban is effective immediately and in order for the beaches to remain open, all surfriders are reminded to adhere to Covid -19 protocols which include mask wearing prior to surfing and upon returning after a surf, adhering to social distancing and to not gather in groups at beaches and surf venues. All surfriders and beach users are requested to adhere to these basic protocols at all times.
Issued by
Surfing South Africa

SUPs and Prones at the Freedom Paddle 2020

Words by Kit Beaton

The iconic Robben Island 28 km paddle took place on 24 October 2020.  The race organisers, Robin Tindall and Richard Kohler, welcomed Prone and Stand-Up Paddle into the longest official Prone and SUP race in Africa.  Fog caused a delay to the race start but as the morning creeped by, the paddlers could set off at midday into a glassy but mildly skuffy ocean with 8 ft swells.

The approach to the island at 8 km was rewarding with a beautiful spill off of swells wrapping the paddlers all the way around the island anti-clockwise. Jonny Lucas on Prone, Tom King and Cameron Tripney on Stand-Up Paddles led the pack into 8 ft Madibas.  Ethan Buncombe, showing huge strength, followed consistently with Ernest van de Riet proving his strength in consistency. At the 17 km mark, gutsy Cameron joined the support boat due to sea sickness. Tom and Jonny took the race home with Jonny getting the upper hand on Prone in very difficult side-on conditions.  Jonny finished in 3 hours and 47 minutes and Tom finished in sub 4 hours to make him the first ever Stand-Up Paddle to complete a Prescient Freedom Paddle.  Ethan stayed strong and confident dodging ships and clocking 30 km at 4 hours and 10 minuntes. Ernest was a testament to grit and is the second Stand-Up Paddle to complete a Freedom Paddle in 5 hours.  Craig Girdelston assessed the conditions and within the first 3 km he joined his support boat.   Alongside Steve Tripney, Craig boat assistance was deeply appreciated.

We look forward to a long lasting relationship with this iconic race. The next Freedom Paddle will take place on the 27th of April 2021 and apparently some paddlers are already training.