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SUP Safety | Personal Floatation Device and Buoyancy aid guidance

British Canoeing strongly recommends that you have both a primary and secondary form of floatation support when stand up paddle boarding.

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Your primary form of floatation support is your board. You need to be tethered to your board by the correct type of leash for the water and environment you are paddling in. For further guidance on choosing the correct leash click here.

The secondary type of floatation support you should choose will depend on your skills, the conditions and environment in which you are paddling. Any buoyancy aid/pfd should be: -

  • The correct size and fit it correctly
  • One that carries ISO 12402 certification
  • Maintained by following the manufacturers guidelines

Always practise remounting your board, once fitted in your pfd, in a controlled environment so a remount can be done quickly and with minimum effort.


“Hard” foam pfd’s/buoyancy aids

Traditional “hard” foam, chest worn pfd’s are recommended, such as traditional buoyancy aids which are designed for ease of movement when paddling and immediately assist your buoyancy when you are in the water. Once fitted correctly, before paddling, these provide superior support as they need no further adjustment or deployment. 

This type of buoyancy aid should be used on moving/flowing water including tidal rivers and estuaries, tidal races, white water rivers, open coastal and downwind environments. A “hard” foam conventional pfd/buoyancy aid is an important part of your safety equipment in these environments.
For grade 2 (and above) white water rivers and fast flowing challenging water this type of buoyancy aid is considered to be your primary source of floatation. 

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Waist belt/ inflating pfd’s

When you are not paddling on white water rivers or moving/flowing water, alternative types of pfd are available to form your secondary floatation.

Waist belt pfd’s have become more numerous as the popularity of SUP has grown. Some are marketed directly to the SUP paddler.
These pfd’s do not give immediate support but need to be deployed by the wearer once in the water. 

British Canoeing strongly advise paddlers to familiarise themselves with how the pfd is deployed and practice deployment in a controlled environment. They should be tested annually and serviced in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.  To find out how to wear and inflate a waist belt when stand up paddle boarding, click here.