Seniors absolutely can safely paddleboard, as long as they take precautions to make sure they’re healthy enough to participate. It is a great way to remain active, preserve muscle strength, and maintain flexibility while providing a no-impact form of exercise often recommended for those over 50.
Paddleboarding (also called SUP, or Stand Up Boarding) is known to be a fantastic exercise for everyone to enjoy, seniors included. I’m over 60 years old now, and I love paddleboarding, just as I enjoy doing the other activities we cover on this site.
But as we age, there are some things we have to take into consideration that younger paddleboarders can take for granted. I’ll cover those here with 18 tips.
As a senior, when paddleboarding, you’ll need to consider all general safety hazards as well as some senior-specific safety risks. Normal things like having the right gear and checking the weather are central to paddleboarding safety for everyone, including seniors.
But on top of things like that, you’ll need to do a little more than the young folks, like watch out for certain symptoms or consult your doctor in some cases.
Keep reading to discover 18 tips that seniors can use to enjoy the water safely.
Before you get out onto the waters, be sure to check the weather. The higher the wind speed is, the choppier the water will be. For inexperienced paddlers, paddling in choppy water could easily go from being fun to being a fight to stay above water.
A good general guideline to follow is to stay on land if the wind is predicted to go above 10 knots. If the wind is below 10 knots, get suited up and ready to paddleboard!
The direction that the wind is blowing is good information to have to ensure the safety of senior paddlers. You’ll want to paddle against the wind as you start out your paddling session so that you aren’t paddling against the wind when you return back to land.
This is important because, by the time you are returning back to shore, your body may be feeling considerably fatigued, and winds coming toward you will only make it more difficult to propel yourself forward.
Get Your Hands on a SUP Leash
One of the most important safety choices that seniors can make is to use a leash when paddleboarding. Having this leash in use every single time you step onto that board will increase your safety.
A leash is what connects you to the board. The board is essentially your lifeline – it helps you to be able to float in the water. If you fall off the board and can’t get back on it, you risk drowning. If you have the leash, you have a lifeline to help you get back on the board.
Types of Leashes
There are several types of leashes available for paddling. Each of them can either be attached to the ankle or the calf. We will go over each type in this section.
The straight leash is perfect for paddling in the ocean, where there is turbulent white water. The straight leash keeps you safe without getting tangled in potentially choppy, temperamental water.
The coiled leash is best for paddling in flat water because it stops the; you from tangling around your feet or any other items. Drag is minimized as well.
If you are paddling in the river, it’s imperative (and mandatory) to wear a quick-release leash. If you don’t, you could be dragged by the board if you get tangled in underwater branches.
Monitor The Swells
Before getting into the water, it would be a good idea to check the swell report in your area.
Swells, if you are not familiar, are waves formed as a result of storm winds many miles out to sea.
Swells and waves are interconnected. Swells propagate and make waves. These could potentially make your paddleboarding experience more problematic.
You can check online sources like Surfline to quickly and easily see the height of the swells in several areas. If the swells are high, you’ll want to hold back on paddleboarding for some time.
Paddle With Someone Else
There is safety in numbers.
Call your friend and go paddling with her. You both could paddle separately or together on the same board.
If something dangerous happens while you are paddleboarding, you are automatically a bit safer if you are there with someone else who can call for help.
If it’s your first time paddling, you may want to paddle with an instructor or someone who is experienced with paddleboarding. This will ensure that you are as safe as possible.
Learn to Swim
There is no question; you are going to fall off your paddleboard. You may fall off many times. Each time, you’ll need to swim back to your board. If you don’t know how to swim, there is a higher probability of you drowning. Not only that, you’ll need to be rescued by someone (who is also put in danger since they have to swim out to save you).
You will be much safer if you know how to swim, and your paddleboarding experience will go much smoother.
Get a PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
Another way to be safe on the water is to use a personal flotation device. You can carry a PFD, or you can wear it.
PFDs save lives. If you are wearing the PFD while you are paddleboarding, it not only saves you from drowning, it can be helpful in other ways. Say you fall off the board or jump off for some reason; the floatation device will make it easier for you to swim back to your board.
A common PFD that people use while paddleboarding is a traditional life vest.
Body Glove Method USCG Approved Nylon Life Vest
Take a Whistle With You
If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you may need a way to notify others that you need help.
A whistle is a great thing to have with you in this case. It’s small and easy to travel with. Keep a whistle as part of your paddleboarding gear.
Share Your Location
Make sure that someone at home (or some other place) knows exactly where you’ll be paddleboarding, and give them a time that you’ll be back. That way, if you aren’t back by that time, that person will know that something might be wrong.
Wear a Wetsuit
Hypothermia is a real risk when doing any water activity, especially for seniors. And many don’t know that wetsuits are safety gear. Check out our extensive wet suit guide here.
Wetsuits increase your safety by helping to keep you warm in water that can be extremely cold. It is advisable not to go in the water without a wetsuit.
Dark Lightning Wetsuit
This is a unisex wetsuit by Dark Lightning. It’s one of the most popular, highly-rated wetsuits on Amazon. It’s made of neoprene and nylon, which helps to keep you warm while paddleboarding. It’s best used for water temperatures between 55 and 65+ degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t Go Too Far From Shore
Paddleboarding is loads of fun, and you may lose track of where you are if you’re not careful. You want to always keep track of how far from shore you are.
If you venture too far from shore, you could get lost, or you could have trouble travelling a long distance back to shore.
Prevent this by being super aware of where you are. Before heading out into the water, examine your surroundings. One good way to gauge how far away you are is to pick a specific building or object near the shore. Keep an eye on that one building while you paddleboard and don’t go too far from it. This will help you avoid going too far from shore.
Bring a Flashlight
You’ll never know when you’ll need to signal for help. Don’t get caught on the water without a flashlight.
When paddleboarding, you must be ready for the worst-case scenarios. And when you have everything you need, you can relax.
Paddle Out to Deep Water
At the start of your paddleboarding session, you’ll want to paddle out into deep water (water between 5 and 6 feet deep), rather than stay close to shore. This is so you can avoid objects submerged in shallow water.
Also, you want to avoid the “shore break”. If you are unfamiliar, the shore break is the water before the waves crash. Standing in this area for too long is dangerous, as a wave can break, knocking you off your board and potentially injuring you.
Before entering the water, take a good look at the pattern of the shore break waves for a little while, then enter the water while it is calm.
Shield Your Skin From the Sun
It goes without saying that your skin is important, and it needs to be protected at all times. And when you are paddleboarding, there is a big chance that you’ll be dealing with the sun in some capacity. Whether you choose to wear a wetsuit or not, it is important to make sure that you protect your skin.
To prevent sunburn, and skin cancer stemming from exposure to the sun’s rays, don’t forget to apply sunscreen on any of your skin that’s exposed.
I decided to include this safety tip because the sun (and the damage that it can cause) is a big part of all outdoor water activities. Do yourself a favour and protect your skin. You can find sunscreen at any department store (Walmart, Target, etc.) or at drugstores (like Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy). You can also protect your skin by wearing a hat.
Wear Some Foot Booties
You protect your skin with sunscreen, your eyes with sunglasses, and your body with a bodysuit. Your feet need protection as well. For that, you’ll need to wear some foot booties.
Think about a situation where you fall off of your board. Ideally, you’ll be in deep water, but this is not always the case. What if you fall off your board in a shallow reef? You’ll definitely cut your foot on coral. Ouch!
Go Paddling First Thing In the Morning
Once you’ve determined that a certain day is going to be paddle day, plan to get out there early. By early, I mean 7 or 8 in the morning.
Around this time, the ocean will be at its calmest. Also, the water is at its clearest visibility in the morning. Being that, as a senior, you are more prone to injury, making sure that your surroundings are as safe as possible is paramount.
All of these things make for a safer paddleboarding session.
So plan ahead and get out there early!
Go at Your Own Pace
Know your ability. If you have never gone paddleboarding before, it’s not a bad idea to start off sitting down or taking it slowly. This increases your level of safety.
It’s also advisable to take a paddleboarding class prior to going out on the water. If you are constantly wiping out or falling off of your board while you are paddling, especially around others, you could put yourself and others in danger.
There is no race towards becoming a pro at paddleboarding when you’re a newbie. Start out doing it for fun.
Over time, you’ll get better and better at it. And if you find that you want to do it competitively later on, pursue that down the line.
Consult Your Doctor
While it is true that paddleboarding is a low-impact exercise that many seniors take part in, it is wise to approach it with caution.
It would be a good idea to consult your doctor before paddleboarding if:
- You have recently been injured and are looking to paddleboard for rehabilitative purposes.
- You have been living a sedentary life and are just now getting back into physical activity.
- You have heart disease.
- You have type 2 diabetes.
- You have high blood pressure.
- You have arthritis.
- You’ve just finished cancer treatment.
Watch Out For Dangerous Symptoms During Exercises
Paddleboarding is potentially good for your health, but there are negative health outcomes that can ruin your experience.
You’ll be safer while paddleboarding if you watch out for certain symptoms, and know when to stop.
Some symptoms of exercise over exhaustion for seniors are listed below.
If you begin to feel dizzy while paddleboarding, you should take things a little bit easier. Paddleboarding should never be so strenuous that it makes you dizzy. This could mean that (1) you are pushing yourself too hard or (2) you haven’t eaten enough food to fuel your level of activity.
No matter the cause, if you’re feeling dizzy, it means that your blood pressure has gotten too low. Once you begin to feel dizzy, sit down as soon as possible and rehydrate.
Feeling nauseated while paddleboarding is a warning sign that you are taking things too quickly. There’s no reason for you to feel sick while paddleboarding-it’s not normal.
If you begin to feel this way, you should take a second and sit down. Deep breathing and small sips of water may make you feel better.
Once you are feeling like yourself again, hop back on your board.
If you experience excessive pain while paddleboarding, it’s a sign that you need some rest.
With any exercise, it’s normal to feel some discomfort, especially if you haven’t exercised in a long time, but some types of discomfort are not normal and indicate that you need to stop.
Some of these include:
- Sharp tightness
I know that it could be tempting to try to continue the fun of paddling even when you feel pain. However, you could end up dealing with long-term pain or injuries if you ignore the pain and keep paddling. Listen to your body.
Feeling Excess Fatigue
Feeling overly-fatigued after paddleboarding is a sign that you should take a break.
It’s normal to feel fatigued while paddleboarding- it does require physical activity, but after you’re done paddling, you should feel the after-exercise energy boost. If instead, you feel tired for the rest of the day or longer, you probably pushed yourself too hard.
Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to you when paddleboarding. Seniors can get out and enjoy the water just like teens and younger adults can, and taking these precautions makes the paddleboarding experience safer for everyone involved.
So no matter your age, get out there, stay safe and have fun!