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SUP Standards. Paddle board hazards, rocks and paddle boards, Portugal.


A hazard is anything that could put you at risk of injury.

Weather and water conditions present the biggest danger for stand up paddlers. It is important to always have 360 degree awareness and be constantly checking environmental conditions.

Below are some SUP hazards for the beginner paddler. This list is not exhaustive. Always be on the look out for hazards.


Weather can change quickly whilst paddling.  Make sure you understand how to read weather forecasts for storms, wind speed and direction at the location where you are paddling.

SUP Standards. Paddle board hazards, windy environment SUP


One of the biggest hazards for stand up paddlers is the wind.

Wind can blow you far off course, making for a long paddle to get back to your starting point. It can be difficult to paddle back against the wind, tiring you out.

Only go out in winds less than 12 knots or 10 knots offshore.


SUP paddles act like lightning rods.  Check forecasts for any storms and don’t go out paddling in a storm or if one is forecast.

SUP Standards. Paddle board hazards, lightning environment SUP

Water Conditions

Understand how to identify water conditions suitable for your level of paddling.  Know about water at your paddling location.

River Flow

The river may look calm, but there may be a strong water flow. Like the wind, water flow can carry you far from your starting point. Paddling against water flow is also difficult and can tire you out.

Only go out in river flow less than 4 knots.  (4 miles per hour)

SUP Standards. Paddle board hazards, river flow environment SUP
SUP Standards. Paddle board hazards, tidal environment SUP changing tides.


Incoming and outgoing tides can also mean fast flowing waters as the tide changes. Low tides can result in very shallow water / or no water. High tide may mean you have nowhere to exit. Make sure you understand what a tide is and how to read tide forecasts.


Run off from roads after rain can cause pollution in the water. Waterways become stagnant, with algae growths. There may be sewerage and other overflow by the local authorities.

SUP Standards. Paddle board hazards, polluted environment SUP
SUP Standards. Paddle board hazards, river mouth environment SUP

River Mouths

A river mouth is where the river opens into the sea. They usually have very fast moving water. Stay 200 metres away from a  river mouth otherwise you could get swept away or swept into moorings etc. and be held under water.

Cold Water Shock

Be aware of, and how to react safely to cold water shock

Wear suitable clothing for the conditions.

SUP Standards. Paddle board hazards, cold water shock environment SUP

Other Water Hazards – Enclosed Flat Water

Stay well away from any of the below hazards:

- boat moorings  

- bridges

- pylons

- weirs

- submerged items

- power boats

- other water users

Also look out for marine creatures – some may be dangerous and others may be safe but you could potentially collide into them.

Other Water Hazards – Exposed Waters

The biggest hazard in exposed waters is the wind. It can quickly change and you may find you are being blown out to sea, and can’t paddle back.

Other hazards include rips, currents that can drag you out to sea. The swell size may change creating waves that cause you to be unbalanced and not able to paddle.

Other Water Hazards – Surf Locations

Do not go into surf beyond your ability. 1.5 ft (half a metre) if you are a beginner, but you should already be experienced at paddling in flat water and exposed waters.

Look out for rips. Stay out of the way of surfers as you are a danger to them on your large board.

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