Safety on the SUP: Life jacket vs. restube

02/09/2022

We see them again and again: people who are firmly convinced that they don't need a life jacket, a restube, because "I can swim". And unfortunately, people who can't swim at all or can only swim badly also go SUP without a life jacket. We want to help prevent accidents and prohibitions in this brilliant sport. A broad awareness of what dangerous situations can arise in SUP and the knowledge of the right avoidance and equipment are the start:

How does a dangerous situation arise on the SUP board?

Not only in the cold season can a fall into the water be dangerous. Everyone who paddles on a board should be prepared for a possible emergency. It doesn't matter how good your swimming skills, experience or the characteristics of the water are. Reasons for a dangerous situation can be someone else's fault, a change in weather conditions or unexpected personal behaviour in a stressful situation.

At first glance, an unintentional fall into the water because one loses one's balance seems relatively harmless and is possible at any time. Because this is unexpected, it is possible to lose control of one's usual abilities in a panic:

  • Moment of surprise
  • Shock and respiratory paralysis due to immersion in cold water
  • Aspiration / inhalation of water
  • Muscle cramp
  • Board is not secured with leash and drifts off

People who panic do not always behave prudently and forget behaviour they have learned in theory, such as drifting in the supine position and keeping calm.

Other participants on the water may also be at fault. Motorboats, sailing boats etc. move much faster and may not be able to avoid or react adequately.


The Leash is basic security

If the board is not secured to the body with a leash, it can drift very quickly. Especially in wind, waves or currents, it disappears much faster than you could swim after it! In the worst case, after a fall into the water, you are far from the shore and cannot get back on the board.

A leash is therefore an essential piece of basic equipment, as it prevents the board from drifting! The leash is attached to the ankle and the board in still waters. When using the leash on flowing water, it should either be attached to a special hip belt or not be worn, because it can become a deadly danger if it gets caught on obstacles. You can find out more about this here on the Supscout website.

Picture above: The leash is attached to the ankle and the board with Velcro. It secures the board and prevents it from drifting after a fall into the water. When paddling on flat water, a "curled leash" is used because it rolls up and tightens when needed. This way you don't get tangled. "Coiled leashes are smooth and are used for surfing. The leash should be attached to a D-ring in the back of the board, not to the luggage net.

Scenario from real life: A harmless situation changes in a flash

Autumn in the province of Salzburg: Two practised and experienced paddlers with very good swimming skills are out on their SUP boards on Lake Wolfgang. It is early autumn, the water still warm from summer, the conditions are peaceful and the surface of the lake flat. They start cruising the lake, from the shore next to the Falkensteinwand across to Gschwandt. Suddenly a Fön storm comes up - a weather phenomenon that is possible in this region in autumn, but the two local strangers do not expect it.

Picture above: There is still calm before the storm - peaceful paddling in calm conditions at the Wolfgangsee.

They can hardly manage against the increasingly strong wind from the opposite direction, which quickly creates high waves. The situation changes within a few minutes. The paddler in front loses her balance in a gust and falls backwards off her board. The hardboard, which has lost its weight, is thrown up by the wind and lands where the paddler has just dived in!

It's a good thing that she comes up again immediately - thanks to the life jacket without her having to do anything - and she can quickly hold on to the board - thanks to the leash, the board hasn't drifted off despite the strong wind. She is fully conscious and they both manage to steer their boards with the wind direction back to the starting shore, which is closer.

Both realise that this situation was dangerous and could have ended differently. The paddler behind could not paddle against the wind and thus could not reach the victim to help her. In the worst case, the board could have hit her in the head, causing unconsciousness and incapacity to act.

Without a waistcoat, there is no chance of staying afloat independently!

The hour of the life jacket

And this is the point that clearly speaks in favour of a life jacket: it always ensures that the person wearing it gets back to the surface of the water without any intervention on their part. If the ratio between buoyancy and body weight is correct, the person immediately "pops" back up after the fall. In some cases, the waistcoat even prevents the head from diving in, which is a great advantage in cold water.

Important: The waistcoat only works if it is worn from the beginning. If it is carried on the board in case of an emergency, it has to be put on quickly, which is sometimes not possible and takes time.

The life jacket does not ensure that you are automatically turned onto your back if you become unconscious, as a life jacket does, because it has no collar. But floating on the surface in an unconscious state at least ensures that a helpless person can be seen by others, reached and quickly rescued.

When does a restube make sense?

Having the Restube with you as a buoyancy aid may make sense if it is too hot for a waistcoat or if you are an athlete competing and need a very high degree of freedom of movement. It is also a great tool for swimmers to be able to trigger a buoyancy aid in case of a cramp, for example. However, the fact remains that this aid has to be triggered before it works, and that is a disadvantage in our opinion.

We share the view that with SUP paddling, you already have a perfect buoyancy aid with you in the form of the board itself: The board floats without being triggered ;-) You just have to make sure that it doesn't move away in case of a fall. For this, as already explained, the leash is as much a part of the basic equipment as the paddle.

We know from discussions: Restubes fans argue that the board could burst or the leash could break off under tension and in this case you would need the solution that is attached to the body. This view should not be withheld here, because this scenario also has its justification.

However, we are not aware of any case where an inflatable SUP board has burst on the water. Inflatables can burst if they are stored in the sun and experience a high increase in pressure due to heat, which does not happen on the water. Anyone who paddles a hardboard is out of this issue anyway ...

Our conclusion: The life jacket is the safer equipment compared to the restube.

Die perfekte Schwimmweste für SUP

The two paddlers on Lake Wolfgang were ourselves - Anne and Myriam - the founders of Lite Venture. For many years, we have been experienced on the SUP and in kayaks, and safety equipment has always been a matter of course for us - and after this experience, we are even more convinced: regardless of their abilities, anyone can get into a dangerous situation on the water in which their life is in danger without equipment.

From our sales consultations, we know the arguments that prevent people from wearing a life jacket: the most frequently mentioned is the restriction of mobility. That's why we have a very large range of waistcoats to choose from and try on in the stationary shop at Eschbach.

In our own product line, we wanted to include a waistcoat that is as light as possible and comfortable to wear, even during sporty paddling! Furthermore, it should not be bulky and offer a pleasant, discreet look despite good visibility. More information about this waistcoat can be found here:

Lite Venture Marathon Racer Lifejacket

Finally, a lightweight life jacket that is very comfortable to wear! It offers a lot of freedom of movement even during sporty paddling and is not very bulky. Weight: 900 gr (L/XL) buoyancy: 54 N Optional hydration bladder Pockets High performance 3D foam ISO 12402-5 and ISO 12402-6 certified Available sizes: S/M: 35 - 75 kg, L/XL: 50 - 90 kg, XXL: 80+ kg

Starting at 134.95 €

    SUP Safety Deal:
    With every Lite Venture SUP board you now get the Lite Venture life jacket for free!

    This applies to all Lite Venture SUP boards on regular sale from 1 September 2022. This includes the inflatables ULTRA, ULTRA Fast, ULTRA Light and FUSE and the hardboards Black Edition, Cruzer, Ray Surf and Tough Shell. The promotion runs while stocks of lifejackets last. It ends on 30.9.2022 at the latest.