Safety First: Tips for Paddling in ZA

Down on the southern tip of Africa we Love Summer. And the reason we love summer is that the South Easterly winds blow. And when it blows it really can knock your socks off; just think of last years Argus Cycle Race! While this fact has a lot of people moaning and wishing for winter the paddlers down here revel in it because it means that they gather in droves to do the infamous ‘Millers run’ – a 12km stretch of open ocean between the Millers point slipway and Fish Hoek Beach on the bay side and Milnerton to Melkbos on the Atlantic side. In fact we love it so much there is an ongoing competition to see who can do the most, who can paddle it fastest, produce the most insane video etc.. run by a surfski school.

While most of the Millers go off without any incidents we always have a few issues with paddlers and boats over the summer period. So we thought that we would pick a few just to help you on your way. Bear in mind that there is no perfect system or method but we figure that more aspects you have stacked in your favour the better.

  1. Pick the right boat for your ability.

You are surprised that we did not start with the traditional PFD. But yes, the first question should be can I cope with my boat in these conditions. By that we mean can you get back on to it should you fall off. There are more than 20 boats on the market – choose one that you can get back in to. I used to own a super-fast downwind boat which was fantastic until you fell out of it. Needless to say it is not part of my flotilla any more. Practice getting back in to your ski again and again.


  1. Pick you PFD carefully.

An international visitor to our club on arrival bought the same PFD as 90% of us wear. But within 2 weeks he was wearing another brand. When asked why the change he answered ‘ I cannot swim in the first one’ darn good point! The one brand we tried slides up and covers your face when you are in the water.  Since the first part of helping yourself is being able to swim back to your ski; if your PFD inhibits you in any way it is time to find another one. Find one with accessible pockets for the other safety stuff.


  1. Paddle leash.

I attach mine to my boat in the hope that if I lose my boat at least the paddle getting dragged in the water should slow it down until I can reach it again. Others attach it to their waist. Whatever your preference just make sure that you have one.


  1. High visability stuff.

Now days one can purchase pre-cut high visibility decals for your ski that are really easy to apply so that you can be spotted from the air. But if you want to be spotted by your mates on a downwind then make sure that your clothing and paddles are highly visible.


  1. A calf leash.

This is the thicker leash that is attached to your ski and you. An absolute must in strong winds. We sometimes hear of ski’s being washed up miles away from where the paddler fell off.


SafeTrx is the NSRI location / rescue app. It is easy to download from your app store and it is free. Just make sure that you switch it on in an area with good signal and switch it off as soon as your get off the water otherwise someone from the NSRI will be phoning you. two friends have used it and it worked. They are currently experimenting with live tracking for people outside of NSRI so we are anxiously awaiting the results of that. Lastly make sure that your phone goes in to a good quality waterproof pouch so that you can still use the keypad through the pouch.


  1. Put your name/ CSA number on your ski and paddle.

This can range from simply putting your CSA number on all your craft to getting one of those clever companies to print you a sticker with your name and ICE contact details on it. To the best of my knowledge NSRI has found three skis washed up on the beach this summer  and then started a massive manhunt for the missing paddler just because there was no way of tracking the owner. This is a huge waste of time and resources. Please let’s look after them until one of us really needs them.

Post Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.