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SUP Snorkeling Basics: Safety Guide and Techniques

There are incredible possibilities to snorkel and explore marine life, shipwrecks, ancient ruins, and the undersea environment all around the world. I personally am not an avid or highly experienced snorkeler. I have gone snorkeling perhaps a couple of times in the previous 20 or so years. Snorkeling has traditionally required an organized tour, a good lot of money, a ride on a boat, and so on. Not so easily accessible to the typical beach-goer.

If your new to the acronym of SUP, or Standup paddle-boarding, it is a water-sport born from surfing with modern roots in Hawaii. Stand up paddle-boarders stood on boards that are floating on the water, and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water.

Now stand up paddle boarding is an excellent full-body workout. Even after only a few minutes, you can feel it from your shoulders to your toes. Here are a few pointers to assist you improve your fitness. When standing on your board, you will want to strive to maintain your weight centered over your instep. Here we're attempting to prevent cramping and optimize stability, so don't lean too far forward on your toes nor too far back on your heels.

I rapidly acquired a love for this method of snorkeling, and after a few weeks in the easy-access areas near the beach, we decided to take the SUPs to explore new underwater topography further afield. Here's what I discovered...

Tips and Techniques for a Successful SUP Snorkeling Experience

Scouting and access: You'll need an area with plenty of sea life or other things of interest, as well as shallow and clear enough water to see it from the surface, for decent snorkeling. If you look hard enough, you can find good snorkeling anyplace there is clean water. Check out where tour companies are going, use maps and apps, and talk to locals.

If you don't have your own equipment, you can usually rent it, possibly borrow it, or,.. shop us around as we are increasing our water-sports products for 2023.  As SUP becomes more popular, the same calm waters that are ideal for snorkeling will increasingly have SUP rental locations nearby.

Once there, if you are unfamiliar with the waters you are exploring, the SUP is ideal. You can quickly cover the region and locate the finest areas to look beneath the surface.

Viewing from the board: If the water is clear enough, you may be able to see sea life while paddling. When you think you've located "the spot," lay down on the board, put on your mask, and view from the comfort of your SUP with your face in the water. This allows you to quickly check the region before leaving your board. Snorkeling and reclining on a SUP are also excellent progressions for folks who are nervous about getting into the water with sea life or who are not strong swimmers.

Getting in the water: First, consider whether or not to wear your PFD. This is a personal decision you must make based on the conditions as well as your snorkeling ability and expertise. Snorkeling in a PFD can be fun, but because most PFDs are designed to keep your face out of the water, it can be difficult to maintain a good snorkeling body position.

If you opt to leave your PFD on, ensure sure it is firmly connected to your board alongside your paddle. Put on your fins and mask and enter the water.

Photo courtesy of Adrian Meissner

Snorkeling tethered:

If the water is calm and there is no current, you can simply slip off your board, keep your ankle tether attached, and tow your board behind you. When the conditions are right, tethered snorkeling may be a lot of fun. You can swiftly get on and off the board, and it is always nearby for a break from swimming. The board may also serves as a buoy, alerting boats to the presence of someone in the water nearby although we do suggest frequent SUP snorklers consider a Vertical Surface Marker Buoy.


You will almost always need to anchor your board (s). Unless you're snorkeling in places with high currents, a smaller 5lb anchor should suffice for two or three boards. Before leaving shore, tie your anchor rope to the board and the anchor; a little throw bag works nicely to keep your rope orderly. Once you've selected your position, lie down on the board and slowly and carefully lower your anchor. Don't anchor near living coral or boat wreckage. Attach your boards together and fasten your paddles and gear to the boards (use a couple carabiners for this). Check that your anchor is secure before donning your snorkeling gear and heading out.

Falling Is Inevitable:

Keep your arms close to your body at all times. If you reach out to grab your board, you risk injuring your elbows, face, shoulders, and other body parts. Even more critical, remember to cover your head when you emerge from the water. You don't want to swim into your fin or your board. When exiting the water, always protect your head.

Climbing back onto your board can be difficult, so move to the end of the board, let your legs float to the surface, and then slowly inch your way onto the tail, moving forward to the center of the board. Put this into practice. The more you practice, the easier it will become.

I recommend starting your SUP adventure on a day with little or no wind. Begin on your knees, with your hands choked on your paddle, and gradually progress to your feet, knowing that you can always return to your knees if conditions demand it or you become exhausted.

Basic SUP Snorkeling Safety Tips

  1. When snorkeling in open water, there is a lot to consider. Here are some precautions to take:

  2. Take care. SUP paddling in shallow water is dangerous since the coral is incredibly sharp, and falling into rocks or wrecks is also unpleasant. Get down on your knees when in doubt.

  3. If you use rope to anchor, be very careful not to become entrapped or tangled in it.

  4. Keep an eye out for boat traffic, and if your board and PFD aren't bright enough, get a buoy to float in the area where you're snorkeling.

  5. Keep an eye out for rips and tides in the area where you're snorkeling. Conditions can shift suddenly.

Try SUP snorkeling if you enjoy SUP and the water itself. You can use your SUP to get to places that are too far away to swim. Once there, you can snorkel from your board, tether it, or park it on the beach or with an anchor. Combining these sports can introduced you to a whole new world of paddling and adventure, something myself and my better-half are looking to do more often this year.


Adrian Meissner - Photos

Cressie - Photo


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