SUP Safety at The Houses of Parliament

Firstly, what an experience. For two guys who are not political, this was a one-off attendance. Hats off to Sam Foyle for getting this issue into the forefront. I’ll say now, as myself and Dale did at the meeting, Sam has the full support of our platform and we are 100% behind this effort and commend the work he has done, along with several other campaigners in the industry.

The conversations from our pre-meeting point to the Houses of Parliament felt constructive. I had the pleasure of speaking to Will from Sea Lion Boards. He had a progressive way of thinking about his business, and it hit home with me how he wants to ‘be better’.

The 30+ strong group walked by the River and the discussions were excellent
Following our pre meeting breakfast we entered the Houses of Parliament

The background of this Meeting;

As you’ll be aware, we have always tried to champion safety and the education of products. None have been more important to understand than the use of the Quick Release belt. In 2020, after a whole summer of deliberation about posting an article about Leashes and QR, we were convinced to proceed following an incident in Cornwall..

The article in question was several months in the making during 2020

In August 2020, a teacher named Simon Flynn was in Cornwall with his friends, including Sam Foyle. Simon was out paddling in the Camel Estuary, became entrapped by his ankle leash in a mooring, was unable to free himself, and subsequently lost his life. Notes from the coroner pointed to this being an ‘issue for manufacturers to look at’… A tragic accident.

*Courtesy of the BBC* – Many people would have seen similar articles online

We were concerned about the sheer grey and unclear guidance that was available

Mid 2020, myself and Dale had been discussing, writing and deciding whether to post the Leash article (Link Here) – we were concerned about the sheer grey and unclear guidance that was available but following the above incident we felt we could no longer stand by and allow ‘grey guidance’ and had to act as a duty of care as paddlers. We’ve always been VERY cautious about advice or guidance we issue, speaking to training providers to gain the correct advice. We are aware that our platform is followed by many paddlers nowadays!

We’ve always been very, very cautious with advice on Safety, and we practice what we preach – @StandUpPaddleUK paddling in Cardiff

Upon completing the article. We published it, received thanks and the community on the whole confirmed clearer guidance had helped them. We did receive some negative comments but this is the world we live in, everyone has an opinion.. We then contacted several brands. When I say several, I mean the bulk of brands based in the UK selling boards. We will not name the names of who refused or didn’t respond but we can safely say, FatStickSup picked up the mantle immediately. Dale called Andy Warner, co-owner of FatStick, who instantly said he agreed that QR Belts should be a part of the SUP package and free within them. Within days, we had a FatStick prototype belt being tested. Soon after, he had contacted customers to let them know they would retrospectively issue them a belt. How amazing is that? Andy is a legend at the best of times, but this was peak Andy. So hats off to him and Reuben for this.

Ben, from Pandaboard Sports has been doing huge things in the community with QR Belts and making them accessible to all, including other brands for a low cost. It’s a no-brainer. The ‘cost over safety’ discussion isn’t worth the words – it’s a minimal cost to the manufacturers. We have tested his belt and can confirm it is an excellent budget belt.

The Meeting:

Hosted by MP Alex Chalk, with attendance from the likes of RNLI, RLSS, UK Harbour Masters Association, Water Skills Academy, British Canoeing, various brands / companies including FatStick, Red Paddle Co, Active 360 London, Pandaboard Sports, Sealion Boards, Sandbanks amongst many others! We met in a Chamber, and the speeches followed. MP Alex Chalk spoke well on the matter, and it was clear to see he had a connection with Sam and Simons story and the incident. Lee Heard from the RLSS then spoke and commented “It was a monumental event to consider how a collaboration of organisations can continue to support the growth of Stand Up Paddleboarding whilst ensuring that safety is first and foremost”. This was followed by a short outline of paddleboarding by John Hibbard, Red Paddles’ own QR belt, and their P.L.O.T campaign.

MP Alex Chalk introducing Sam Foyle and other MPs

This was followed by discussions between all parties in the room. How to improve, what other companies are doing that they weren’t or maybe doing differently. The general ethos was that within that room was the recipe for change. Several brands on discussion all said the same thing, this is a big day and the time for change is upon us. Comments of incorrect use of QR belts were quickly brushed aside, with the correct education. It is a simple tool that is potentially life-saving.

Andy of Fatstick (Centre right) and Darren of @StandUpPaddleUK (Far right) discussing the matter with Sam Foyle (Far left)

There are various belts out there, some independent of board manufacturers. I’ll list a few with some links – this is not extensive, or in any means a ranking or endorsement that StandUpPaddleUK has tested them. Personally, I own 3 different ones, all different brands.

FatStick QR Belt / PandaBoardSports / Red Paddle/Red Equipment / Peak UK Guide Belt / HF SUP Buddy Belt / Quroc Belt / Hatha QR Belt and Coil

Out wearing a Yak QR Belt and HF coiled Leash on the Grand Union Canal – a slow moving body of water which in our view, requires a QR Belt

Heres something we’ve worked on since the meeting. A list of brands who do and do not provide a QR Belt with a Board:

This list is not extensive but has been based on the research over the past week, since the Parliamentary meeting. We are aware of many smaller brands who are in the industry. So we’ve contacted as many as for information, so any later inclusions may be possibleat the time writing, our list is up to date and Updates will follow up with any changes within the industry.

Provided with a Board:
FatstickSup
McConks (Pandaboard Sports QR Belt – other brands optional on site also)
Family Sup (Pandaboard Sports QR Belt)
Because Sup (Pandaboard Sports QR Belt)
Quroc
Hiks (Pandaboard Sports QR Belt)
Freshwaterbay Sup Co

Doesn’t provide with a Board:
Red Paddle Co (w/ a White Water Board they do)
Hatha (Has own QR Belt but an extra)
Aquamarina
BluefinSup
O’Shea
TwoBareFeet
Gladiator
Turtle Bay (Will provide a QR with last of current range; the next range of 2022 boards will come with a QR)
Starboard Sup
Sea Lion Boards (pending inclusion of a QR Belt – TBC on dates)
Sandbanks (an option for Pandaboard Sports Belt at checkout currently, may change – TBC)
AW Sups (offers a lesson with a Board sold, no QR)

Manufacturer that Sells a Standalone QR belt:
Hatha, Quroc, Red Paddle Co

Non Board Manufacturer selling a QR belt:
HF
Peak UK
Pandaboard Sports
Palm
Whetman
Yak
Zennway

Educate yourself when it comes to your own kit

Brands need to take away the chance of a user ‘neglecting the right choice‘. What I mean by this is, people want to spend as little money as possible and get as much as possible for their money. At the point of sale, brands / manufacturers should be noting their boards come with the ‘traditional’ ankle leash and a QR Belt – it has been banded around that it should be an option at point of sale, as an accessory, but an option would likely come with a lower price point – we believe this ‘option’ should be removed and the brand / manufacturer makes an informed decision on the grounds of safety to the end user. That brand or manufacturer should then be providing education of the provided QR belt and how to wear it, including adjustment and removal. We believe, as do some brands, that they should be offering lessons when you buy a board – this was discussed at the meeting but logistics I fear would be tough, and hard to police – but a great prospect.

We think that’s a paramount point; if you’re buying a paddleboard, have you had a lesson with a qualified instructor?

Do you know how to use all of the kit?

Overall Governance?

For many in the industry, you gain your information from your chosen or trusted place. StandUpPaddleUK gain their information from all areas but trust the comment and guidance of the Water Skills Academy. This is based on our experience with them and others in the same position. In terms of governance, some are claiming to be the leading figure when, in reality, there is no lead governance. What was clear from Mondays meeting was that the governance needed to be independent. Not solely a brand, charity, or training provider. Maybe an amalgamation of all parties on a Board of Trustees for the sport. It is clear the sport needs to be Stewarded by parties who do need to receive financial gain from it. We will see how it follows up in the next meeting..

We feel the meeting was a huge step forward to the Sport

Our Stance:

Every board sold should be with a QR Belt as standard, included in the list price. That is our goal, along with several others. We also believe a Governing Body or Board of Trustees for the sport is required. How that shapes up, we are unsure currently, but StandUpPaddleUK will assist in any way possible.

Brands and ManufacturersWe continue to want to work with you on this – Contact us!

Our message is clear!

@StandUpPaddleUK‘s Advice remains the same as it did in 2020:
• Straight Ankle – only option for SUP surfing. Can include Sea (if open water and not setting off or returning to areas like ports / moorings) + Never in White Water.
• Coiled Ankle – Flat Water ie a lake, the open Sea and when Racing. Never in White Water, not for fast moving Rivers
• QR belt with Coiled Leash – Any type of water, always in WW, but never for SUP Surf. We would also note use on fast moving rivers due to the water speed, even slower canals due to the likelihood of below water dangers. The ability to remove it easily and fast is live saving.

Also, a note on Bauer Media, they’ve done amazing work covering this and working with Sam. Andrew Kay (Greatest Hits Radio), who shot everything on the day, is also due credit on this.

Click the image for his Article

As ever, stay safe out there. Educate yourself, educate your friends and always, always be safe on the water.

Thanks – Darren and Dale @StandUpPaddleUK

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