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We partnered with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) to come up with tips to help you host a safe paddleboarding experience. These are best practices, but you’re the expert on the activities you lead. A great Host always thinks about what more they can do to keep everyone safe. 

Set the right expectations

If there are health, fitness, or other requirements needed to safely enjoy the experience, make this clear in your experience’s description. This includes providing details about the length of time, exertion and fitness required, and skill levels needed. It may seem obvious, but confirm that all guests know how to swim. 

Here’s a guide from the ATTA to help you communicate to guests what skill level is needed for your paddleboarding experience: 

River

  • Beginner: Navigating a slow-moving river (up to class I), with few obstructions that are easy to avoid. Maneuvers and occasional falls and climbing back on the board in minimal or no currents. Basic skills will be developed during experience.
  • Intermediate: Navigating some easy rapids with wide, clear channels (class I – II). Occasional maneuvering may be required to avoid rocks, waves, or other obstructions. Self-rescue is generally easy.
  • Advanced: Some river sections include large waves or hazards (up to class III-IV), avoidable with some skills and maneuvers in fast current to make ‘the lines’. Self-rescue is usually manageable but assistance might be required.

Touring

  • Beginner: Guests should expect an introduction to SUP – calm waters and close to the safety of shore. The effects of wind, current, or waves are negligible, any skills required are taught as part of the experience.
  • Intermediate: Paddling on flat-water, with occasional influence of wind, waves, or currents to be negotiated with minimal effort or technique. Little technical ability needed.
  • Advanced: Paddling with a bit of current, wind and/or waves. Routes may include short crossings or other legs where shore is not promptly available, therefore a basic level of skill and stamina to complete the routes are required.

Surfing

  • Beginner: Guests should know how to swim, but don’t need surfing experience: expect mellow waves, up to waist high, breaking over a forgiving bottom.
  • Intermediate: Guests should be comfortable paddling out and surfing waves a short distance from shore up to chest high, not overly powerful but still breaking from peaks over a sand or rocky bottom.

Communicate with guests often 

Once someone books, you can use Airbnb’s messaging system to introduce yourself and help your guests feel welcome and prepared. Let them know that you’re available to answer any questions. 

You should create an experience where your guests feel comfortable asking questions at any point. Try to anticipate common points of concern (such as how to use the bathroom on your experience, expectations for interaction with others, etc.). Address any concerns outright–and make yourself available to attend to these and any others questions throughout your experience. 

Listen with patience and authentic concern, and try to put yourself in your guests shoes. This could include practical matters like if there will be food, snacks, or water provided, if they should bring their own water bottle, and what bathroom facilities are available. Try to address these concerns before guests have to ask. What may seem normal to you may be difficult or fear-inspiring for your guests, so your communication is key to a safe and enjoyable experience. 

Follow local regulations & check forecasts

You should have the local knowledge to know if and when it’s acceptable for you to guide and what rules or regulations apply to areas in which you may paddleboard. You should know the weather forecast, and know these sites well enough to be able to anticipate harsh conditions and know evacuation options.

Set expectations with a pre-trip briefing

Before you head into the water, take the time to teach or review skills on shore with beginners. To make sure guests of any level are comfortable before you paddle out, talk objectively about conditions first, then offer tips on human factors such as cultural expectations for paddling the proposed route (local etiquette, legal restrictions, acceptable variations). 

As a host, you should be constantly assessing your guests’ skills, botht shore-side pre-launch and on the water. Once you’re in the water, keep checking in: ask guests how they’re feeling and observe them to see if they’re comfortable and if their skills match the conditions. 

Provide the right gear

Confirm with your guests that they’re comfortable on their specific board and paddle in the conditions in which you’re going out.  Have a specific discussion about the paddle leash: why it is (or isn’t) a good choice for this specific experience and conditions. 

If you provide wetsuits, booties, gloves and hoods, check them for holes and tears, and make sure the gear fits your guests properly. Rinse your gear with fresh water and store it away from sunlight to keep it in good condition.

Always have a comprehensive first aid kit easily accessible at your beach.

Choose the proper conditions

Before paddling out, talk to guests about conditions they may encounter such as the expected wind speed and direction, likely wave size, currents, and any sea life or underwater obstacles they should be aware of.  Keep an eye on conditions throughout the experience in case they change and you need to head in. You should be able to tell when conditions are too dangerous for your guest’s level.

Keep the fin side down: always choose safety

You should have rescue skills which match the conditions where you will be placing your guests: water lifesaving, and an up-to-date First Aid and CPR certifications.  If you’ll be more than an hour away from medical care, it’s best practice to have a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA), along with CPR certification. You should have extensive experience traveling in the areas and conditions where you lead guests. 

You also want to have an emergency action plan and share it with your guests. Let them know what they should do in case of emergency, which could include injury, unexpected weather, currents, or sea life, or a sudden increase in conditions. Find out more about making an emergency plan

Partner disclaimers

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA): Courtesy of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. ©2021 Adventure Travel Trade Association. All rights reserved.

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) name and logo are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement or vetting of, express or implied, of any product, service, person, company, opinion or political position. The ATTA does not select or approve, and is not involved in the selection or approval of, Airbnb Experiences or hosts. For more information about the Adventure Travel Trade Association, visit adventuretravel.biz.