On 8 March 2022, RLSS UK’s Charity Director Lee Heard attended Westminster to speak as part of a stand up paddle board (SUP) safety event.

MP for Cheltenham, Alex Chalk, QC hosted the event as one of his constituents, Simon Flynn, sadly died whilst on holiday in Cornwall in August 2020 after the paddleboard ankle leash he was wearing became trapped underneath a boat mooring and he was unable to free himself.

The weight of the moving tidal water meant that Simon was unable to reach his ankle and release the strap; the coroner declared there was "an issue for manufacturers to look at".

SUP is the fastest growing water sport in the UK, supporting the desire to be adventurous, explore the water and environment and has both physical and mental wellbeing benefits. Although there has been a great deal of effort by individual groups to ensure SUP safety, the growth of the sport, equipment advances and accessibility has not been matched.

In 2021 there were over 100 paddleboard incidents and sadly, five people died following a paddleboard accident.

In response, MP Alex Chalk is backing a campaign, supported by Simon’s best friend Sam Foyle, that calls for the introduction of both a quick-release waist belt and an ankle leash to come as standard with all new SUP boards and for leash safety information to be featured at the point of sale.

To launch the campaign, the MP hosted a reception in Parliament on 8 March to bring together water safety organisations, governing bodies, training providers, manufacturers, retailers, Parliamentarians and families of victims to discuss SUP safety and awareness, as well the introduction of a quick-release waist belt and ankle leash as standard.

As part of this event, RLSS UK’s Charity Director, Lee Heard, was invited to attend to support the campaign and speak.

He said: “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.

“There was a strong commitment to open effective dialogue to ensure that we learn from tragic incidents and cooperate to ensure that safety equipment and standards are consistently advanced and that the exploration of education and awareness opportunities are co-created and exploited.

“SUP safety messages are simple and the commitment to agree consistency and understand the methods for education by all was overwhelming. Thanks must go to Alex and Sam for facilitating the event and securing the right people in the room. An important step in this developing work.”

Talking about the success of yesterday’s event, MP Alex Chalk said: “This has been an incredibly moving occasion […] people want to address this issue of ankle leashes versus waist leashes and also just bring a level of common sense regulation so that this sport that is loved by so many people, can happen in a safe way.

“We’ve already had a bunch of manufacturers say ‘I didn’t know you were doing this’ and ‘I didn’t know you were doing that’, and there is almost a sense of community here. There are a lot of people who work near or on the sea or in inland waterways […] people want their customers and people who buy from them to be safe, that is a matter of common decency, it’s also a matter of good business, and it’s within everyone’s interests.

“Of course it would be a small comfort to the family who have lost so much, if this can be the moment when people in the future don’t have to suffer in the same way. I hope, and in fact I’m quietly confident, that this is the beginning of a better chapter for safety in stand up paddleboarding.”

To view more from the day visit:

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RLSS UK has also recently teamed up with Water Skills Academy to offer a series of SUP safety video tips.

Watch the series of SUP safety videos

Read our SUP safety advice