So you got a stand-up paddleboard for Christmas. Cool! Welcome to one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Did you get an inflatable or a hard board?

SUP is great for newbies, since you can learn the basics in a few hours. About 1.2 million people tried the sport in 2011 alone and it grew 25 percent between 2012 and 2015, according to the Outdoor Foundation.

But don’t just grab your board and your paddle and launch into the Cuyahoga River.

A few rules of the water:

  1. Wear a wet suit — or a drysuit. And a life jacket. Dress like you’re going to get wet. Even if you wait until spring to try out your board, that water will be cold! The U.S. Coast Guard has cold water tips.
  2. Stay alert, and stay away from freighters. Five short blasts of a horn means a ship is nearby. If you hear that, get over to the side of the river. Here are detailed instructions.
  3. Tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back.
  4. Carry a whistle on your life jacket.
  5. If you’ve got a marine radio, tune it to channel 16.

You might want to bring your kids, or your pup, along for the SUP. That’s great; my daughter loves to sit on the front of my stand-up paddleboard. has some smart reminders for both, including to make sure you’re in calm water, without current or waves, and to bring treats.

Water Safety for Kids: The Ultimate Checklist for Paddleboarding Parents