SUP Business

Creating Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Every Operator should have their Standard Operations Procedures (SOP) documented as part of their paperwork.  The document has the following functions:

  • Creating it affords an ideal opportunity to self-audit the procedures and processes of the operation, and ensure that nothing is being missed
  • It creates an instant how-to manual for the operation for new members of staff, and/or for other members to run part or all of the operation in the absence of the owner/manager
  • It forms the basis for regular scheduled checks that everything is being done correctly
  • It is a document that will be referred to in the event of any investigation following an incident.

Every operation will have a different SOP.  The following template should serve as a useful guide to writing your own. It is effectively a diary of what you do (or should do!)  with your operation. 



Operator:  Your business/institution name.

Operations Manager  (OM): The senior member of staff taking overall responsibility for operations on that day.

Group Leader (GL): The member of staff on the water in overall charge of any paddleboarding  activity. 

Deputy: An assigned member of the group to be the 2IC should the need arise.

Session:  Any activity or lesson provided by the Operator.

Base: The shore base location for the session, where vehicles will be parked, primary 1st aid kit kept and the rendezvous location for emergencies. 

Section 1: Routines

Note: these routines are in addition to the specific activities involved in and around any on-water sessions.

1.1 Daily Routines   

Check email, mobile and social media pages for bookings and contact from clients

Check calendar for forthcoming sessions

Check long range weather forecast: Metservice, [enter your preferred forecast media here]

1.2 Weekly Routines

Stocktake:  Verify location of all equipment

Equipment Inspection – see Appendix 1

Review logs,  follow up any outstanding bills, messages

Check first aid equipment and supplies, ensure anything that has been used has been replaced.

Replace/refill all water bottles in trailer

Check (and replace if necessary) level of suncream in trailer

1.3 Monthly Routines 

Check first aid kit for expiry dates

Check tyres and WOF on trailer

Replace sugar source in instructor safety kit, check everything else for serviceability

Equipment Inspection – see Appendix 1

Section 2: Operations

2.1 The Day Prior To Any Intended Session

Operations Manager Responsibilities

OM will check for the following day:

  • Weather forecast;
  • Tide times;
  • Any conflicting activities at the planned location which might take precedence or create hazards for your session.

If conditions are NOT favourable

Can the session be held at an alternative location?

If yes:

  • Advise all parties of the change of location, 
  • Adjust travel times and schedule if necessary
  • Consider any other specific requirements for the new locations 

If no:

  • Commence cancel/postponement proceedings
  • Ensure that all parties are advised

If conditions are favourable

  • Check GL is briefed and has sufficient support team members as required.  
  • Contact clients to confirm sessions, locations and times
  • Check RAMs for chosen location – anything else needing to be considered or addressed?
  • Check all equipment is available and assigned. 
  • Ensure GL has full list of clients, contact details etc. 

Group Leader Responsibilities

  • Check through RAMs for the chosen venue – anything else needing to be considered or addressed?
  • Check that the equipment/trailer is loaded and ready to go – check trailer lights.
  • Check fuel and drinking water.
  • Check personal attire requirements, First Aid and other safety gear all loaded.
  • Check all required paperwork is loaded.
  • Check client details, names, contact numbers etc, for each session

2.2   Session Day Set-Up

All responsibilities detailed from here on will rest with the Group Leader. 

Always aim to arrive at least 30 minutes before first booked session, if applicable.

Immediately on arrival,  complete H & S check:

  • First Aid kit within reach
  • Appropriate EAP is at the front of the folder
  • Location of nearest defibrillator 
  • Location of nearest fire extinguisher 
  • Emergency exits (if indoors) /  Assign assembly points if outdoors
  • Assess water, wind and tide conditions – do they match those forecasted or will you need to change your plans for the session?
  • Visual check of water environment for new or undocumented hazards. Note any changes, in order to update RAMs and consider changes to session if necessary.
  • Visual check of shoreside environment for new or undocumented hazards. Note any changes, in order to update RAMs and consider changes to session if necessary.
  • Status of toilets and facilities (ie open/accessible etc)

Set Up Environment

  • Assemble tent/operating area
  • Put out flags & signage
  • Ensure paperwork is ready
  • Cash float, hydration, nutrition
  • Check other team members are present, briefed on roles, duties and emergency procedures
  • Check briefing is ready to deliver.

Prepare Client Equipment

  • Unpack van / trailer , carrying out essential checks as documented in Appendix 1
  • lay craft and paddles out, in the shade if possible
  • Check each craft is correctly configured
  • Check PFDs are ready. 

Prepare for specific clients/bookings, if appropriate

  • Client names and details
  • Assign boards and paddles
  • Waiver forms

Prepare Instructor Equipment

  • Instructor craft
  • Paddle
  • PFD
  • Personal gear
  • phone
  • rash vest
  • watch
  • hat
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
  • hydration

Final Preparations

If still time before clients arrive:

  • complete further RA sweep
  • remove any rubbish

2.3   Client Arrival

Greet adults in charge of participant group, outline immediate H & S requirements ie hazards, where participants should assemble, etc. 

Outline session plans to staff, get register of participants. 

Ensure clients  acknowledge and sign waiver

Ensure emergency contact details are recorded for all unaccompanied minors

Check attire of group and distribute/fit PFDs as necessary.

Formally greet participants, introduce the team, check register of participants, ensure all the team and school staff are agreed on exact number of participants.

Safety briefing for the session – see appendix 2

Final client check – see appendix 3

Activity briefing for the session

Session begins

Session to follow appropriate format, see Appendices 4-6

2.4    Session End

Get all clients and equipment ashore

Warm down if appropriate

Return any property to clients

Reclaim any loaned property (specsavers, etc)

Discuss progress and next session

Note any injuries or incidents in the log book and consider follow up action

Equipment inventoried and packed up (or made ready for next session)

Debrief with participants

Debrief with team

Pack away or prepare for next session

2.5 Between Sessions

Staff and assistants to hydrate, refuel & reapply sunblock as necessary

Rebrief other staff and assistants, consider how things are going and change plans if necessary.

Check weather forecast

Check phone for messages

Visual check of:

  • tidal conditions and consider impact over next few hours
  • Weather conditions and consider impact over next few hours

Move equipment into better shade, if required

2.6   End of Day

Final check of site to ensure nothing left behind.

Complete Incident Reports  and/or Equipment Issue reports if required. 

Complete Session Report and staff logbooks

Submit reports to CRNZ.

Return equipment to base or to next operator. 

Sort finances for the day

Write up client progress, thoughts on equipment progress etc

Circulate social media pictures if appropriate

Send out follow-up emails confirming future bookings

Write up and adjust procedures for any noted changes to risk assessments for the venue or session. 

Section 3: Operating Locations

[operators should provide a written venue analysis of all their primary operating locations, ideally in a format similar to that shown in the example below.  If sessions only take place at the Operator’s base location, the details listed below should still be recorded, so that they are in the Operations Manual and easily accessible for a group leader or team member needing to access them in a hurry.   If the venue is not well known to all staff involved, include a map showing all the important features and locations. ]

3.1 Location X

Description: Pontoon allowing launching into the inlet, very safe and sheltered water.

Parking: Plenty of car parking

Facilities: Public toilets 150m away at the car park. 

GoodGrub Restaurant (food, drink, toilets, first aid, fire exts)

Opening hours: 10am-9pm Thursday-Monday 

Stone Store (shop, drinks, ice creams, defibrillator)

Opening hours:.  10am-5pm 7 days

Tidal Access: Usable at all tides

Local Hazards: Rocks and submerged objects at low tide. 

Some occasional boat traffic.  

Unprotected drops at wharf edge

Coaches and buses turning

Emergency Access: Very good. 5 minutes from nearest St Johns Centre.

Address: 150 Beach Road, Newtown. 

Phone Signal: Yes, all bands. 

Nearby residents:  500m away up the main road, if shop/cafe is shut.

Defibrillators: GoodGrub Restaurant, hanging up behind the till.  

Fire Extinguishers: GoodGrub Restaurant, in front and back kitchen

Fire hose on the outside wall

Lat/Long: 35°13’04.5″S,    173°57’46.7″E

Appendix 1: Equipment Maintenance Schedule

Write in your standard daily, weekly and monthly equipment maintenance and checking schedule for the following.





[adjust Emergency Kit and Paperwork to suit your particular set up and requirements]

Emergency Kit   

All items present:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Splint
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Extra survival blankets
  • Notes folder, all EAPs and sufficient Incident Forms

Replenish any used items


Waiver forms and brochures in the bag

Appendix 2: Standard Safety Briefings

[Insert your standard safety briefing texts here]


Other Possible Inclusions

The SOPs are the place to include any other relevant documentation for your operation, such as:

  • Child Protection Policies
  • Drug & Alcohol Policies
  • Equipment Manifests
  • Client Confidentiality Procedures
  • Waivers
  • Professional Development Policies

etc etc.

A good SOPs document should essentially give another operator (with the appropriate experience) all the information they need to step into your shoes and run your business.

Once you have written your SOP, don’t just file it away and forget about it. Many operators inevitably don’t refer to their SOPs that often, preferring to run the business from ‘within their head’. However, it’s all too easy to forget or overlook something , which could then create much bigger problems. Proper procedures and a methodical approach makes for less hassle, more control and a much safer environment.

Other Considerations

To finish off, here are a few other considerations for your SUP business, based on what has worked/is working in and around New Zealand SUP businesses. Not all will apply to you, but hopefully you will find some of the suggestions and ideas here of use.

So that’s it – we hope you’ve found this course of use. If there is anything that we should have covered but haven’t, please let us know. And remember, if you want to know more about the mechanics of teaching SUP, or more information on understanding SUP equipment, or understanding the conditions, interpreting weather forecasts, giving safety briefings etc, then you’ll need to sign up for the Level 1 SUP instructor qualification. This covers all that sort of material in great detail, and again can be done as an online course. 

Best of luck with your plans!

Promotion & Marketing

Your SUP business is no good without customers. So how do you get the word out there, and just as importantly, keep them coming back? The following video covers these points and a few others.

We hope you found that useful. If you have any other recommendations for what has worked for you in terms of promoting your business, then please don’t hesitate to pass them on, we’d love to include them.

Creating your Emergency Action Plan (EAP)

It is vital to have all the information needed in order to deal with an emergency, in an easily accessible format.  This is the Emergency Action Plan (EAP). If something goes wrong in a session, particularly if a medical emergency is involved, it is essential that every member of the team knows what to do, where to go and who to call.  This is no time to be making rushed decisions, or having to search through large documents to find the relevant information.  

What should an EAP look like?

An EAP should be simple and concise, and contain all the information needed, ideally on one single side of A4. Multiple copies of this can be laminated and stored in emergency kitbags, vehicles, trailers, etc. 

A sample EAP is shown below .   If there are multiple staff members likely to be on site then individual roles for each staff member in the event of an emergency should also be included on the EAP.

Important Contacts

This section should include all the phone numbers that are likely to be needed, which may also  include other team members, managers, local marine rescue services, harbourmasters, other water activity operators who may be able to assist, etc.  For operators in non-urban areas where an ambulance may be more than a few minutes away, medical contact details should include all local assets such as GPs, local paramedics, etc

What about emergencies on the water?

Plans and procedures for dealing with emergencies on the water should be covered in your Safety Management Plan, where each on-water emergency scenario can be analysed in detail.  They should all essentially connect to the same EAP once all participants have reached the shore. 

Accuracy of Information

It is vital that all the information shown on the EAP is regularly checked and validated.  Phone numbers can change, locations of emergency equipment can change.  The validation process for the EAP should be a routine part of the Safety Officer’s brief and documented in the operation’s SMS. 



Emergency Access: Pebble Beach  is at the far end of  Richie McCaw Road,  postcode 0932

Lat/Long: 35°13’04.5″S,    173°57’46.7″E

Phone Signal: Yes, all bands. 

Nearby residents:  500m up the hill, if beach cafe  is shut. Best to drive!!

Defibrillators: OPENING HRS ONLY Pebble Beach Cafe, inside the door directly on the right

24 HR ACCESS:  Cornerstone Church,   top of the bypass  (5 mins drive)

Fire Extinguishers: OPENING HRS ONLY Pebble Beach Cafe, in front and back kitchen

Fire hose on the wall of Pebble Beach Cafe

In the event of an emergency, the following procedures will be implemented: 

  • All participants and casualty(s) off the water and to assembly point (front lawn of cafe)
  • Collect Emergency kit from vehicle if necessary
  • Instructor to administer/supervise emergency first aid. 
  • Call 111 if the injury / situation requires, OR remove patient to Pebble Medical Centre if appropriate (by instructor in charge or appropriate person by car i.e. parent )
  • No injured patient to walk up the gangway or into car park areas unattended
  • Notify parent or care-giver if the injured party is a minor.
  • All participants to remain on front lawn of cafe until instructed otherwise by chief instructor. 
  • If awaiting arrival of emergency services:

Continue any first aid. 

Use high-vis vests from emergency kit and assign people to scene control.  

Carry out full SAMPLE checks (on camera) on casualty if applicable

  • Complete Accident/Incident report to be signed by instructor in charge at time of incident and patient/witness
  • If applicable, debrief other participants and staff for their version of what happened, to create a more detailed account

Important Contacts

All  Emergencies (Police, Coastguard etc):  111

Local Paramedics:  Bob Scott:  0274 123456    –  Sara Reid  0277 456283

Pebble Medical Centre:  4 Homestead Rd,  09 207 7777, Open Mon-Fri 0800-1700, Sat  0800-1300

Unichem Pharmacy:  64 Pebble Road,  Tel  09 207 7144. Open  Mon-Fri 0830-1730, Sat 0900-1300.

Creating your Risk Assessments & Management Documentation (RAMS)

Risk is an inherent aspect of all watersports. It is impossible to make activities in the watersports environment entirely risk free, therefore it is your responsibility as an operator to recognise, manage and minimise the hazards and risks.  

Hazard: something that can cause harm
Risk: the chance that a hazard will cause harm

Risk Assessment and Management (RAMs) documentation is also required when working with school or corporate groups – they will want to see your RAMs before proceeding with any bookings.

As discussed in the legislation lesson detailing the PCBU concept, it is important to note that the workplace for organised watersport activity also includes areas that are not actually on the water, i.e; when meeting up in the car park or club house beforehand, on the beach, etc. These environments also contain risks which must also be managed, since they all constitute part of the operational area, and the operator is responsible for health and safety in those areas just as much as on the water. 

In this lesson we are only considering the risk due to hazards that can cause physical harm to any of the people in the workplace, which may include staff, assistants, clients or spectators. Any commercial business is also subject to other sorts of risk such as financial risk, operational risk or strategic risk. Those types of risk are very real but should be considered separately.

Ownership and Updating

While a specific individual in an organisation should be designated as in charge of the Risk assessment and management (RAM) process and documents,  risk management is the responsibility of everyone in the organisation. If someone identifies a new hazard then it should be reported, even if it is dealt with straight away, to ensure that the RAM document & process can be modified and updated accordingly, as that hazard may return at some point in the future. 

The Risk Assessment & Management Process

There are many different formats and breakdowns to the RAM process, but essentially they all come down to the following:

  1. Identify risks
    Risk identification should concentrate on the realistic risks that may occur during an activity session.  It should consider their likelihood and severity, so as to ensure that management is properly prioritised. 
  2. Do something about them
    Can the risk be removed? If not, can it be controlled, and/or minimised? Whose responsibility is it to remove/control/minimise that risk?
  3. Repeat
    Risk management is never finished, particularly in watersports where the operating environment can change rapidly.  Processes must be in place to assess for new risks on a constantly ongoing basis, and the management of existing risks is constantly reviewed to see if it can be done any better. 

Documenting RAMs

The standard format for documenting risk assessment and management is a table identifying and detailing all the significant risks, and analysing what can be done about them.  There are numerous approaches and layouts used for this, all of which have their merits and disadvantages. Click here for a sample RAMS Template. Our suggestion is to use a format that

  • Is easily readable and understandable for your operation and team. Ensure it makes it easy to get the information you need from it.
  • Focuses on risks in logical groupings (ie grouping all shore based risks together)
  • Lists risks in order of priority for each grouping, so the most likely/significant risks are at the top.

Why Bother?

Many operators query the point of a written Risk Assessment & Management process, on the basis that it is something they do automatically anyway, so why waste paper?  There are three main reasons for going through this process:

  • It is a vital exercise in ensuring that you really have given proper consideration to all the hazards and potential risks in your operating area
  • Many contractors (schools, corporate groups etc), will ask to see your RAMs when booking your services so you need to have them written out
  • Your RAMs should be part of the standard induction process for any new employees in your operation. By reading through the RAMs they should be able to get a complete picture of all the hazards and risks in your operating environment.
  • In the event of anything going wrong, the first thing that any investigating authorities will want to see is your RAMs!

Click here for a sample RAMS Template

The template above contains a large selection of potential risks for watersports activities. Not all will be applicable to any particular venue, and there may well be others in your particular venue that are not listed here. It is your responsibility to carry out your own full risk assessment, and keep it updated. 

The example given here is one of many different ways that Risk Assessment and Management tables can be set out. The columns are as follows:

Hazard: The identified item or action that can cause harm

Risks: The harm that a hazard could cause

S = Severity
On a scale of 1-5, how serious is the risk in terms of harm it could cause.  
1 = No Harm 5 = Extensive harm
This should be filled in according to your own assessment of your specific environment, operations and clientele

L = Likelihood
On a scale of 1-5, how likely is the hazard to occur? 
1 = unlikely, 5 = very probable.
This should be filled in according to your own assessment of your specific environment,  operations and clientele

Steps taken Steps taken to remove, isolate, minimise or manage the risk.   

Actions What should happen if this problem occurs. Some sample/suggested actions are shown but this should be completed according to how your specific operation is run. 

Responsibilities Whose job is it to manage this risk.  Some sample/suggested personnel are shown but this should be completed according to how your specific operation is run. 

Note – for Severity and Odds, it is also a common option to colour code these (red = most dangerous etc), to give greater visual clarity to the RAMs. 

Documenting the Risk Assessment Process

The Operator’s Risk Assessment Documentation should also include the actual process followed in creating the risk assessments. Which will look something like this:

Step 1: Identify activities which will take place.

Step 2: Identify potential hazards and corresponding risks for each activity (ie what could go wrong?)

Step 3: Analyse Risk: Assess potential impact and possibility of it occurring, (see 2.5 Risk Formulas)

Step 4: Apply control strategies to reduce the level of risk.

Step 5: Identify responsibilities for the delivery of the controls 

Step 6: Repeat the process after each activity to assess accuracy and reliability of system

Risk Formulas

Many operators use a scoring system to create a numerical approach to risk management, such as the following:

Likelihood of Risk      ScorePotential Impact of RiskScore
Unlikely but not impossible1Minor: light first aid required, within capabilities of team1
Uncommon but not unlikely2Moderate: medical treatment required but no permanent or long term effects likely2
Quite likely to happen3Severe: Medical treatment required with potential irreversable damage, even death3

Add the Risk Likelihood Score and the Risk Impact Score together, to create RISK LEVEL score

Combined ScoreRisk StatusAction
2LowProceed, ensuring team are aware and prepared, and appropriate first aid facilities are on site
3-4ModerateProceed with caution, monitoring and with full EAP in place. 
5-6UnacceptableDo not proceed.

Note, this is purely an example table. What constitutes unacceptable risk will depend entirely on the activity and clientele. Events such as downhill mountain biking or big wave surfing, for example, carry an intrinsic risk of severe injury that are very much part of the event. Whereas an activity for young children needs to be managed with as close to zero risk as is possible.

Other Considerations

Other hazards and risks that may be applicable to your operation could include rips, currents, effects of extreme tides,  effects of excessive rainfall (water pollution, overly strong river flows, extra currents etc), also participant behaviour.  There may also be a requirement for extra shore based risk analysis , if the assembly or dry land operations area is subject to significant other traffic and/or associated hazards.

Risk assessment of weather and water conditions is often best done as a separate document, detailing specifically what will happen if the wind suddenly increases from the north, the east, the south, etc, and/or impact of rain, action to be taken on detecting thunderstorms, etc. A sample of this sort of specific RAM document is shown in the sample RAMS

Sessions involving paddling in a wider area, particularly if involving any exposure to greater offshore distances, or areas where immediate shore access is impossible (ie along in front of rocks, cliffs etc), should include a separate risk analysis and emergency action procedure.

Likewise, equipment failure is too wide a topic to handle as just one line in the table. Depending on the equipment used it may be worth creating a specific RAM sheet analysing the impact of each likely breakage scenario, and the actions to be taken thereof.

Creating your Safety Management Plan (SMP)

Your organisation will need a safety management plan. The Safety Management Plan (SMP) is the document that sets out the Safety Management System (SMS)

The Safety Management System (SMS) is the management system designed to manage all aspects of safety in the workplace. It includes policy, objectives, plans, procedures, organisation, responsibilities and other measures. In other words, it’s more than just bits of paper, it’s the way the whole thing functions. Everyone in your organisation is part of the safety management system. The safety management plan is the written part of it, that brings all the various threads together on paper.

You will have already created a lot of the required material in your SOPs, if you’ve detailed all your checks and checklists there. Some operators choose to put this material in the SMP rather than the SOPs, but it works equally well either way, as long as the material is readily accessible.

Because a Safety Management System (and therefore the Plan) is determined by so many different aspects, this isn’t one where we would feel comfortable simply providing a template to copy. Instead, we’ll refer you to the Support Adventure Website, which has a lot of guidance and templates here.

The rules and recommendations for renting paddleboards

Renting paddleboards to the public brings with it some different requirements and challenges. The following video discusses these issues and will take about 10 minutes to complete.

Rules and regulations for hiring paddlecraft are currently under review and may change. The advice given in this lesson will hopefully remain good, but anyone looking to get into the realm of renting paddleboards for reward should definitely check with their district and regional council as to whether there are any specific rules for their area, and see if anything new has been added to the Maritime NZ website.

The documentation your business will need

This lesson runs through the essential documentation that your business will need. The video will take about 18 minutes to view. 

In later lessons we’ll look at the specifics of creating your own SMP, RAMS, SOPs and EAP.

Understanding the Adventure Activities Legislation

 If you are planning on doing tours or any type of more advanced or adventurous paddling, such as taking clients further offshore or into more challenging conditions, then you may need to register as an adventure activity. This is again a specific legal requirement, and has some specific connotations.  There are hefty fines in place for operators caught offering adventure activities without having gone through the proper process, so this is not something you want to mess with.

The video below will explain what constitutes adventure activities, and what you need to do if your planned activities are going to cross this threshold. The video will take about 10 minutes to watch.

Here are those links again

And the email address for the WorksafeNZ Adventure Activities team:

The Laws and Legislation that will affect you

Whatever type of paddleboarding operation you are planning, unless you intend to operate as a completely free service, your operation is seen as a place of work, under New Zealand Health and Safety legislation.  This means you have various legal requirements and responsibilities, which we will discuss in the following video, which will take about 18 minutes to complete.  

A couple of important things to note, from the video. 

1: If you are planning on doing tours or any type of more advanced or adventurous paddling, such as taking clients further offshore or into more challenging conditions, then you may need to register as an adventure activity. This is again a specific legal requirement, and has some specific connotations.  There are hefty fines in place for operators caught offering adventure activities without having gone through the proper process, so this is not something you want to mess with.  We will cover this legislation in the next lesson.

2: If you are only intending to rent out paddleboards, with no instruction included, then the legal environment is slightly different.  Check out the specific lesson on that, which follows after the Adventure Activities lesson.