While the details about each incident are sparse, it is clear there are three things that could have prevented each one of the fatalities.
Learn how to paddle with proper technique. These days it is easy to stand and maintain balance on a paddle board. What is more difficult is mastering proper paddling technique. Anyone can drift along with the current or downwind. To paddle against or across a little current and/or wind requires some level of proficiency. Paddle boarders that do not know how to paddle correctly end up going nowhere (i.e., fail to make forward progress). Poor technique also leads to fatigue. With good technique, you are able to paddle in a straight line to get from point A to B as opposed to wasting energy zig-zagging. Using too much arm strength and rowing as opposed to using your legs and entire upper body for power can also lead to fatigue.
Wear a PFD. This means do not store the PFD on your paddle board in the bungees. Instead, wear it. Today’s inflatable PFD belts are small and light weight as opposed to the bulky and hot traditional vests. While your paddle board is your primary flotation device, the PFD will be there should you get separated from your board.
Wear a SUP leash. The SUP leash keeps you connected to a large flotation device. Secure it to your ankle or knee and you will spend more time paddling instead of swimming. You can purchase one for around $20. In addition to protecting you, the SUP leash also protects other people in the water from being hit with your paddle board. A SUP leash can also keep your paddle board from being damaged by preventing it from hitting rocks, piers, pylons, etc. A $20 investment to help protect you and a $1500 paddle board seems like a no-brainer.
Paddle boarding is a great way to get people out on the water. It is a safe and healthy sport. That said, there are a few basic steps you must take to stay safe when paddle boarding.