Stand Up Paddle Boarding Beginner Tips
Stand Up Paddle Boarding Beginner Tips
Today I wanted to take a look at an outdoor activity that isn’t hiking or climbing. We have done an article in the past on pack rafting. So I thought it would be ok to explore another water based activity. I for one think I would be extremely awful at paddle boarding. I always wanted to be a skateboarder growing up but my lack of balance hindered that. I see paddle boarding as being no different. The idea of standing on a board in water just gives me images of constantly falling into the water. Maybe you have the same thoughts. If so todays article is all for you, A Beginners guide to Paddle Boarding.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Paddle Boarding. SUP. Whatever you’d like to call it, paddling around on a giant surfboard while soaking in nature’s beauty is truly priceless. Paddle boarding has gained immense popularity the past couple of years for good reason. It offers a solid upper body and core workout, while being easy accessible. Nearly any body of water will work – ocean, lake, river, and even reservoirs. Many people are attracted to paddle boarding because it’s a safe, non-impact and easy to learn sport that brings peace and serenity while spending time on water. Paddle boarding requires minimal equipment that can often be shared among family members and friends. A one time investment will bring years of fun on the water. Sold? Alright, let’s check out where to begin…
Good news: You need just a few key pieces of equipment to enjoy SUP.
Stand up paddle board: This is by far your most significant gear investment. Your board choice is determined by a combination of paddler weight and skill, your intended use and the local conditions. See the REI Expert Advice article, Stand Up Paddle Boards: How to Choose, for details.
Paddle: Stand up paddles have an angle or “elbow” in the shaft for maximum efficiency. Choose a paddle that’s roughly 6″ to 8″ taller than you are (note: some manufacturers recommend an 8″ to 10″ differential).
PFD (Personal Flotation Device): The U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand up paddleboards as vessels, so always wear a PFD. (You should also carry a safety whistle and use a light if you are paddling after sunset).
Proper clothing: For cool conditions where hypothermia is a concern, wear a wetsuit or dry suit. In milder conditions, wear shorts and a T-shirt or bathing suit—something that moves with you and can get wet.
Leash: Typically sold separately, a leash tethers your SUP to you, keeping it close by if you fall off. Your SUP is a large flotation device, so being attached to it can be important for your safety. There are leashes designed specifically for surf, flatwater and rivers; be sure to purchase the correct one for your intended use.
Sun protection: Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
Shop REI’s selection of paddle boarding gear.
How Do I Stand Up On My Board?
Once you’re in shallow water, standing beside your board, place the paddle so it’s perpendicular to the board. With your hands on either rail (the sides of the board) and one hand grasping the paddle handle, climb onto the board. Beginners should first kneel on the board, just behind the center, in order to find balance. The nose shouldn’t pop up, nor should the tail dig into the water. Once you’ve found the sweet spot, stand up!
Where Do I Stand on My Stand Up Paddle Board?
Unlike surfing, a paddler’s body faces the nose of the board. Feet should be parallel, about hip width distance apart, just behind the center of the board. Knees should always be slightly bent and the head and shoulders should always be upright.
How Do I Paddle?
Practice, practice, practice! The angle of the paddle shaft should be vertical in order to go straight. If it’s at an angle, the board will go sideways. Shifting your weight to side that you’re paddling on will also make for straight and faster paddling. Push down on the paddle handle grip with each stroke. Switch paddling sides every four or five strokes and be sure to reverse your hands. It’s that easy!
How Do I Turn?
Turning quite simply involves paddling longer on one side until the nose of the board turns, also called the Sidestroke. Paddle on the right to turn left and vice versa to turn right. Another quick way to turn is to Backpaddle to to paddle backwards on either side of the board. You can also drag the paddle in the water for a quick turn. Lastly, you can make a Sea Stroke to change direction. Plant the paddle as close to the nose as possible and drag it back towards the tail in the water. Check out all of our Paddle Board Turning Tips here.
Use a leash
This actually goes for all stand up paddle boarders but the sooner you are aware how vital a leash is in any kind of condition the safer you and everyone else will be when you are paddling. There are different types of leashes and different types of attachment points depending on what style of paddling you are doing, so be sure to check out these two articles: “Which leash is right for me?” and “Why do I need a leash on a SUP?”
Paddling with your core
I.E. Don’t use your arms. This may sound a little weird at first but paddling is best done by your core. These are the strongest muscles of your body and provide the most effective power for your paddle stroke. Standing up tall and using just your arms to paddle, will be very tiring and you won’t get much power. Watch this video for more on paddle technique: Stand up paddle board basics – Using Your Core.
Look at the horizon
When we first start paddling the natural temptation is to look down at the board, to watch the water lapping at the sides and to pray we aren’t going to fall in! However for the best stability, you want to keep your head up, back straight and your body weight over your toes. It sounds silly but with your head down watching you’re toes, you are likely to rock back on your heals and then hello water! Watch this video by Sam Ross about standing up on your SUP.
Fall off your board the right way
Even the pros fall off so this is always going to be a part of your stand up paddle boarding. What is important through, is how you fall. Just like you can practice tricks and wave riding, practicing falls or at least being aware of how to fall and fall safely can ensure your session is not cut short by injury. Paddle boards are big and can hurt when they hit you, when you fall, you want to fall away from your board. Don’t worry, you’re attached to it with your leash and it won’t go away, but falling well clear of the board will let you fall gracefully into water without falling on the board or the fins. This is especially important in any location with current or waves as the board will move independently of your input.