Stand up paddle boarding or SUP is easier than you may think. With a few practical lessons, you will be able to navigate the waters with ease. Most people are deterred by the fact that they will be standing head high in the water with little or no support at all.
For beginners, it is always advisable to practice on calm waters around the beach. Not only is it a fun-filled activity for you and your family, but also an excellent way to work out. You will experience muscle growth in every part of your body including the toe muscles. If you are still not sure how to get started, here is a beginner’s guide to stand up paddle boarding.
Types of Stand up Paddle Boards
Stand up paddle boards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most popular paddleboard over the years has been a hard paddleboard. It was made of EPS foam and fiberglass. Right now, inflatable paddle boards have dominated the market.
As a beginner, choose an inflatable stand up paddle boarding. With it’s full and thick base, the wideness increases your stability in the water, with time you can gain experience and go for the smaller boards. Here are the shapes that you can choose from as a beginner:
This stand-up paddleboard has several advantages. It is easier to store because you can deflate it. When dropped, it will just bounce off the ground without any damage to it. It can also fit in the vehicle you are traveling in. You don’t need to purchase a roof rack. For beginners, it provides stability due to its extensive surface area. You need to practice in calm waters first before venturing further into the water body.
This paddleboard is for recreation purposes such as performing yoga. The full deck gives you enough space and stability to sit down and meditate. This stand-up paddle boarding is good for beginners as well.
This paddleboard is designed for fishing since it comes with a mounted fishing rod and baits tray. It has a wide surface area for storing the fishing gear and the catch. This feature is beneficial to beginners because of the wide area for stability.
The racing SUP is long and thin, for high speeds and efficiency. This stand-up paddleboard is for experienced pros. It is also used for racing competitions. For starters, this board is not good for you. The stability is low, and due to its shape, it cuts the waters at high speed.
They are popular in many beach competitions because of their ability to surf in huge waves and currents. Experienced surfers can maneuver in the waves easily, however, it is not advisable to practice on this paddleboard as a beginner. It is the least stable among the paddleboards.
Basic Stand Up Paddle Boarding Gear
The gear below will help you move through the water efficiently and also safely. They usually come in a whole package, but you may purchase individual equipment that suits your needs.
It is made of different materials like carbon fiber, aluminum, and plastic. The best height of the paddle should be about 10 inches above the paddler’s height. The blade should be bent at an angle to the shaft so that it allows a forward reach when stroking.
• SUP Leash
This leash is vital for your safety in the waters. In case you encounter a high wave, the rope is attached to a Velcro strap. You tie this strap to your leg when surfing. This way, the board will not be swept away from your reach if you fall. You should adjust the leash to a size that is reachable to the board in case of a fall.
• SUP Board Bag
This bag is for storing your paddle board to prevent damages and increase its durability. Especially the inflatable SUP, they deflate when pricked with gravel or sticks. It is essential to store them in this storage bag when not in use.
• Personal Floatation Device
This life vest is for your safety if you want to use your paddleboard in deeper waters from the beach. The US coast guard laws demand that you wear a life vest, in case things go wrong at some point during surfing. The floating life vest has to be approved by the US coast guard.
• Sun Protection, Safety Whistle, And Light
Sun protection include sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes respectively from the sun. US coast guards require you to have a whistle to warn approaching boats or surfers. Light is for those surfing at night. It will be easier to mount a rescue operation at night in case you have lights on.
How To Size Your SUP Paddle
Sizing your paddle depends on a variety of factors like your arm length, strength, height and the type of paddle board you are using. You can see that different persons will have different variations on the paddle length. Laird Hamilton, who was an experienced pioneer in paddleboarding suggested that the paddle height needs to be 4 inches above height. For touring in the water, the paddle should be extended for more power with each stroke.
For high-speed surfing, the paddle should be short for ease of maneuvering in the currents and waves. Another popular method to go about it is to hold the paddle in an upside-down position. The point at which the paddle is attached to the stick should be your eye level. If not, then adjust it to that position. Honestly speaking, these methods vary in different people. Just practice and come up with a right paddle height for your stand up paddle boarding. This website will provide you with more information when sizing up your paddle.
Standing Up on A SUP
The trick here is to use a paddle board that has a broader base for increased stability. As a beginner, always start in calm waters before venturing into deeper areas after gaining experience. Stand in knee-deep water. To prevent the fins from hitting the bottom of the ocean, you should hold the edges of the paddleboard before slowly lifting yourself into it in a kneeling position. You should always kneel at the center of the board.
It is easy to locate the center of the paddle board, and it’s the point where the carry handle is located. Once you are on the board, start rising gradually, first with your chest, then your legs. Rising abruptly will destabilize the paddleboard. That’s why it is advisable to start with a wide paddle board. To stay balanced in the water, your feet should be slightly bent, just ready for action. They should also be centered between the edges of the paddleboard. Look into the horizon, and not on your feet.
Basic SUP Paddling Techniques
A few principles can guide you in paddle boarding. They revolve around using your arms the lever and the pivot point. When paddling forward, your bottom arm should be still, while your top arm should be paddling forward. For each stroke, the paddle should be buried in the water for a more significant stroke.
For stability, paddle in a straight line, you can achieve it by paddling a few strokes on either side of the board. When switching the side strokes, you should interchange your arm position. This feature makes paddling more effective. Watch this video and see how it works.
When turning either right or left, your paddle works in conjunction with your knee. Place the paddle near the tail of the board and shift direction by bending your knee. It spins the nose of the board to the right side. It is known as the reverse sweep stroke. To turn left using the forward sweep stroke, position your paddle on the right side of the paddleboard, rotate your torso towards the left. The paddleboard will shift left. Your knee is pivotal in the turning process; that’s why it should be slightly bent.
Best Stand up Paddle BoardingTips
• Always use a leash
As a beginner, it is common to fall off the board often. The strap will help you not lose track of the board while in the water. It is for your safety.
• Hand position
Never hold the paddle with both arms on the same spot, one arm should be on the handle and the other on the shaft. This position gives you a good forward stroke.
• Back muscles
Let your core back muscles do the job. If you paddle with your hand muscles, you will be exhausted. Core muscles are situated in your back and are very powerful in providing the best stroke. The paddle should be fully immersed in the water.
• Parallel feet
Your feet should be parallel and shoulder width apart. This way, you will need less power to paddle and maintain stability.
• Face the right way
Before paddling, make sure the fins are situated at the back of the board. The fins help stabilize the board enabling it to face forward in a straight line. It will reduce instances of falling off the board.
• Look at the horizon
Beginners usually get scared, and they end up looking at their feet. Remember your posture is crucial in the paddling process and changing direction. Look at the horizon, keep your head high, your back should be straight and still. More importantly, your body weight should be centered on your toes.
• Falling off
It is also a possibility that you will fall off the board at some point in practice, even experienced surfers fall off. The best way to fall off is to stay clear from the board. The paddle board is big, and it may inflict injury to you especially in strong currents. Even if you fall away from the paddleboard, the leash is there to restrain it.
Don’t chew more than you can swallow, only chose the waves that suit your stability. It might seem fun to be riding in a wave, but some waves are mighty. They will sweep you off your feet. It’s recommended to start in calm waters before riding waves.
• The wind
There is a phenomenon known as the paddling prone. Always watch out for the wind, since you will be standing in the open like a sail. In case the winds change direction and speed fast, lie on your board and wait for things to get calm. You are much stable this way.
How to Transport Your Stand up Paddle Board
There are multiple ways to carry your paddleboard to your destination. The recommended approach is to lift the board by its carry handle in the middle. The second way is the car rack method. Most cars come with a rooftop rack that can be locked to deter thieves. Just strap your paddleboard on the frame and drive. If you are carrying your paddle board for a surfing competition abroad, be sure to pad your storage bag to avoid breakage properly. Some airlines might charge you extra for the paddle board. You can also carry the board on your shoulder, with the nose facing the front. That’s why the inflatable paddle board is convenient for you. You can deflate it, carry it around your bag and even store it.
Is Stand Up Paddle Boarding Difficult?
No, it isn’t. It is a fun way of utilizing your free time. Just follow the above steps in balancing your weight on the board, and changing direction using the paddle. One thing that most beginners find it hard to do at first is getting on the board. They rise quickly and end up falling. Climbing on the board should be gradual while holding the sides of the board. As soon as you master that technique, in a day or two, you will be paddle boarding like a pro. Nobody was born a pro, and you should be willing to learn and practice.
Stand up paddle boarding is not only a fun activity but also a workout session. Your muscles are involved in every process during paddling. They increase in size giving you that athletic look and help our body burn more calories in the long run. Most surfers do it for health benefits, instead of going to the gym. Invest in the right paddleboard and safety gear, and you are good to go.