Best Paddle Boarding Tips for Beginners
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a fun and relaxing way to exercise and explore the water. One of the fastest growing sports in the world, paddleboarding is rooted on surfing and involves standing on what looks like a regular surfboard and moving through the water with a longer version of a canoe paddle. Over the years, it has evolved into other fun things like SUP Fishing and SUP Yoga.
If you're ready to give paddleboarding a try, these important tips will help you get the most out of the experience.
How to Get Started with Stand-Up Paddleboarding
First things first: Safety! If you live in an area that offers paddle boarding lessons, that is your best way to get started. A professional SUP instructor can teach you important techniques and safety. Keep these best practices in mind when you're first starting with SUP.
Choose the Right Paddleboard
As with any sport, having the right SUP gear can make a big difference in how much you enjoy it and how safe it is. Before you start stand up paddle boarding, make sure you have the best SUP board for your skill level and the environment you'll be paddling in.
Most of the time, it's best to start out with a thick, wide SUP that can be used in both flat and wavy water. You can also choose a touring SUP, which is good for both beginners and more experienced paddlers who want to go faster and further. Make sure to choose the right thickness or volume for your body type.
Make sure you get the right length for your paddle. This will keep you from having to stoop or bend over, which will save you energy and help you stay stable on the board.
The best paddle length depends on the activity you want to do, but as a general rule, you should choose one that is 9 to 10 inches taller than you are.
Choose the Right Paddleboard Gear
Bring the right SUP gear for the activity: Life vest, waterproof backpack or bag, a whistle and a light windbreaker jacket are good to have. Long sleeves or a UPF 50 rash guard or swim pants are best if you'll be out for several hours.
Wear Appropriate Clothing for Paddleboarding
This may be different for many paddle surfers depending on the time of year, skill level and where they are located. Wear appropriate clothing for paddle boarding and swimming – Do not wear heavy clothes that could be weighed down with water when it gets wet!
Lightweight, quick drying fabrics are best; Swimsuit bottoms, board shorts, swim leggings are good. For cold temps, opt for a wet suit. For paddleboarders who don’t wear a wetsuit, a rash guard will offer adequate protection from sunburn, waterborne irritants, and jellyfish stings.
Use a Paddleboard Leash
When you do any kind of water sport, safety is one of the most important things you need to think about. And when paddle boarding, you shouldn't forget to use a leash to keep yourself attached to your board. When you're tired, lost, or a little too far from shore, your board can save your life. But if it's not attached to you, it's easy to lose in windy or stormy conditions.
There are many different kinds of leashes (straight or coiled) and places to attach them (ankle or calf) to fit the preferences and paddling styles of each paddler. No matter what kind of leash you choose or where you plan to attach it, the most important thing to remember is that you need a high-quality leash that won't break but can be quickly removed. This is so that you can easily get out of trouble if a strong current pulls your board under or if you get caught in underwater plants.
You might also want to get a paddle leash at the same time so you don't have to swim after it every time you lose it.
Check Wind Direction
When you're standing on your SUP, your body tends to act like a sail. This means that if there are strong winds, you and your board will probably go in all different directions. This makes it much harder to paddle and get where you want to go, especially if you are just starting out. So, one of the most important (but often forgotten) tips we can give you about paddle boarding is to pay attention to the wind. Find out how the water is and what the weather will be that day before you go out on it.
The goal is to learn the basics and practice being stable without waves and strong winds getting in the way. If the speed and direction of the wind get to be too much for you, get low and lie on your board with your paddle tucked under your body. Then paddle with your arms like you would on a normal surfboard.
Learn the 'Right' Way to Paddle
People who paddle board often hold the paddle wrong, which is one of the most common mistakes they make. If you're new to stand up paddleboarding and haven't had a lot of training, your first instinct would be to hold the paddle so that the bent part of the blade is facing you so you can "scoop" yourself forward.
As it turns out, that's not the right way to use your paddle because it can make you lose your balance and cause splashing. Turn it over so that the part that is bent away from you is facing you.
Watch how your hands are placed. If your hands are too close together on the paddle, your strokes won't be as strong and you may get tired faster. Here's how to figure out where to put your other hand on the paddle (the one that isn't holding the grip on top):
- Stand up straight and hold the paddle by the end that is not the blade.
- Hold the paddle horizontally over your head with both hands, and rest the shaft on the top of your head.
- Make sure that the shaft is parallel to your shoulders and that the arm holding the grip forms a perfect 90-degree angle.
- Move the hand that isn't holding the grip along the shaft until you can make a 90-degree angle with that arm as well.
Use Your Core
When it comes to techniques, another important thing for beginners to remember about paddle boarding is that you should paddle with your core, not your arms. Your arm muscles won't give you as much power and will tire out much faster than your core muscles, which are much stronger. Engaging your core helps you paddle more efficiently and keeps you from falling off the board.
As you plunge the paddle or oar into the water, using your upper body to drag it toward you as you propel the watercraft forward, your core muscles—the muscles of your abdomen, low back, and even your hips—must engage to prevent your torso from twisting or swaying. Essentially, your core functions as an anchor for your extremities during paddling. And the more you engage in paddlesports, the stronger your core becomes as a result.
Paddle boarding is a good, low-impact workout that will strengthen your core and ab muscles.
Face Your SUP in the Right Direction
How do you know which end goes first? Don't make the mistake of surfing with the SUP facing the wrong way. This is a mistake that many new paddlers make because the front end isn't always clear to people who aren't familiar with boards, or don't know how to paddle, especially when using an all-around board with a big round nose.
The easiest way to know which way is correct is to look for the fins and make sure they are in the back, not the front. You'll know that you and your SUP are going in the right direction if you can keep your board straight as you paddle instead of having a board that keeps moving around and making you switch sides.
Keep Your Head Up
As a beginner, it can be hard to keep your head up and look straight ahead, since it's more natural to look down (probably because you're afraid of falling into the water). But the thing is, when paddle boarding, standing straight is very important because it gives you the most stability. And if you're looking at your feet, your head will also be facing down.
Standing up on the board is already a pretty hard thing to do, but staying on it is even harder. Stability is important, so don't look down, which can throw off your balance. Try your best to keep your head up and keep good posture by keeping your back straight, your legs slightly bent, your shoulders pulled back, and most of your weight on the balls of your feet.
Give Yourself Plenty of Room
Unless you're taking a group photo, there's no reason to paddle board next to someone else, especially if you're both just starting out. Just think about it: they'll make waves that could make you lose your balance, and they could also run into you. This makes it more likely that you will fall off your SUP and hurt yourself or someone else.
For your safety and the safety of everyone else, make sure you have enough space to move around. After all, the ocean (or river/lake, depending on where you want to paddle) is a big place.
Learn the Right Way to Fall
Find out how to fall off the board. It's normal for any paddler, no matter how good they are or how new they are, to fall off their SUPs. You will fall, and that will make you even more determined to stay on the board. It will also be a good learning experience because it will teach you how to fall so that you don't hurt yourself.
As a general rule, you should always try to fall away from your big, heavy board so that you don't hit your face on it or get hit by it. This is important when you are riding waves and currents.
Don't worry about the board, either. As long as it's on a leash, you shouldn't lose it in the water.
Learn How to Get Back Up on Your Board
Learning how to get back up on your paddleboard after you fall is very important, especially if you happen to be in waters that are undesirable, cooler than 65, downright cold or choppy. Know how to get back on your board quickly without panicking.
Kneel Until You Feel Comfortable Standing Up
For many SUP beginners, it's perfectly fine to kneel on your board until you feel more comfortable standing up. Take it slow if you need to and learn at your own pace. Remember, this is a time to relax, not stress out or get frustrated.
Don't Ride Out of Your Comfort Zone or Skill Level
No matter what you're doing out on the water, waves can be rough. And if you're just getting started, it's not a good idea to try to ride big waves. Save it for later. Start with smoother, smaller waves or calm waters in inner coastal areas until you have more experience and a better idea of how the water moves and how strong it is.
We hope that these paddle boarding tips will help you get more acquainted with paddle surfing and SUP. Most importantly, have a great time in the water while staying safe.