When it comes to water sports, stand-up paddleboarding is one of the easiest to learn and master, as well as being a sport that just about anyone can do. Even so, there are a couple of silly mistakes that can happen to a first-time stand-up paddleboarder. These problems can embarrass or injure a beginner stand-up paddleboarder and just result in a less-than-fun time if not avoided. Some paddleboards are even lost due to blunders that could easily have been avoided, and great paddleboards aren’t cheap, for good reason! Don’t be that person. Prevent the most common first-time paddleboarder mistakes by looking over our list of 6 tips for the novice stand-up paddleboarder.
Why Paddleboarding Tips Can Help Beginners
Whether you are leasing a SUP and paddle, you have just bought your own equipment, or you’ve been out a few times to SUP in the past with a friend, this information may make a difference to your future paddleboarding sessions. While you’re looking over these great tips and bits of advice, some may appear obvious. Others will probably be a bit less intuitive, especially for people who are beginners to water sports or activities that require and build physical coordination. When you’re learning stand-up paddleboarding, it’s helpful to know a few tips and be more prepared so that you can be sure your first time on your SUP board goes smoothly and is enjoyable.
What You Need to Know About Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Whether you’re learning for your first time on a solid stand-up paddleboard or you’re using inflatable SUPs, these simple tips are applicable to all stand-up paddleboarding beginners. It’s a good idea to look them over before you get started learning stand-up paddleboarding, just in case there’s a helpful detail that you didn’t know about. More than just making sure you begin to stand up paddleboarding the right way, you can also avoid anything that will inconvenience you needlessly or even lose you your precious board.
1. Use a leash, don’t lose your board
This actually goes for all stand-up paddleboarders, not just beginners; however, the sooner you see how vital a SUP leash is in any kind of condition, the much safer you and everybody else will be when you are paddling. There are different types of SUP leashes and different types of accessories depending on what type of SUP paddling you are doing, so be sure to have a look at these additional posts: “Which SUP leash is right for me?” and “Why do I need a leash on a SUP?” Can you imagine how tragic it would be for people who get their brand new, beautiful paddleboards for SUP, take them out in the ocean, get knocked off by a wave, and lose their gorgeous boards forever? How heartbreaking!
Bring a life vest
In addition to having a SUP leash, there are a few other pieces of equipment in addition to the paddleboard that you might like to have when you start stand-up paddleboarding. Make sure you have a personal flotation device for your safety whenever you’re paddling, especially if you are a beginner, or you’re in an area of water that requires it. An inflatable paddleboard does not count as a safety flotation device. And not to mention, be sure you have the right size of the board!
Tie your stuff down
If you are bringing something along with you on your stand-up paddleboard or in a board bag, it’s a good idea to have some bungee straps (they may even attach to your paddleboard) to hold your belongings onto your SUP in case there is wind or you tip over by accident. Some paddleboards come with a board bag and bungee straps, but if your board doesn’t, you may want to think about investing in them if you need an option for storing your items while out on the water. Make sure all of your items are secure on your SUP paddleboard, especially if you have many heavy items.
2. Make sure your paddle is properly sized
You must have the paddle to scoop the water as you try to stabilize yourself on your board and paddle forward without falling in. As we all learn eventually, the paddle goes the other way (it’s okay, we aren’t judging), and it works more successfully when in the standing position. It also results in a smoother paddle stroke and less stress on your shoulders and elbows to remain straight up and have a long enough paddle.
Building your strength
The right size and length of SUP paddle makes such a big difference to your ability to paddleboard and makes the benefits stand-up paddleboarding gives you so much more significant. Not having to lean your body and bend your back so much to reach the water from decently sized boards will keep you much more comfortable throughout your ride, not to mention your progress in building up your fitness and form will be much improved.
Gripping the paddle properly
You’ll have an easier time keeping your balance, and you’ll be able to propel yourself through the water much more effectively. You also don’t need to hold your SUP paddle in an iron grip. You can use one hand to hold the top of the paddle, pulling the SUP paddle below with the other hand. Make sure you sink the paddle deep while paddling, with the blade fully in the water.
3. Face properly forward on your board
Prior to you jumping on the board, check where the fins are and make sure they are in the back when you paddle! Fins up front make for an extremely twitchy paddleboard that simply won’t go straight no matter how hard you try! These paddleboarding tips on attaching fins correctly can save you from some inconvenient and embarrassing paddling blunders.
Other precautions with your fins
Before you get in the water on new boards, you may want to try standing on your board on the ground at first. Make sure the fins are removed if you do this, or you will definitely break them! Sometimes people have an easier time training their dogs to get on stand-up paddleboards if they start out with the SUP boards on the ground. Just don’t forget to remove them each time first, and put them back on your board facing the right direction!
Stand-up paddleboard fin configurations
There are a number of fin configurations you can use for your paddleboard, depending on how many fins it can have. Many stand-up paddleboards have a single fin, some have three fins of about equal size, and some have two smaller fins with a larger fin in the center. When you are attaching or re-attaching your fins as a beginner, all you need to know is that they should be symmetrical, and they should be pointing towards the nearest corner of the board (they will be in the back of the board for reference, when you’re standing on top of the paddleboard in the water).
4. Paddling with your core instead of just your arms
Why do we like to say that SUP boarding is a great full-body workout? It really does use muscle groups in all areas of the body! Your leg muscles are engaged keeping you balanced on the SUP board the entire time you’re on the water, your arms lift and pull the paddle, and your core does the majority of the pulling to propel yourself forward and maintain your form as you move.
Why do you use your core
Don’t rely on your arms. This might sound a little odd initially but SUP paddling is best done from your core. These are the greatest muscles of your body to supply the most effective power for your paddle stroke. Standing up tall and utilizing simply your arms to pull your SUP paddle in the water on the side of the board will be very tiring, and you will not get much power. Enjoy this great video for more on the right way to paddle and the best SUP methods: Stand paddleboard fundamentals – Utilizing Your Core.
Long-term strength building
As far as paddleboarding tips go, advising you on using your core rather than your arms to paddle is one of the best long-term pieces of advice out there. Building up your strength and using the proper form to improve your balance and skill level with the paddle as you propel your SUP board across the water will be the best way to progress from a beginner to an intermediate or expert paddleboarder. Whether you use solid or inflatable paddleboards, the most important aspect of any SUP activity is having proper form and building strength most effectively and consistently over time.
5. Look at the horizon, keep your eyes up
When we initially begin paddling the natural temptation is to look down at the board, to see the water lapping at the sides, and to pray we aren’t going to fall in! For the best stroke stability, you want to keep your head up, back straight and your body weight above your toes with your feet about shoulder-width apart on the SUP board. You’ll want your knees slightly bent (don’t lock your knees!) and your toes pointed forward, but don’t keep looking down at them! It sounds ridiculous, but with your head down enjoying a lovely view of your toes, you are most likely to rock back on your heels when the waves come, and after that, hello water!
Getting to your feet (and staying there)
When you are standing up on your board, the best idea is to take it one foot at a time and don’t begin until you feel steady and stable in the position you are currently in. Once you make it to your feet, stand up straight and look ahead, or focus on something stationary some distance away from your board. This can help you keep your balance better. When you’re developing your great paddling technique, try not to bend your back too much or lean over unnaturally far as you hold the paddle. Watch this video with Tommy Buday about standing on your SUP.
Don’t focus on the waves right away
If you are learning paddleboarding for the first time, it’s easy to become tempted to take on the big ocean waves right away. It will actually take some time to get your balance well enough to transition from flat, calm water to waves and turbulent water. You will get there, but give yourself time to build up to it and be patient if your balance or strength still has a little way to go!
6. Stay out of the way
The ocean is vast, lakes are expansive, and the rivers are great. Yet we all constantly seem to like to stroke the exact same square foot of water! When they strike you, paddleboards are big, and they can hurt. Inflatable SUPs might hurt less than the solid kind, but you still shouldn’t be asking to get run over by peoples’ inflatable paddleboards when sudden waves come upon them. Be mindful of other water users and when you’re learning the art of SUP. Ensure you have a lot of room to practice standing, paddling, and falling (the best way is to make sure you fall away from your board or any other paddleboards to avoid hitting them on your way down).
Looking out for other vessels
Even though it’s one of our last tips, it’s an essential one. If you like to stroke the coast, and especially if you are paddleboarding at night, there is a higher than usual risk of running into other people and even other boats. You need to learn and obey the laws that apply to vessels, and use lights if you go out paddleboarding at night. In fact, you should keep your eyes open always for others you could run into, or anything under the water you don’t want to hit or get stuck on.
SUP paddleboarding with friends
It’s totally great to bring your buddies and do a paddleboarding session out on the water together or do a great activity like SUP yoga. Paddleboarding and SUP yoga are great group activities and a chance to spend some quality time with people you like! But stay enough distance away from each other not to smack one another with your paddles or run your boards into others’ (stay close enough to keep them within splashing range though!). If you and your friends are beginners as well, a group lesson or practice paddleboarding session could be a fun way for you all to get the hang of it together.
Ready to Start Stand-Up Paddleboarding?
If you’re ready for some beginner stand-up paddleboarding sessions of your own, we have the equipment to make your first trip a big success! At Paddle Sesh, we have some of the best stand-up paddleboard brands and gear available. If you want to find the perfect size and type of stand-up paddleboard for you, we can help you find it. We offer a lot of resources for learning paddleboarding and mastering it, as well as a number of other activities you can do with your SUP board. We want you to love your new sport and enjoy yourself to the fullest. Check out what we have to offer and let us know if we can answer any questions!
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