Stand-up paddling, or SUP paddleboarding, is the fastest-growing watersport on the planet. It’s fun, easy enough for novices, and challenging enough for sophisticated and intermediate participants. It offers an excellent full-body workout, and it can be done practically anywhere from ponds and lakes to rivers and ocean waves.
Where did Stand-Up Paddleboards Come From?
Stand-up paddleboarding was made popular in the modern-day by surfing legend Laird Hamilton (here’s a video of him) in 2004, but the sport has deep roots that date back to the thousand-year-old Hawaiian culture. If paddleboarding SUP is something you want to sign up for, have a look at our awesome paddleboarding tips and tricks for SUP and beginners! Watching a tutorial video or having an instructional guide can be a good assist for first-timers.
Helpful Hints for Before You Begin Paddleboarding
If you’re paddleboarding for the first time or in the process of learning, a few tips, tricks, and hints can make the process a little simpler and easier for you. Sometimes these details are intuitive, and other times they are the sort of fun facts you would not expect to hear. Either way, we are here to set you on the path (or stream) to success in stand-up paddleboarding with these stand-up paddleboarding tips. Here’s what you need to know about stand-up paddleboarding and surf sports in general.
Before you Get on the SUP Board
Before you get to the water, there are a few items you should have squared away. Make sure you’ve got all the necessary paddleboarding equipment, and if you would feel more comfortable having a pro teach you how to begin or having a SUP yoga instructor, check with him or her to find out if there is anything else you should have or think about before you head out there.
1. Start with a Large Stand-Up Paddleboard
For SUP beginners, your best option of SUP board must be as wide, thick, and long as you can possibly find. For surf sports like racing or surfing, you may want a more narrow board that goes faster, but with most paddleboarding (especially if you are a beginner) and activities like SUP yoga, a larger board is ideal to provide better stability. If you can’t seem to get your balance on the board, that’s a sign you could possibly need to go larger!
Another consideration is whether you will want to use an inflatable or non-inflatable (solid) paddleboard. There are a few differences between inflatable paddleboards and non-inflatable paddleboards, and depending on what type of SUP activity you plan to do, you can decide which kind of paddleboard will be best. A lot of beginners prefer an inflatable paddleboard because it is easier to transport and access. There are some technical advantages that solid SUP boards have, but these may not be super relevant for SUP beginners, at least not at first.
2. Getting the Right Paddle for SUP
The general rule is that the SUP paddle needs to be around 10 inches (25 cm) longer than you for excellent grip and traction. You should have a paddle that you can maneuver well, but that you will also be able to sink into the water as deep as possible. If you find yourself having to lean over really far to get your paddle low enough to propel yourself, that’s a sign it might be the best time to get a new SUP paddle.
3. Get the Right Paddleboard Leash
Once again, a great rule of thumb is that the SUP leash must be either as long as or a bit shorter than your board. A lot of stand-up paddleboards (especially inflatable ones) actually come with a leash, but not all. Make sure you confirm whether a leash is included, and if not, pick one up along with any other necessary gear when you get your stand-up paddleboard.
4. Use a Life Jacket while Paddleboarding
If you’re an outstanding swimmer, you can avoid the life vest, but otherwise, it’s recommended that you wear a life vest while paddleboarding SUP or participating in any other surf spot. Don’t try to be Aquaman and risk your neck learning to paddleboard without any safety gear, and don’t pressure yourself to try and get it all right immediately.
5. Start Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Calm Water
It might look like an obvious bit of advice, but it needs to be said. Start in calm waters, take it slow, and start paddling as soon as you have a strong handle on finding your balance. The best way to build confidence for most people is, to begin with, a reasonable, flat area of water without a lot of obstacles in the way and just focus on paddling. Learn to propel yourself efficiently and accurately, maintaining your balance as well as you can.
Before You Stand Up
The process of getting from a kneeling position on your stand-up paddleboard to being on your feet can be a process, and learning how to properly stand and keep your balance while standing needs to be firmly established before taking on the challenge of paddling and moving around.
6. You will Fall While Paddleboarding
You need to come to terms with this truth about stand-up paddleboards. You will always fall when you are learning. In the words of the timeless Batman’s Alfred Pennyworth: “Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Even if all you’re doing is SUP yoga, you will still fall if not more so. We guarantee it.
7. One Step at a Time
Learn how to stand first, then how to paddle forward, and then how to change direction. You may need a few days to get the hang of it, but once you have these steps and your perfect paddling stroke mastered, you can begin genuinely enjoying SUP. Through consistent practice, you will start to build up a lot of legs, arm, and core strength, which in turn will give you better balance and agility on your SUP.
8. Stand Up Carefully on Your Board
Here is the position in which you begin paddling: From a kneeling position on the stand-up paddleboard, start to get up with one foot at a time. Make sure you are in the middle of the board before you try to stroke the water, or you may just wind up in the lake.
Once You Get Your Balance
Before you start to move around on your new SUP paddleboard, there are a few tips that you can use to make the process of gaining your balance and getting to your feet more smooth. It’s wise to know where to look and how to fall down properly right away once you’re standing.
9. Keep Your Head Up while Paddling
Have you ever taken dance lessons? Looking at your feet can cause you to lose your balance or even crash into someone else. The same is true when you’re on a stand-up paddleboard. Be careful not to fixate on your feet or anywhere directly beneath you. Keeping your head and eyes up to see what’s in front of you, or focusing on something unmoving a slight distance away from your paddleboard can prevent you from losing your balance and can make taking your first stroke a little easier.
10. Learn to Handle a Fall Properly
Your instructor will probably teach you how to manage a fall, but if they do not, go ahead and ask him or her to show you. Falling is one of the most fundamental parts of learning any kind of watersport! Knowing how to position your body if you fall will help you avoid getting hurt.
As You’re Progressing
Now that you’ve got your balance and are starting to get the hang of stand-up paddleboarding, it’s time to level up! These tips can help you work on your proper form, paddling effectively, and building up the core strength and agility to face more challenges with time.
11. You Don’t Need to Use a Death Grip
Keep a less than firm grip on the paddle. A really tight grip will tire your arms out, and it does not truly help with paddling. If you find yourself feeling really tense and holding your paddle too tightly, you can always get back on your stand-up paddleboard in a kneeling position until you feel more comfortable. Be patient with yourself, and gain your balance as slowly as necessary to keep yourself from becoming tense, as a lot of tension can make it more difficult to remain upright (avoid locking your knees).
12. Sink Your Paddle Deep it the Water
Sink the SUP paddle in the water as deeply as you can to garner traction and lean into it! The water is a powerful force, and it can help you stabilize yourself as you begin to move on your SUP paddleboard. Going cross-way through wind can make it more challenging, so position yourself either heading straight into the wind or moving directly with your back to it.
13. Hold off on Paddling the Waves
As a newbie, you might be excited to start riding the big waves with your stand-up paddleboard, however, you might not be ready for that. Listen to your SUP instructor and progress gradually! Once you gain more stability and strength in addition to your growing confidence, this is a sign that you will be best prepared to face the new challenges of the ocean.
Ready to Find the Perfect Stand-Up Paddleboard?
At Paddle Sesh, we’re committed to helping every individual find their joy on the water. Whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced paddleboarder, we can help you find the right board for you and all the SUP activities you plan to participate in. We can offer SUP guides and tips on learning to paddleboard for the first time as well as all the other fun things you can do on a paddleboard. Check out our great brands and products, and let us know if you have any questions!
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