Stand up paddle boarding is great fun, and it’s becoming more popular all the time. Practice makes perfect and as you get more experience, you can enjoy paddle boarding wherever you are. There is a lot of advice around as to how to get the best from your paddle boarding, so we’ve put together a few stand up paddle boarding tips to get you started.
1. Practice Falling off
As a beginner to paddle boarding you may not feel like you need to practice falling off, as it’s something you seem to do with great regularity. The truth is that learning how to fall, can not only help you to prevent injury, but can also make it easier to get back on your board.
The best place to practice is on calm water. When you feel yourself start to fall, your instinctive reaction is to try to stop yourself or to tense up. The best way to fall is to relax in to it, and make sure that you fall away from your board. If you have an inflatable SUP it won’t be so bad, but if you have a hard board, you may find you fall on to it and this can cause a nasty injury.
Practice also means you can control how you land in the water. If you go in feet first, you are likely to go deeper in to the water than if you land flat. If you are on water which has heavy undercurrents, the last thing you want is to go too deep. The best angle to hit the water is with your feet pointed and your body fairly flat so that you slide in but stay close to the top. This position also helps you to keep an eye on where your SUP has gone. If you use a leash, falling away from the board also means it is less likely to hit you as it rises out of the water.
If you practice falling off, you also practice getting back on. Simply grabbing the board will usually result in you ending up back in the water. The best method is to grab the rails with your dominant hand, and the handle of the board with your other hand. Pull yourself alongside the board and slide on in one movement. When the water calms down, move so you are sitting with your legs either side of the board. Then you can slowly move to a kneeling position, and from there you can stand.
2. Practice balancing
One of the main reasons people fall off their SUP, is because they have tried to do too much too quickly. You can’t expect to get on a paddle board first time and balance in rough water.
Balance is all important, so one of the best stand up paddle boarding tips is to find a calm place for your board, and practice balancing. When you are on your board, start in a kneeling position. Use your hands to move around so that you can get used to the movement of the water.
When you can balance while kneeling, slowly try to stand. Keep in the middle of the board and slowly move your feet so that they are parallel to the side of the board. It will help to lean forward with your hands close to the board so that you can move your feet in to the right position. Before you stand fully up, move your feet so they are shoulder width apart, and then slowly stand up straight.
Now you are up, you need to balance. Standing rigid will only help you to fall off more. The best position is with your knees slightly bent and keep your core over the center of the board.
Now gently move your feet from side to side to help you get used to the rocking of the board. If you are in the correct position, you should stay up. When you are confident that you are properly balanced, you can start paddling on slight currents and build up your stamina as you go.
3. Look ahead
When you first begin paddling, the temptation is to look down at your feet or the board so that you can check you are in the right, and best, position. Watching the paddle go in and out of the water can also help your confidence, as you know you are paddling correctly.
Looking down, however, can prove dangerous, and from the very beginning you should make sure you look ahead when on your SUP. There are a number of safety reasons why you should do this.
- If you are watching the water, you can see obstacles before you hit them.
- You will be able to see any changes in the water caused by tides or currents and you will be able to move to a safer position.
- Looking up also means you can take note of the clouds and any changes in the weather ahead. This gives you the opportunity to alter your course or even move your SUP closer to shore.
- If you look down while you paddle, you could easily lose your way or move too far from the shore. Beginners should always stay close enough that they can paddle back if they feel they are in any danger.
While it may seem daunting at the start, this is a good habit to develop as soon as you get out on the water.
4. Safety first
Those experienced in water sports will know that you always need to stay one step ahead when it comes to the weather and water, particularly if you are taking your SUP to a new area.
Currents and tides
Rivers, lakes and the sea will all have their own unique currents or tides, and educating yourself on these will go a long way to keeping you safe. Charts are readily available for tides and currents, so always study these and if you need to, take a copy with you in a waterproof bag. Phone apps are also available to download, and these are particularly useful for paddlers who like to try out new areas.
This one is often overlooked but for any water sport it should always be considered. Beginners to paddle boarding are far more likely to fall off, and if you are in colder water, this can soon lead to problems. Beginners should stick to warmer water as this is much better for anyone who keeps landing in it. Charts and data for this is also readily available, and should be checked before you set out.
It goes without saying that paddle boarding should only be carried out in certain conditions. If a storm is forecast, you really don’t want to go out on the water. If you are going out on water away from home, always check the weather before you set off, as the forecast there may be very different to what you have at home. If you are on the water, always keep your eyes open for any changes and if you need to, paddle closer to the edge of the water to keep yourself safe.
5. Invest in the right board and paddle
When you first take up any sport, it can be tempting to get the cheapest equipment to see if you like it first. With some sports this will cause problems from the start and paddle boarding is no exception. If you get a board which is too large or small, it will be difficult to maneuver, harder to balance and will spoil your enjoyment.
It may take some time, but it’s always worth investing in the right paddle board for your size and for the activity you choose. A good all round board is suitable for most things, including yoga and touring, and these are easier to keep straight than a surf SUP. They won’t however, be the best boards to surf with.
Finding the right size will mean measuring and shopping around, but if you want to try out a paddle board, you will get much more from it if you do. There are so many different things you can use a paddle board for, and they all require a different size or shape of board. A reliable dealer will be able to help you select the best board to start with, and this is more likely to keep you interested.
You will need to right length of paddle too, and this will also depend on your intended SUP activity. Paddles also have different styles of handle, and the best way is to test these out in store before you buy. There is no right or wrong grip. It’s entirely up to you which one you feel more comfortable with.
There is a lot to learn when you first get your SUP, and with these stand up paddle boarding tips, we hope you’ll be able to get started and enjoy exploring different water and trying out new activities.
Check out these other awesome tips from Lunden & Berni (The Salzburg Stand Up Paddle Boarding Champion!)