Learning to paddle board is exhilarating, relaxing and a great way to get fit. You don’t have to be in the peak of fitness to enjoy it either. As long as you can balance on the board, and swim when you fall off, you’re good to go.
When you start off in any hobby, there’s always so much to consider that it can often mean you invest in the wrong equipment, or try to do too much, too soon. This article will help you work out what you can use your SUP for, what you need and some advice on how to get started.
The good news is that you don’t have to invest in a lot of paddle boarding gear to try it out. Most beginners choose to hire a board for their first outings, so that they can work out whether or not paddle boarding is the sport for them. There are many places around lakes, rivers and oceans which hire out equipment, so all you have to do is book your board and turn up at the right time.
Even though you don’t have to worry about a board or paddle, you will need to take a few things with you.
- Make sure you have the right clothing. Paddle boarding in jeans and t-shirts isn’t a good idea. Beginners tend to fall off – a lot – and heavy clothes will soak up the water and become heavier. The best things to wear are either a wetsuit, swim suit or board shorts.
- Take a life vest with you too. When you first fall off it can be quite scary and you may find you panic. If you have a life vest, you can relax a little more knowing that you’ll be quite safe if you fall in.
- If you do fall off, a SUP leash will mean your board won’t float away.
- One thing you may wish to invest in is a waterproof bag. You may find some stores hire these too, but if you have your own, you can go prepared with everything you need. These don’t cost a lot and they can fit around your waist, over your shoulder or attach to the board. On a paddle board you are not likely to have secure pockets, and if you do, they may not be waterproof. You will probably have a phone, keys, spare shoes, maybe a map and a drink and you will need to keep these in one place and dry.
Now you are ready to get on your board and start practicing. It’s a good idea to invest in lessons to teach you the basics, such as getting on, staying on and paddling, but here are a few tips to help.
First of all, find a quiet spot where the water is calm. If you’re not familiar with the area you’ve chosen, the SUP hire store will be able to tell you a good place to get started. If there are other people on the water, ask around for a quiet place to go. Beginners stand out, so if you see someone practicing, then that’s a good place to try.
When you first get on your paddle board, even the slightest movement can have you falling back off again. Start off in water which is about knee deep as this allows you to control the SUP as you get on.
Mount the board
Place your paddle across the board with the grip on the edge and the blade in the water. Hold on to the rails, and keeping hold of your paddle, jump on the board and kneel on it. If you try to do this too slowly, you may tip the board. If you’re not balanced correctly, you can also tip the board. After a few attempts, you’ll get it right.
Stay in a kneeling position until you have worked out the correct place to balance. You need to end up with your feet either side of the handle, so when you are ready, slowly stand and try to balance.
Don’t be put off when you fall off. It’s natural at first and it won’t take you long to work out where you need to stand. Now you’re on, you can practice paddling, and falling off.
It may seem an odd thing to do, but if you practice falling off your SUP, you will find it much easier when you go on your first SUP outing.
Your natural instinct when you go to fall off is to tense up and try to fall close to the board. If you fall too close you could bang the board on the way down, and if you have a hard board, this could result in an injury.
When you feel yourself start to go off balance, relax and fall away from the board. If you are wearing a leash, then the board won’t drift away while you’re in the water. A big leap could see you landing on hidden rocks or going too far under the surface, so try to land on your back, but keep your feet angled slightly down. If you get the right angle you will slide into the water rather than risk going in too far.
If you don’t practice this, when you head off on your first paddling adventure, you could find yourself in difficulty. Don’t forget to learn how to get back on your paddle board after falling!
Now you can fall off and balance, you need to move your SUP. Paddling is something else which requires skill, or you’ll simply end up going around in circles. For newcomers to paddle boarding, this is a very common problem.
- The paddle. The first thing to check is the height of your paddle. If you stand it up next to you, it should be about 6 inches over the top of your head. A paddle which is too long or too short can have a big impact on how effectively you steer your SUP.
- Stance. If you’re balanced correctly, then you should be in the right stance already. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, and placed evenly spaced either side of the middle of the board. Knees should be slightly bent.
- Grip. This is what really matters when you paddle. If you have the right grip, it’s easier to put the power where you need it. Place your hand closest to the paddle on the shaft, and place your other hand on the grip. Use your core to steer the paddle, rather than your hand to pull or push the middle. Use nice, clean strokes and keep the paddle level with the edge of the board. It should be about arms length away from it to give you a clear stroke.
What you can do on a SUP
Now you have the basics mastered, you can decide what you are going to use your paddle board for. There are so many options available: surfing, racing, touring, yoga, fishing or simply relaxing on the water– the list is almost endless. You may already have an idea of what you plan to do with your SUP, but it’s always good to try out new things. Most serious paddlers have SUPs to fit a variety of activities. The SereneLife Premium Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board (find it on amazon here) is a board which gives you the option to try out different activities, with just one board.
Not only does it come as a set, with a safety leash, pump, storage bag and a paddle, but the wide deck makes it a good starter SUP.
- If you’re looking for a yoga SUP, then the deck is 30 inches wide, giving you plenty of room to stretch and balance.
- It is portable and the carry bag means you can carry it to the lake for fishing, for the ocean for surfing or to the river for racing. At just 19.6 pounds, it is lightweight to carry too.
- For would be SUP surfers, it has a triple bottom panel fin, to help you steer the board through the surf.
- For those who want to tour, it has a good surface area so you can take a few items with you and an anti-slip deck to help keep you on the board too.
Inflatable or hard SUP?
When you first start to practice paddle boarding, you won’t really know whether you want an inflatable board or a hard board.
Essentially there isn’t a lot of difference, but let’s first see what those differences are.
- Price. For beginners an inflatable SUP is often the best choice, as these tend to be cheaper than epoxy boards.
- Transport. There is a big difference between the two boards when it comes to transporting your SUP. An epoxy board needs a roof rack or trailer to transport it to the water. Once there it is light enough to carry from the car to the water. An inflatable SUP will fit in to a car trunk or ruck sack, so you can take it with you wherever you go.
- Readiness. An epoxy board is ready to go as soon as you hit the water. An inflatable SUP needs to be inflated first, so you will have to wait for this to finish before you can get paddling.
- Maneuverability. Experienced paddlers notice a difference on this one. An epoxy SUP is easier to maneuver and faster on the water. For beginners, this isn’t such a problem, as an inflatable SUP is a great way to find out about the sport. It will do everything that an epoxy board will do too.
If you want to try out the best of both worlds, then the Atoll 11′ Foot Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is definitely worth a try. At 32 inches wide and 11 feet long, it can be used for any SUP activity, and it is called a ‘Hard Board Mimicker’.
This is because it has a 2nd layer of PVC on the top and bottom, which makes it feel more rigid and sturdy. This extra strength makes is suitable for anyone and it can hold people who weigh up to 300lbs. There is a universal fin box which fits race fins up to 10”, so you can get the full benefit of a hard SUP without the extra cost. As well as benefiting from the added performance created by the extra layer, you still have all the benefits of an inflatable SUP, so you can transport it easily, and maneuver it smoothly in the water.
Get the gear!
So now you know what you want – you need to get all the gear.
One of the great things about paddle boarding is that it doesn’t cost a fortune to get started. You will, however, need:
- A SUP
- A paddle
- A life vest
- A wet suit or swimwear
- A pump if you have an iSUP
Optional extras include:
- A carry bag or strap
- Paddle holders
- Waterproof bag
- A leash
- A fin
As you progress with your chosen sport, you’ll probably add more accessories to your gear, but a great way to get started is with the Ten Toes 10′ Weekender Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board Bundle, see the latest price here!
As the name suggests, this is a bundle and it represents excellent value for money, not just for beginners, but for everyone.
Included in this bundle is an inflatable paddle board which holds up to 275 pounds, and at 10 foot long and 30 feet wide, you can use it for anything. You also get a lightweight paddle so you can get straight on the water, after inflating the SUP with the pump which is also included. It also comes with 3 removable fins, so you can adapt it for surfing or touring. Everything you need, in fact, to get you out on the water to enjoy yourself.