So you have your board, you know what you’re going to do and you’re ready to get going. Before you head off for your first paddle boarding outing, however, check that you are properly prepared and have everything you need. If you are prepared well, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your day more.
A lot of people like to hire a SUP while they are still learning, and if this is your chosen option, remember to book your paddle board and slot so you know you will be able to enjoy yourself when you get there. If you do opt to hire a SUP, you still need to be prepared for your first proper outing.
Master The Basics
Before you even think about going on a trip on your SUP make sure you’ve mastered the basics.
You should practice balancing, falling off and getting back on to your paddle board and paddling in a straight line before you head off anywhere. As a beginner you’re far more likely to fall off, and if you have practiced the right techniques somewhere quiet, you are less likely to injure yourself and you will find it easier to get back on your board and balance too.
Find a quiet piece of water close to home, and spend some time making sure you have the basics right first.
- Paddle boards are all about balance and it’s no use trying to master this on dry land. You must practice this first on the water or the slightest ripple will have you falling straight in. It’s a good idea to first get used to balancing on calm waters and then move to an area which is a bit busier.
- Once you’ve fallen off, you need to get back on and if you’ve not mastered the art of this, you may find your paddle board keeps moving away from you. This is obviously something you will practice as you fall off, but make sure you are confident with how to get back on.
- Standing up once the SUP is moving isn’t easy either. You need to be able to keep your balance while paddling – and that’s something else you need to have right before you go on your first trip. You don’t want to find yourself simply paddling round in circles, so take the time to get your strokes and stance right before you set off. When you go on your first outing, there will probably be other people on the water, so mastering the art of paddling will also mean you can avoid them and avoid accidents.
Check The Conditions
One thing you must get used to before you go paddling any where, is check the weather conditions. You can download weather apps which you can check while you are out as well, and these can be very helpful if the conditions are about to change.
There are many reasons for checking the weather conditions before you set off.
- You obviously don’t want your first paddle boarding outing to be in stormy conditions, so for your own safety choose a day which is fine with minimal wind. These conditions will also help you gain some confidence on the water. If the conditions are too strong for you, you won’t enjoy your day and you could find yourself in trouble.
- The weather conditions will also have an effect on what you take with you to wear. If it’s a lovely sunny day, you may opt for swim wear or shorts, whereas if it’s cooler, you are more likely to need a wet suit to keep you warm. Remember too, that as a beginner you’ll be spending fair bit of time in the water, to check how cold that is so you can dress appropriately.
- No matter what the weather conditions, you will need to protect yourself from the effects of the sun, so on a sunny day you’ll need to take better sun protection with you.
If you check before you leave, it also gives you the opportunity to change where you go if you find the weather isn’t going to be that great where you originally planned.
Know Your Limits
When you first start out it’s tempting to throw yourself headlong in to something, but if you do that with paddle boarding you’ll spend more time in the water than you will on your board.
Your first outing should be close to home, as you will know the local water conditions and feel comfortable on a place you know. It should also be a place that someone else knows and you should tell them where you are going.
For your first paddle boarding outing, don’t try shooting the rapids or heavy surf. It’s best to find somewhere relatively quiet with calmer conditions. There will be other people about on the water, but if you try to do too much too fast, you’ll soon find you lose your enthusiasm rather than gain in confidence.
As a beginner, you’re going to fall off. Everyone has set backs when they first set out, so don’t let yourself be disheartened if you find yourself swimming after your board. Falling off will help you learn to maneuver the SUP around the water while learning to balance correctly. The more you do it, the easier it will become.
Take in to consideration your level of fitness too. If you’ve not exercised in a while, you won’t be able to handle a long paddle on your first trip. If you know your own limits of fitness and appreciate that you have a long way to go, you can simply have a lot of fun on your first outing as you finally put everything you’ve learnt together. Just sitting and relaxing on your board will give you a sense of achievement on your first outing.
Check out this quick SUP lesson from Bob Purdy!
Take The Right Gear
Unless you plan to hire one, don’t forget your paddle board and paddle. There are many accessories you can take but among the most important are:
- A lightweight life vest or flotation device. You’ll be spending a fair bit of time in the water on your first outing, so make sure you’re prepared for it. It is also a good idea to take a whistle and a waterproof light in case you run in to difficulties.
- If you plan on using a leash, make sure you take it and make sure it’s firmly attached to the board. Some paddlers prefer not to use one, but beginners find these very helpful as you are less likely to lose your board if you fall off.
- Protection from the sun should always be considered in any weather conditions. Sun screen, sunglasses and a cap are all recommended while on a SUP.
- Even though you are on the water, you still need to keep hydrated, so take a drink with you. Alcohol will only dehydrate you further and you may not keep the SUP under control, so take soda, juice or water with you.
- The right clothing is essential for a good paddle boarding outing. The clothes you take need to be able to cope with getting wet so jeans, trainers and a t-shirt won’t be the best combination. A wet suit, swim suit or board shorts are the best things to wear, and deck shoes or flip flops are a good choice for walking when you have finished paddling.
- Some people like to wear a watch or take photographs, and if you plan to do this, make sure your watch and camera are waterproof.
- One excellent piece of equipment is a waterproof bag. You can buy these to attach to the SUP or wear around your shoulders and they will keep your phone, maps, valuables and everything else nice and dry and they keep everything together in one place. You can also prepare this the day before you go so there’s no rush on the day of your outing. These bags come in different sizes, so you will be able to find one which will hold everything you need.
There are, of course, many other things you may find useful such as a map or compass, a carry strap if you are not hiring a board and paddle holders to keep your paddle attached to the board when you are relaxing on the water or carrying the SUP. As you progress with the sport you will start to take more items with you but on your early outings, don’t try to too much. Keep to the basics then you won’t be distracted by things you don’t really need.
It may take a few trips for you to feel fully confident on your SUP but as you progress you can spend longer on the water, start visiting new locations and really enjoy paddle boarding at its best.