Are you looking for a new water sport or fun activity that allows you to explore your local river or lake? Have you been craving a simplified, easy-to-transport vessel to explore with? Look no further than stand up paddle boarding, or SUP for short.
Whether you started on a paddle board or are just discovering it, this sport has a lot to offer anyone who’s interested in getting out on the water. There is a bit of a learning curve, however, especially if you’re more familiar with kayaking or traditional boats. Once you get the hang of it it’s a great way to explore your area’s waterways with friends!
SUP Beginner Tips
As the name implies, stand up paddle boards are designed to be paddled while you’re standing up on them. Wider boards are easier to balance for beginners, but make sure they’re not too long for your proportions or you won’t be able to handle it as easily. Find a body of water that is relatively calm and not too crowded. Paddling in sessions about an hour long will allow you to build up comfort and skill level with a SUP. Once you get the hang of how to balance, paddle, and what to bring with you, you’re on your way to a great experience.
Basic SUP equipment is similar to what you’d need to kayak: a well-fitting PFD, paddle, and proper sun protection and clothing. Also helpful to have is a board leash (similar to what surfers use) that tethers you to your board in case you fall off. Stand up paddle boards are fairly lightweight, so a leash prevents the board from floating too far away while you get your bearings after a spill.
There are several different types of SUP’s available now that are customized to different conditions. As you’re starting out, it can be helpful to rent a stand up paddle board to get an idea of what type you like best. Or you can go with a more experienced friend and pick their brain to better understand what to look for in a recreational SUP vs a touring, or surfing one, as an example.
SUP paddles are maximized for efficiency with their tear-drop blades that angle forward. They should be long enough to comfortably reach the water and allow you to grip the t-grip without overextending your arms. You can also invest in a paddle leash, as well, if you want to keep track of the paddle more easily.
Stand-Up Paddle Board Technique
Balancing and maneuvering on a stand up paddle board is a full workout for both your body and mind. You should get used to mounting and initially standing up in knee-deep water so you can kneel on it to start. Once you’re solidly kneeling in a balanced position, brace the sides of the board with your arms so you can extend your legs one at a time. A strong, engaged core is helpful in not wobbling during this process.
Once you’re standing, you’ll need to maintain your balance by keeping an eye on your footing position, center of gravity, and how you’re shifting your weight. Keeping your feet parallel and at equal distances from the board’s center and sides is ideal, and if your knees are slightly bent you’ll easily be able to sense and correct any imbalances. Shift your weight at your hips as opposed to at your feet to maintain proper form. Staring forward at the horizon, as opposed to down at your feet, is also helpful in keeping yourself properly aligned.
Paddling strokes are similar to those of kayaking or canoeing but note that you’ll need to alternate the side of the board you’re paddling on every few strokes. You can keep the paddle angled in the water by having one hand anchored on the t-grip, and one a few feet lower on the pole guiding it through the water. Reversing your hand position on the paddle is helpful when switching sides, as well.
After even just one session on an SUP, you’ll be feeling more comfortable with how to balance and maneuver your board. From there, it’s just doing it often enough to develop the muscle memory for it! This just gives you more reasons to escape outdoors into nature for an hour or two and enjoy the remainder of the summer. Happy paddling!