How to Stand Up Paddle Safely and Effectively
Standup Paddleboarding or SUP is one of the world’s fastest-growing water sports these days. From its ancient roots in the Hawaiian Islands, it has spread all across the globe gaining a foothold of dedicated fans. Its laid back and relaxed nature as well as the relative shallow learning curve contributed greatly to its popularity.
If you are a beginner who wants to get into the sport but unsure where to start, here is our simple guide to get you going. In this article, we breakdown the things you need to know as a beginner to the sport. Read on.
As in everything having enough knowledge is the first step when getting into a new hobby. It helps you understand how the sport works, its history, and the many niches under it. The internet has tons of resources on SUP; most of them are a quick Google search away. Online forums and local enthusiasts groups are also great places to get information.
Facebook groups and Reddit subforums are a treasure trove of resources for enthusiasts, especially for beginners. These communities are very passionate about the sport and are very welcoming to beginners. Here you can see information like the best places to paddle, tips, and tricks, and other useful info tidbits shared by the community. They are the best places to ask questions too!
Online forums are great and all but local offline groups are even better. They can give relevant insight regarding the sport relative to your place. This includes things like the best local paddle spots, best local sports shops, and other relevant events, etc. Plus, having people to talk to and share your newfound sport is always a great experience.
Find the right gear
Standup paddleboarding is a broad category with lots of sub-disciplines. Each has its own unique needs which in turn requires suitable gear. Then there is the skill level and other things to consider that is why choosing gears that would fit your needs is important.
There are many things to consider when choosing a board but for starters, there are two biggest concerns: weight and activity. Generally, you have to choose a board that is best suited to your weight as well as the weight of any other gear you want to take with you. Weight can cause drag and will slow you down.
As a beginner, your main purpose is to build up your basics while having tons of fun. You need not worry about the different SUP disciplines yet. That’s why a good all arounder board is perfect for your needs. They’re beginner-friendly and are great for most locations from small lakes and rivers to calm beaches and big lakes.
Learn the basics
Now that you have a board and paddle, it’s time to hit the water and learn the basics. Proper form is key. First up, to properly hold the paddle, put one hand on the end with the “T” joint and the other slightly at the center of the shaft. Then, raise the paddle above your head parallel to your shoulders and the shaft touching the top of your head. Adjust your grip until both your arms form an angle that’s a little less than 90 degrees. Your hands are now in the optimal position for paddling.
When standing up, stand at the center of the board with your feet about shoulder-width distance apart. Keep them parallel with your toes pointing forward. Then bend your knees slightly while keeping your back straight. This position lets you keep your balance while allowing you to use your core rather than your arms when paddling.
Paddling with your core means you get enough power to propel yourself on the water and it prevents you from tiring out so easily.
Practice makes perfect
Now that you got the basics down, all you need is to practice until it all becomes second nature. The trick for faster learning though is that you have to be smart with your practice. Focus on nailing the basics down first. A good foundation means you can progress a lot quicker and easier in the long run. Don’t rush things and take as much time as you need.
Setup regular paddleboarding trips as practice sessions to hone your skills. If you have an accessible paddle spot near you then perfect! But if you don’t, paddling whenever you can is okay too. The point is to log a few hours on it so you get acclimated to the “feel” when on the board.
Always be mindful of your performance every after your practice sessions. Actively looking at how good your form and balance helps a lot in improving your skill. This also lets you see which areas to improve upon and which areas you already have mastered.
Safety is number 1 priority
Though a generally laidback sport, safety should always be on every rider’s mind whenever heading out to paddle. Tethering yourself to your board is one of the best things you can do when. This lets you to always get back to your board whenever you fall into the water. Your board is your number one safety net on the water so it’s important that you never get too far from it.
Wearing a life vest and having an emergency whistle with you is also a great idea especially when venturing into deep waters. Paddleboarding can be tiring and it is fairly difficult to keep yourself afloat when you are tired.
Finally, if you are heading out on your own, always let a family member or a friend know where you are headed. This is that they can easily locate you in case of an emergency. Or better yet, bring someone with you to paddle with which brings us to…
Get yourself a paddle buddy
Bringing someone along with you, especially if they are an experienced rider, is one of the best things you can do as a newbie. They can help you with your form and technique as well as things like how to balance etc. A good mentor can help you improve a lot quicker than when you are on your own.
An experienced rider can also help with unforeseen events like emergencies. They most likely know what to do in certain situations and even prevent them entirely. It’s best to go with a group of seasoned SUP riders especially on your first couple of outings.