Don’t be that guy or that girl. Avoid the most common first time paddle boarder mistakes by following our list of 10 tips for the beginner stand up paddle boarder. Whether you are renting a SUP and paddle, you’ve just bought your own gear, or you’ve been out a few times, this information may make a difference to your future paddle boarding sessions.
1. Use a leash
This actually goes for all stand up paddle boarders but the sooner you are aware how vital a leash is in any kind of condition the safer you and everyone else will be when you are paddling. There are different types of leashes and different types of attachment points depending on what style of paddling you are doing, so be sure to check out these two articles: “Which leash is right for me?” and “Why do I need a leash on a SUP?”
2. Make sure your paddle is the right way
We’ve all done it because it seems right at the time. You want the paddle to scoop the water as you try to balance and paddle without falling in. However, as we all eventually find out, the paddle goes the other way as it works more effectively when in the standing position and also results in a smoother paddle stroke and less stress on your shoulders and elbows. As the shaft is the leading edge you pull the blade through the water in a slightly trailing position which aids blade stability and as you perform the SUP stroke, the blade is vertical providing the best angle through the middle of the stroke for the most power.
To non surfers or regular water goers, it is not immediately obvious which end is the front/nose of the board. Many beginner boards are large round nose and tail boards with excellent stability, often a large EVA deck area so you can move (and fall) comfortably. So before you jump on the board, check where the fins are and make sure they are in the back when you paddle! Fins at the back help keep the board straight while you paddle, this is called tracking, and help with grip while you surf waves. Fins up front make for a very twitchy paddle board that just won’t go straight no matter how hard you try!
4. Paddling with your core
I.E. Don’t use your arms. This may sound a little weird at first but paddling is best done by your core. These are the strongest muscles of your body and provide the most effective power for your paddle stroke. Standing up tall and using just your arms to paddle, will be very tiring and you won’t get much power. Watch this video for more on paddle technique: Stand up paddle board basics – Using Your Core.
5. Look at the horizon
When we first start paddling the natural temptation is to look down at the board, to watch the water lapping at the sides and to pray we aren’t going to fall in! However for the best stability, you want to keep your head up, back straight and your body weight over your toes. It sounds silly but with your head down watching you’re toes, you are likely to rock back on your heals and then hello water! Watch this video by Sam Ross about standing up on your SUP.
6. Stay out of the way
The ocean is huge, lakes are big and the rivers are wide. Yet we always seem to want to paddle on the same square inch of water! Paddle boards are big and they can hurt when they hit you. Be mindful of other water users and when you’re learning the art of SUP. Make sure you have plenty of room to practice standing, falling and paddling.
7. Fall off your board the right way
Even the pros fall off so this is always going to be a part of your stand up paddle boarding. What is important through, is how you fall. Just like you can practice tricks and wave riding, practicing falls or at least being aware of how to fall and fall safely can ensure your session is not cut short by injury. Paddle boards are big and can hurt when they hit you, when you fall, you want to fall away from your board. Don’t worry, you’re attached to it with your leash and it won’t go away, but falling well clear of the board will let you fall gracefully into water without falling on the board or the fins. This is especially important in any location with current or waves as the board will move independently of your input.
8. Ride waves you can handle
I’ve been around the ocean most of my life. Bodyboarding, bodysurfing, surfing, sailing, SUPing… Big waves still scare the crap out of me sometimes. Mother nature is a powerful being and you need to respect that and know your limits. We do this for fun and 99% of us aren’t out there to prove anything. Be smart and ride waves in the right conditions for your skill level. That goes for white water paddle boarding too. Be sure to understand the flow of the river and the power of the water.
This is a follow on from #8. It’s important to know the conditions when you paddle out. Also to know the forecast so you are aware of any possible changes coming. When you’re standing on your SUP, you are like a sail in the wind. If you’re ever caught in an unfavourable wind change, lay down with your paddle tucked under you and paddle the board like a regular surfboard. This is called paddling prone.
10. Look after your board and paddle
Paddle boards for beginners are big. To make them manageable, manoeuvrable and strong they need to be built out of lightweight high tech materials making them expensive. Look after your board and paddle, they are fragile when thrown around on land. Your board will thank you!