Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) has become popular at beaches and lakes around the world. Are you yet to try it out? Wondering how to start paddle boarding? Then begin with these top beginner SUP tips.
How to start paddle boarding
SUP is easy to pick up and provides a great workout.
Unlike surfing, bodyboarding or swimming, paddle boarding allows the rider to stand erect on the surface of the water. Enjoyment is not dependent on swell direction or strength either.
Instead, the sport promotes a more regular relationship between water and participant. In fact there are many reasons why surfers and other water users should try SUP.
Top beginner SUP tips
The following tips will help you to start paddle boarding.
Don’t be afraid or intimidated
It might look difficult. But it really isn’t. The basics are very simple to grasp.
Anyone able to stand on two feet can be paddle boarding very quickly – often within minutes. The technique does not take years to master and there is no pecking order of a lineup.
Just get out and try it, the worst that can happen is you get wet!
Try before you buy
Think you will like it and want to splash some cash on an SUP set up? Why not rent a board and try stand up paddle boarding first instead.
It’s almost guaranteed you’ll enjoy yourself. But renting is a good way to find out if you like the sport without committing hundreds of pounds.
Where to start paddle boarding
The first time you plan to SUP choose a body of water without significant wave motion. A bay or protected cove are great places to start on the ocean, but a still lake is even better.
Get dressed for the occasion
This doesn’t mean troop out your Sunday best. It means to dress for the conditions. One of the top beginner SUP tips is to wear a wetsuit if the water is anything other than lovely and warm as you are likely to fall in.
But also wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid as it could save your life. You may choose not to wear one once experienced, but it’s certainly recommended when you start paddle boarding.
How to get on a paddleboard
Wade out into the water until it is above your knees. Put the paddle across the board just in front of the centre. Hold it in place where it crosses the boards edges/rails.
Next climb onto the board so you are kneeling. Your knees should be a little less than shoulder width apart just behind the shaft of the paddle. Your hips should be square to the front of the board with weight central.
From this kneeling position, try paddling to get a feel for balancing on the board. Three or four paddles on your right side followed by three or four on your left will keep you going in a straight line.
It is very easy to paddle while kneeling and even someone not blessed with balance is unlikely to fall in. If anything body weight should be kept just behind the center point of the board.
Is the nose of board is sinking into the water? Then you are too far forward. Likewise, if the tail is submerged your weight is too far back. On beginner boards there is a pretty large central zone to balance on.
It’s called STAND UP paddle boarding for a reason! Paddle yourself into at least waist deep water – this is so if (when) you fall you won’t hurt yourself on the bottom.
Once you are feeling comfortable, stand up from your kneeling position. Place your feet shoulder width apart roughly where your knees were, but probably slightly further apart.
Bend your knees
To keep your balance bend your knees. Now bend them more! The more you bend them the lower your centre of gravity and the easier it is to correct any imbalance.
Don’t look down!
One of the top beginner SUP tips is to keep your eyes on the horizon. Do not look down at your feet this can lead to you over balancing one way or the other.
Feeling well balanced is the most difficult part of learning how to stand-up paddleboard. Many people find it easier to balance with the paddle in their hand – and actually paddling helps.
Fall in a few times
At this point I’d recommend getting wet. There is a good chance it will have happened already but if not start to test the boards tipping points.
Put your weight down one side or the other to test stability, do this more and more until you fall in. Then move towards the nose or tail of the board to see how it feels.
By falling in you are learning how to balance and how much movement the board can take before it tips. To be fair the first time you try stand up paddle boarding everyone falls a few times.
Bend your knees
If you are feeling wobbly then bend those knees!
Start paddle boarding
Once you get the hang of standing, the remaining basics are easy to master. Hold the top of the paddle in one hand and place the other around halfway down the shaft. You reach across yourself with the top hand to paddle on the opposite side of the board.
Paddling is most effective when the shaft of the paddle at a right angle to the surface of the water. Insert the blade towards the nose and pull it through to just past your feet. And repeat!
When you swap sides your top and bottom hands should swap over. The more confident you get the more paddling becomes a whole body motion with your arms staying fairly straight, knees and back bending into the stroke.
The blade faces the other way
Nearly everyone gets the blade facing the wrong way when they start paddle boarding. Natural instinct inserts the blade leaning towards you when in fact it should lean away from you. Getting it the right way round makes paddling more efficient.
And bend your knees!
By now you will have forgotten again… So keep those knees bent – honestly it really helps.
You will find turning easy, it’s going in a straight line that is difficult! By simply paddling only on one side of your body you will do a slow turn in the opposite direction to the side you are paddling on.
For sharper turns, paddle backwards on one side of the board. Doing this you’ll turn in the same direction as the side you are backwards paddling on.
Take SUP lessons
Unlike sports such as kitesurfing or sailing you don’t really need any lessons to start paddle boarding. However, one of the top beginner SUP tips is to join a group session with instruction.
These are not much more expensive than just hiring the gear and you will get detailed instruction and tips throughout. You will progress quicker with an instructor as I found out during Hove Lagoon SUP lessons in Brighton.
Buy the gear
You tried it and you liked it! Now it’s time to invest… There are many brands out there and a lot of options to choose from. Whilst the solid SUP’s give the best performance they are not very convenient for most people.
Fortunately, inflatable SUPs are excellent as I found out during this Rainbow Goosehill SUP review. Inflatable SUP’s pack away into a bag that will fit into the boot of any car. Mine even has wheels and backpack straps to help me get it to the beach.
However, quality is important where inflatable paddle boards are concerned. So make a considered purchase and check out reviews to ensure you are investing wisely.
SUP is very social
Be sure to enjoy the view you have while paddleboarding. The stood up nature and slow movement really lends itself to spotting things in the water and on the coastline. Plus it is easy to chat with other SUPers making it very social.
If you go out paddleboarding with a few friends it is a great afternoon out on the water. You can reach deserted or inaccessible beaches, explore coasts, rivers and lakes and get a really good buy low impact workout.
While balance, propulsion and basic maneuvering can all be learned in an hour or so there is a lot more you can do to improve. Furthermore, you can get into in various SUP specialisms such as surf SUP, white water SUPing, paddleboard fishing or yoga SUP!
If you want to try paddle boarding then check out out SUP discounts from around the world.