SUP 101 – a Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddling
If you are looking for a straight forward instructional on how to get you started on a stand up paddleboard (SUP) then you have come to the right place!
Stand up paddleboarding is a fun, easy way to go play on the water. With a minimum of equipment, you can paddle anything from ocean surf to lakes and rivers.
Paddleboarding offers an amazing full body workout and has become a favorite cross-training activity for all types of athletes and enthusiasts looking to improve balance and conditioning. Yogis have also taken to the SUP movement and are taking standard yoga practice onto the water with paddleboards. You also get to experience excellent views of everything from wildlife to the horizon since you are standing.
Stand up paddleboard: It all starts with a board. Typically they range in length from 10′ to 14′ and various widths. The general guideline is that a bigger board is more stable and easier for novice/beginner paddlers. Board size and shape will depend mostly on your weight, experience, and the type of paddling you are looking to do. There are plenty of good SUP buying guides that are available online, I will list a few below in the links.
Paddle: The other crucial element to get moving is your paddle. SUP paddles come in either adjustable or fixed length versions. Adjustable is ideal for multiple users since you can accommodate many different paddlers. The paddles will have an angle at the base of the blade for efficiency. Your paddle length should be about 8-10″ taller than you.
Leash: it is a good idea (but not necessary) to use a leash to attach yourself to the paddleboard to prevent it getting away from you if you fall off. Keep in mind though that when you fall off the wearing a leash the board could possibly get pulled back towards you so it’s recommended to protect your head with your arms while resurfacing until you know where the board is.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD): Depending on where you are paddling it is required to have a USCG approved PFD since a SUP is a propelled vessel. If you are over thirteen years old it can be on your board but does not have to be worn at all times. Under thirteen must wear PFD at all times. The PFD requirement only applies on navigable waterways outside of swim/surf areas.
Other Recommended Gear: Sun protection – sun block, hat, sunglasses, UV protective lightweight clothing. Hydration – water in bottles or camelback. Whistle or other noise making signal device. Waterproof GPS Unit.
Getting to the water
- Use a roof rack and straps to transport your board to whatever area you will be paddling. (Click here for a good video of how to load up a SUP presented in a delightful accent)
- Make sure that if your board has vent plugs that they are closed before entering the water. Vent plugs are located on the top of the SUP and can generally be tightened with a coin or flathead screwdriver.
- To carry the board use the handle in the center of the board. Simply prop the board up on one rail (edge), stand with the bottom of the board towards you, grab the handle with one hand and lift with your legs.
- If your board does not have a built in handle you can carry it with both hands overhead.
Entering the water
- If there is a shoreline you can easily walk the board into the water.
- If there is a ledge of some sort slowly lower the boards nose into the water then using the leash lower the tail.
Mounting the board
- Standing alongside the board, place your paddle across the deck of the board and use it as an outrigger. The paddle grip is on the rail (edge) of the board; the blade rests on the water.
- Hold the board by the rails. One hand will also be holding the paddle grip.
- Pop yourself onto the board into a kneeling position, just behind the center point of the board.
- From that kneeling position, get a feel for the balance point of the board. The nose shouldn’t pop up out of the water and the tail shouldn’t dig in.Keep your hands on either side of the board to stabilize it.
- When you feel stable stand up one foot at a time in the center of the board. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart.
- Keep your back straight, knees slightly bent, toes forward, and feet parallel on the board. Don’t stand too close to the rails of the board that your feet might slip off.
- Hold the paddle with the angle of the blade away from you. This is probably the most common mistake beginner’s make. The blade is not meant to hook the water.
- Whichever side you are paddling on that hand will be lower on the paddle shaft. With your opposing hand gripping the handle at the top.
- Keep your arms straight and use your torso to paddle by twisting rather than pulling with your arms.
- Push the blade into the water in front of you with your top hand, pull through until the paddle is even with your ankle and then pull it out and paddle again.
- Start with small paddles to get you moving, and your forward momentum will help you balance.
- To stay in a relatively straight line do a few strokes on one side then switch sides and hand positions.
This is the bare bones of getting started SUPing. For more info check out the awesome links listed below. These will all provide a great deal of valuable paddling tips.