Stand up paddle boarding is an exciting way to experience the water and an enjoyable way to get a full-body workout. Believe it or not, one guy actually crossed the entire Atlantic Ocean on a stand up paddle board. But you don’t need to take it to that extreme; it’s an exciting water activity that anyone can learn.
Use these tips to get a feel for the basics and all the essential gear you’ll need to get started. Next time you head to the beach, maybe you’ll bring a giant board along with your beach bag for an awesome day on the waves.
Standing Up and Finding Your Balance
How To Stand Up for the First Time
You might feel like a baby deer trying to find their balance as they stand and walk for the first time, but you can totally do it! If you can balance on one leg, you can stand up on a paddle board.
Attention beginner paddle boarders: Follow these steps to stand up for the first time and start your SUP journey:
- Start With a Kneeling Position
Bring the board out to knee-deep water and start by mounting the board on your hands and knees. Place your hands on the edges of the board and your knees slightly behind the center of the board (where the carrying handle is).
- Use Slow and Calculated Movements
Find your balance in this position. When you’re ready, move one foot at a time to the same spot where your knees were hitting the board.
Initially, keep your knees bent and rise up slowly by lifting your chest.
Boom, now you’re up and standing on the paddle board.
- Finding Your Balance
To stay balanced on the board, you need to keep your weight evenly distributed.
That might seem obvious, but it has to be mentioned. Putting too much weight on one side is a sure way to tip over.
Use these tips to stay balanced:
- Balance With Your Body
Don’t try to control the board; instead, focus on controlling your body. The board will be steady and balanced if you are.
Keep your feet hip-width apart at the center of the board. Both feet should point towards the front of the board. Your knees should be slightly bent.
- Centered and Upright
You want your upper body to be tall and proud so that you can see what’s around you and feel your center of gravity. Think about aligning your spine so that you’re in perfect balance with yourself and having even pressure on both legs.
Keep your eyes on the horizon. It’s a steady point of reference.
- Proper Grip For Holding The Paddle
Angle the paddle’s blade slightly forwards towards the nose of the board.
Your grip will change depending on the side of the board you’re paddling on. If you’re paddling on the right side, your left hand should be on the t-grip (on the top of the paddle where it comes to a T).
If you’re paddling on the left side, your right hand should be on the t-grip.
The hand that’s not on the t-grip should be a few feet down the shaft. Don’t forget to switch hand positions whenever you switch the side you’re paddling on.
What Happens if I Fall Off?
If you fall off? You will fall off! That’s part of the journey — all paddlers fall off from time to time. No big deal, just keep a cozy beach towel back at the shore.
Getting Back Up
Getting back up is what it’s all about. That’s the only way to keep getting better and enjoying SUP.
Approach the board from the side. Balance your paddle on the nose of the board. Reach for the handle in the center of the board and then the far edge of the board.
Hanging on to the board, let your legs float up to the surface. Then, kick like you’re swimming while pulling the board towards you and sliding on top of it.
Catch your breath and take a moment to reflect on what caused you to fall. Make a mental note to help you improve.
From there, maneuver yourself onto your hands and knees, and stand up the same way as you did initially.
Make It Go: How To Do the Perfect Paddle Stroke
There are three main strokes you’ll use as you navigate the water on your stand up paddle board. You’ve got to be able to move forwards, stop, and turn. Once you can do that, the water is yours to conquer.
You can start paddling on either side, but ultimately you’re going to alternate sides every three or four strokes so that you can keep a straight line.
For a forward stroke, sink the paddle into the water a few feet in front of you, towards the nose of the board. You want the entire blade to be under the surface of the water, but you don’t need to go any further than that.
Push down with your top hand and pull with the bottom, moving the paddle through the water until it’s about equal with your feet. The stroke itself is only a few feet in length.
Keep the paddle vertical to go as straight as possible.
Try to keep your arms straight and use your core muscles for strength and stability as your paddle. It might help to think of planting the paddle and pulling the board past it instead of sweeping the paddle through the water.
The reverse stroke isn’t actually used for going backward, although you might be able to make it work. It’s used for slowing down, stopping, and turning.
Essentially it’s the same movement as the forward stroke, except… you guessed it, reversed.
Start with the paddle behind you a couple of feet, with the blade under the surface of the water. Twist with your torso as you bring the paddle towards the center of the board.
Whatever side you use this stroke on will turn you in that direction.
The sweep stroke is used to turn the board either while you’re moving or standing still. The path of the stroke creates a wide arch beginning at the nose of the board and ending at the tail.
Whichever side you’re paddling on, let the corresponding shoulder lean forward as you reach towards the nose of the board with the paddle.
If you perform a sweep stroke on the right side, you will turn left. If you execute a sweep stroke on the left side, you will turn right.
Gear For Stand Up Paddle Boarding
You don’t need to own a SUP board to get into it. If you know a friend who’s into it, ask them to take you out to try it or if you can borrow their gear. Renting paddle boards is an option as well, and a good chance to speak with an expert who will guide you to one that’s best suited for your needs.
A SUP paddle has a long shaft with a t-shaped grip on one end and a tear-shaped blade on the other. A general rule for the length of the paddle is that it should be ten inches longer than your height.
PFD (Personal Flotation Device):
A personal floatation device helps assure your safety as you navigate the water. In some cases, a personal floatation device is required by law in order to operate a SUP.
You can use a traditional life jacket, but there’s also the option of wearing a PFD that’s been designed specifically for paddle boarding. You wear it around your waist, like a fanny pack, and pull a tab to activate the floatation device as needed.
Safety Whistle and Light:
The US Coast Guard requires you to wear a safety whistle in order to warn other vessels of your presence. A portable light is also required if you're paddling after sunset.
A SUP Leash:
A leash keeps you tethered to the board so that it doesn’t get away from you if you fall off. It attaches to the tail of the board on one end, and the other end is attached around your ankle with a velcro strap.
Now that you’ve read all about SUP techniques for beginners and the gear you need to get started, all that’s left is to give it a try.
If you go out with friends on a nice day, it’s impossible not to have a blast. And if it turns out that SUP isn’t for you after all, you can always enjoy floating on a FunBoy inflatable yacht instead. Either way, surf’s up (metaphorically speaking, of course)!