Stand up paddling (SUP) has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. Stand up paddling provides both a fantastic full body workout and a spectacular open water vantage point, all while improving balance and stamina. In short, stand up paddling is a fun, healthy way to enjoy the ocean. The following tips are designed to help beginner stand up paddlers enjoy all the benefits of stand up paddling without harming themselves or others.
Chose the right stance
Many beginners mistakenly believe that they should stand on a SUP the way they would stand on a surfboard or skateboard. Outside of waveriding, this is incorrect. To properly paddle a SUP, face forward, towards the nose of the board, with your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart. Your feet should be parallel to the rails of the board. This stance provides the best balance while paddling.
A paddleboard is in trim when weight is properly distributed for maximum hydrodynamic efficiency and minimal drag. If your weight is too far forward the nose will be underwater. If your weight is too far back, the tail will sink and create excess drag. The traction pad on your SUP provides a guideline for the best place to stand. If you notice your board can glide with minimal padding effort, you are in trim.
Start in flat water
Try to find a spot with no waves when learning how to stand up paddle. Lakes, sounds, and protected coves often provide the best learning environment. Choose a day with light wind and minimal chop. It’s hard enough to learn to balance the board on flat water without adding the extra challenge of breaking waves.
Many new paddlers are unsure about which direction the paddle blade should face when paddling. The angle of your paddle blade should face away from you to create lift and make paddling more efficient. If you think of your paddle as an “L” the bottom of the L should always point forward.
Move back to turn
Whether you are riding waves, or paddling in flat water, your fin and paddle should act as pivot points when you turn. To turn quickly, apply weight to the tail of the board so the nose rises slightly out of the water. Plant your paddle in the direction you want to turn and take a reverse stroke. Take a normal paddle stroke on the other side of the board and repeat this process until the turn is complete.
Stay away from people in the surf
Learning to ride waves is one of the most fun aspects of stand up paddling. It’s also one of the most dangerous. After all, throwing a 12 foot log into a crowded surf zone doesn’t exactly sound like a good idea. For this reason, it is imperative to stay away from people when learning to ride waves on a SUP. Avoid popular surf spots and watch out for swimmers. You will fall on your first few waves. You may fall on your first hundred waves. This is fine, it’s part of the learning process, but its best not to decapitate people along the way.