If you've been interested in paddleboarding for a while, then it is probably time to give it a try. Fortunately, you don't need an incredible amount of strength or skill to get started. Here are our tips and tricks to getting started fast.
1) How to stand on your Stand Up Paddleboard
It's in the name, so it's first on our list. Standing is the foundational (and sometimes tricky) part of paddleboarding. You will need to have your weight in the middle of the board with your feet shoulder width apart. However, when you are first starting, getting to that position can be a bit difficult.
For your first time, you will want to start kneeling on the paddleboard. Paddle out to an area where you can fall comfortably (meaning there isn't anything other than water that you will potentially land on). When you are ready while holding your paddle, you can put your hands on the board and raise your knees, into a downward facing dog pose.
Next, push from your hands and bend your knees into a squat position. Finally, you can stand up, making sure your eyes are forward and your back is straight.
Because it will take some time for you to acclimate to standing on the water, that last step can pose a challenge. To make it easier, you can use your paddle as a support (think tripod) to stand up fully. Simply put the blade of your paddle on the front of the paddleboard and use it for leverage until you are fully upright.
2) How to paddle your Stand Up Paddleboard
Moving on to the next aspect of the name, paddling is an essential part of paddleboarding. While there are dozens of different paddle strokes that you will use, we are just going to go over the essentials here.
First, holding the paddle: you will find that the paddle is quite long, and should be about 8-10 inches taller than you. You will start by placing one of your hands on the handle. This hand is critical because it will keep the paddle aligned, making the most of each stroke. If your paddle is a breakdown paddle, you might need to make sure that it has been put together properly. Make sure each connection is secure and that he handle is in line with the paddle blade. Your second hand should be 2-3 feet from your first, firmly gripping the shaft.
The first stroke is a basic forward stroke- Start by reaching out with the paddle, a few inches away from the side of the board, and making a long paddle stoke in a straight line, parallel to the direction that you want to go. Naturally, most people will want to follow the side of the paddleboard or rotate with their paddle stroke. In either case, this curved stoke will turn the board instead of making it go forward. To move forward, you will need to make sure that the path of the stroke is in a straight line.
Turning- That natural curved path does come in handy when you want to turn. Simply place the paddle in front of you and rotate, pulling the paddle in a wide sweeping curve. You will quickly learn, though, that you aren't the pivot point. That point is actually between you and the fin at the rear of the paddleboard.
Turning the opposite way- Instead of starting with the paddle in front of you, begin with it behind you, and just drag the paddle forward in that same large sweep.
The J Stroke- You might find, that no matter how straight your paddle stroke is, every push moves you a little off course. Now, you can switch hands and paddle on the opposite side of the board every few strokes, or you can learn the J Stroke. Basically, all you will do for a J stroke is add a little bit of flair at the end of your stroke to counteract that pull. Once you finish your straight stroke, rotate your paddle and pull you paddle out of the water at an angle, like you are writing a large J in the water. If you are still not staying on course, you can modify it into a C stroke, adding that flair to both the beginning and the end.
Paddling takes time, but you might be surprised at how proficient you are by the end of your first day on the water!
3) Choosing a board
Ahh yes, the board part of Stand Up Paddleboarding; we wouldn't want to over look that. In general, there are two main types of paddleboards: hard boards and inflatables.
From an experience standpoint, hard boards are difficult to beat. They are responsive, stable, and a little more efficient on the water. However, they are extra difficult to store and transport when you aren't paddling, which, for most of us, is the majority of the time.
Inflatable paddleboards our our preference, which is why we make them. If you are looking for a specialty board, for either long distance touring or racing, you will want to look for a long, narrow board. For everything else, you will want to find a board that is small enough for you to manage, but large enough to support the weight of you and your gear. In general we recommend our 10.5' board for a total weight capacity under 260 lbs. and our 11' for board for a total weight capacity under 300 lbs.
On the danger scale, paddleboarding rarely reaches the realm of extreme sports. While there are athletes out there that attempt to paddle their SUPs through rapids and over waterfalls, the vast majority of paddlers are going to opt for a lower level of excitement.
Nevertheless, simple steps should be taken to ensure that your paddling trip ends with a smile. This is not an exhaustive list of safety considerations, but here is our quick list:
The first step is to make sure you are familiar with the conditions that you are going to be paddling in. You want to make sure that you know any major threats beforehand.
What hazards are there in the lake, river or other body of water where you are paddling?
Are there any dangerous wildlife that you should look to avoid?
Is the water moving swiftly?
Are their boat lanes to avoid?
What are the weather conditions? Could the weather and/or water level change rapidly?
The technical term for a life jacket, a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is the fundamental piece of safety gear. In swift water or water with strong currents, a PFD should always be worn. Make sure that your PDF fits correctly and is rated to the conditions that you will be paddling in.
Non-swimmers should always wear a PFD, while strong swimmers may opt for a PFD belt.
In an emergency situation, communication is critical. A whistle is the easiest way to get attention and alert others of the emergency. Likewise, a leash can also be helpful in a worst case scenario. The leash is designed to prevent you from being separated from your board, and is important to use in swift moving water or strong currents.
Clothing also plays a vital role in safety. There are several things that you will need to pay attention to when picking your clothes.
While a lack of water is probably one of the last problems you would predict when planning a day on a kayak or paddleboard, it is one you will definitely want to plan for. Dehydration can lead to a number of problems in addition to making the trip less enjoyable. You will want to make sure you keep plenty of water and electrolytes in your system while you are paddling.
Make sure you pack a water bottle and start off your paddle trip well hydrated.
Finally, you will need to paddle within your limits. While paddling can be a great form of exercise, it does have some risks, and exhaustion magnifies those risks. To combat those threats, there are a few steps you can take.
And that's it! You now have everything you need to know to get started. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out through the chat and we will help!