Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has become one of the most sought-after and fastest-growing watersports in the world. Not only is it a great way to stay cool and take in the sights, SUP also offers an amazing full-body workout.
If you’ve never used SUP, below is our quick guide to enjoying the local waters, while working on your fitness goals.
To get started, you’ll need a SUP, Paddle, PFD and most important, a body of water, such as a lake, pond, river, bay and the open ocean. Your intended location is one of the most important considerations when choosing your stand up paddle board. REI offers great tips for choosing the right board.
• Stand up paddle board. A SUP comes in different shapes and sizes and will be the most expensive item on the list. For beginners, the longer, wider and thicker boards are best as they offer greater stability, ensuring beginners spend more time standing and less time falling. The downside is transport as the bigger boards are naturally heavier and unwieldy, but there different kinds of dollies and wheel transport systems out there for getting your SUP to and from the water. Better yet—view the transport as part of the workout!
• When choosing a paddle, the type of water you’re going to be in also weighs in heavy on your choice. For placid waters, longer paddles are preferred. For rougher waters or surfing conditions, you’re going to want a shorter paddle for quicker maneuverability. In general, the paddle you choose should be 6-10 inches taller than you.
• Personal Floatation Device (PDF). The U.S. Coast Guard considers stand up paddle boards as vessels and thus requires all people to have a PFD while paddle boarding. Make sure the one you choose is Coast Guard approved—usually Type II and III. Inflatable lifejackets are great for being light-weight and unobtrusive. Safety whistles are always a good idea and if you’re paddle boarding during sunset, carry a light for when it’s dark.
• Leash. Often sold separately, leashes ensure you don’t lose your expensive board and also add a measure of safety as they tether you to your board which is a large floatation device. There are different types of leashes for different bodies of water so choose accordingly.
• Remember: you’re getting in the water, you will get wet so don’t wear cotton clothing! The appropriate attire is water-wicking clothing or swimwear. If you’re going to be in colder waters, wear a wetsuit. Long sleeved rash guards are great for keeping you cool and protected from the sun. And don’t forget the sunscreen.
Getting in the Water
Calm and flat waters are the best when you’re just starting out. This will help you find your balance and get used to using your stabilizing muscles to keep you upright. Many find it easier to start off kneeling to get a better feel for how the board moves while in the water. The goal is to find the balance point of the board where the nose doesn’t rise up and the tail doesn’t dig in, or vice versa. Here are some tips:
• Keep your feet parallel and centered on the board between the rails with a wide stance, hip-with or little wider.
• Keep your upper body upright and straight, absorbing motion through your ankles, knees and hips. Keep your knees slightly bent.
• Do not look at your feet, keep your gaze on the horizon to help keep your balance.
• Get moving: forward momentum will increase your stability.
Time to Paddle
The key to getting the most from your stroke is holding the paddle correctly and utilizing your core for power. Many beginners wear themselves out quickly by relying too much on their arms and aren’t able to traverse very far. Proper technique will utilize your entire body, creating an efficient stroke that will propel you and your board smoothly. Here are some easy ways to ensure you get the most out of your stroke:
• It’s not a broomstick, keep your top hand on the grip with your bottom hand about shoulder width or wider down the shaft.
• When paddling on the right, your top hand is your left hand.
• The bend of the elbow of the blade should mirror your own elbows, not your knees. This will seem counter-intuitive for anyone who has paddled a canoe or kayak as it is the exact opposite but will ensure that the flat of the blade pushing the maximum amount of water at the proper angle.
• Completely submerge the blade and utilize your core and back muscles in your stroke. When the blade hits the water and you begin your pull, it starts from your feet. Your legs absorb the motion from the water and “push” your board forward while your arms act as a fulcrum to your torso as you pull yourself forward.
• To go straight, paddle a couple of times on each side before switching sides
• Turning is the law of opposites: To turn right, you paddle on your left and lean your weight on the right rail.
• Remember to switch hands when switching the paddle to the other side.
Remember above all else to have fun and enjoy your vantage point! Stand up paddle boarding is a great activity for sport, leisure or a workout. It’s an investment to be sure, but if you have the time it is worth it. And if you’re unsure it’s something that’s going to be worth the initial investment, try it out first. There are plenty of places, including Everyday California, which rent stand up paddle boards. Once you try it, you’re love it. So get in the water and SUP!