May 6, 2021
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) has continued to grow in popularity as it is an accessible way to explore and enjoy your local waterways while getting some full-body exercise. That’s not to say working out is the only reason to paddleboard, many people use SUPs mainly for nature-watching, sunbathing, or fishing.
Like many activities, paddle boarding can accommodate all fitness levels—meaning you can go at your own pace and still enjoy the water. Of course, if you paddleboard frequently enough, you will find yourself getting a little fitter and improving your balance.
Obviously, in a kayak you are sitting all the time. And, while the primary mode of using a paddleboard is standing, it also gives you the option of kneeling or sitting—so from that perspective it is a little more versatile.
Paddleboards are also a little easier for most people to manage off the water. They are often lighter than most recreational kayaks. On its own, or with the addition of a shoulder strap, it’s relatively easy to get your board from your vehicle to the water and back again.
Finally, paddleboards give you a different view of the water environment. Sure, kayaks put you closer to the water, but standing on a paddleboard let’s you not only see farther, but it also allows you to see down in the water—making it easier to spot a variety fish, stingrays, manatees, dolphins and other marine life that inhabits our shallow waterways.
There are boards and paddles to suit all body types and activities (fitness, fishing, touring, yoga, racing, etc.) and it’s recommended that you work with a local shop to address your specific needs. Generally, wider boards are more stable, longer boards are a little faster and go a bit straighter and shorter boards are more maneuverable.
The basics to get you started include a board, paddle, ankle leash, Personal Floatation Device (PFD) and a whistle. Again, your local shop can help you choose what you need for your activities and what you need to meet local water safety laws.
What are some of the extras that might make paddle boarding more enjoyable?
Start in a relatively shallow, calm-water area. As your skill and comfort levels increase, feel free to try more challenging conditions a little at a time—but to begin with, start in calm, safe waters.
To mount the board, float it in knee deep water, hold the sides (with the paddle in one hand parallel to the board) and kneel in the center (usually where the carry handle is located). If you feel wobbly, paddle a little while kneeling. If you feel stable, while still holding the sides of the board replace one knee with a foot, then the other knee with the other foot and stand. Keep your feet parallel and about shoulder width apart. Always keep a little bend in your knees.
Once you feel comfortable, take a few forward strokes on one side—putting the paddle blade in a foot or two ahead of you along the side of the board and then taking it is even with where you are standing. To keep you going straight, switch sides every few strokes. If you put the blade in the water too far out from the side of the board or keep the blade in the water too far past your body, it will usually cause the board to go from side to side instead of staying in a straight line.
Feel good going straight? Practice paddling backwards. This will challenge your balance a bit more. Try putting your paddle in the water just a little bit behind you, close to the board and push forwards. Again, if you want to go backwards in a relatively straight line, alternate sides every few strokes.
Want to turn a little one way? You can sweep the paddle a little wider or put a little more power into the stroke on the opposite side of the board. Want to turn left? Sweep a little wider or paddle a little stronger on the right.
Want to turn “in place?” Alternate one stroke forward on one side with one stroke backward on the opposite side.
Will I fall in the water while learning and practicing? Yes! As you are falling, try to push yourself away from the board while maintaining a hold of your paddle. Your ankle leash won’t let the board go far and you’ll be able to remount once you’ve composed yourself.
That’s up to you! The possibilities are as endless as the waters of the Earth. If you’re an explorer, research the local waterways before heading out on a new river or paddling to a new island. Think you might be a social paddler? Look for meet-up groups in your local area. Want to try yoga on a paddleboard? Most areas have a number of instructors with regular classes. The biggest thing to do once you’ve made the investment in a stand-up paddleboard is just to get outside and use it.