If you're hitting the water for the first time this season, you may have several questions on how to stay safe, take good care of your board, how to stand & paddle correctly, and most importantly how to have fun. We asked Airhead SUP ambassador, Kim Ciesla, to pull together this first timer's guide to stand up paddle boarding, to help walk you through some of the basics.
Keep a Check on the Weather and the Wind
First and foremost, always be safe and know before you go. Check your local weather forecast for any possibility of storms or wind changes to be expected. Once on the water, pay attention to wind directions and speeds. A paddler standing upright on a SUP is like a sail on a sailboat, winds can suddenly propel you out and into the deep quickly and unexpectedly. If the wind does happen to catch you off guard, immediately drop down to your knees with your paddle underneath, and/or lay down and paddle yourself back like a surfer into safer and shallower waters.
Weather.gov has a ton of information available online, and there are a wide variety of mobile apps available that will allow you to keep this information in your pocket at all times.
Keep it Fin Deep
Upon entering the water for the first time, be sure that you have placed your board deep enough into the water so that when you put your weight on the board you don’t push the fin into the sandy and/or rocky bottom. Doing so could possibly damage or even break the fin completely off.
The SUP Stance
To start, stand on your board with your feet at hip width apart with your knees slightly bent and your back straight. Using this position allows your knees to work as shock absorbers assisting with balancing and keeping your weight over your board, it also allows you to engage your core muscles which helps to avoid back injury and making your strokes much more effective. This stance also improves your overall strength and endurance.
Paddle with your core Stand up paddle boarding can be quite an overall workout on your body. Be sure that you focus on using your core muscles versus using your arms and shoulders. Most beginners make the mistake of standing rigid and tight, while paddling with their arms and shoulders causing them to fatigue much more quickly. Try focusing on using your core muscles, doing this allows you to access a much stronger power source to paddle harder and longer.
Keep your Eyes On the Horizon
As a beginner it is easy to want to constantly look down and watch your feet and the board as it pushes its way through the water. However, for best stability and balance keeping your head up, your back straight and your eyes on the horizon centers you on the board as well as over your feet.
Stand in the Right Place
Stand in the center of the pad on your board with your feet at hip width. Don’t stand too far back on your board as it will cause the nose of your board to tip up creating the board to drag more in the water and moving at a much slower pace.
Hold Your Paddle Correctly
Be sure that the paddle blade is angled forward. Simple as it may seem your first instinct is to hold the paddle backwards to cup the water, however paddling in this position tends to push the water up while pulling your board down. Also hold your paddle straight up and down and pull it back in a straight line, not too far away from your board. The more you paddle further out and away from the board will cause the board turn. Hold the paddle with your hand somewhere in the center of the paddle and the other over the top. To check this grab your paddle and hold it over your head, it should be at right angles with your elbows. This will give you much better grip and strength for paddling.
Plant, then Pull to Paddle
When you are ready to begin paddling be sure that the blade is planted fully in the water before your pull back. This provides you the most power from the blade as well as helping to stabilize you. Additionally, having the blade planted fully into the water acts as a brace to help with your balance as you begin to paddle.
Make Sure You Have these SUP Board Accessories
There are so many accessories for paddle boards, but a SUP Board Leash and Personal Floatation Device (PFD) are the stand up paddle board accessories that are critical to your safety.