Although, in the beginning, you might find yourself in the water more than on the board itself, once mastered, spending an afternoon on a stand up paddle board can be a truly relaxing and peaceful experience. Whether lake or ocean bound, in no time at all with the sun at your back and feet solidly planted on your board, those early days of surprise splash-downs will be but a distant memory.
When first learning, the biggest obstacle most people face is the task of lifting from kneeling to a standing posture. Once upright on your board, your next challenge will be maintaining balance and control while paddling. And what do both of those tasks have in common? The core. It's all in the core, my friend.
Getting Upright Equals Getting Up Right
As in all balance exercises, maintaining a strong center is the key to success. Wobble in the center, and the rest will follow suit. So, step one is, keep it tight! And, by the way, your board has a center as well. Too far to the left? Splash! Too far to the right? Splash!
- Begin by kneeling on your board and get comfortable with a few strokes of your paddle. (More on that below).
- When you're comfortable, take a deep breath, and one foot at a time, lift to standing.
- You'll want to keep the feet about shoulder distance apart, all ten toes facing forward, and weight equally distributed.
- Don't forget to employ those tight six-pack abs.
Did you splash down? No worries. Hop on and try again. If you keep going overboard while utilizing your stellar center, it may be the fault of the board. Try a larger, flatter board for better stability.
So, now you're upright. Hooray! Stand strong. Did you feel a ripple in the water? No need to fret. Keep your knees soft and allow your body to move with the board.
Let's Talk Paddle
How long should stand up paddle board paddles be? To stroke like a pro, you'll want your paddle to be about six to ten inches taller than you. (Feel free to go a little longer for flat water and a little shorter for surf.) If it looks like your paddle is damaged, look again. Unlike a canoe paddle, the blade of stand up paddle board paddles have a slightly bent angle at the shaft to allow for a better reach. Now that you've been outfitted with the proper paddle:
- Grip the top of the stand up paddleboard paddle with one hand and about midway down the shaft, grip with the other.
- Your top hand will work as the driver and the bottom hand as the guide, so think about keeping the arm of the bottom hand extended and at your side.
- Extend your paddle as far forward as you can reach and bury it into the water.
- As you stroke, employ your strong back muscles and think about pulling your board past your paddle.
- Don't forget you've got two sides. A few strokes on each side should keep you propelled in a marginally straight line.
Oh by the way, fair warning. You might find stand up paddle boarding (SUP) to be an addictive activity. And once you move past renting, an entire world of equipment and accessories awaits you. Everything from leashes, bags, car-racks, handles, personal flotation devices and more will call to you. Your board can vary from a sleek race board to a wider yoga board or even an inflatable board. The SUP inflatable paddle board can be used for greater portability. Many SUP'ers are finding their SUP inflatable paddle board to be a better choice as they're durable and less expensive than the rigid boards. No matter which board you choose, however, once on the water, the basics remain the same.
SUP'ing is fun, hip, great exercise, and most of all water play, so don't be afraid to get wet. You might just find the refreshing moment of a killer splash to be the best moment of your day.