How To

Stand Up Paddleboarding 101: Learning the Basics

A woman stand up paddleboards, the fastest growing water sport in the world. Learn how to get a grip on stand up paddleboarding with this guide.

Stand up paddleboarding is quickly becoming one of the most popular water sports. To take your shot at this unique pursuit, there’s a few basics you’ll need to get down.

The first step to becoming a better paddleboarder is accepting that you will most likely fall. Balance will come with a dedicated mindset and enough time set aside to practice. This sport is great for beginners because it offers the opportunity to test out a new activity without sinking a sizable chunk of change into it. Most of the shops where paddleboards are sold also rent out the equipment, so getting started can come at a reasonable cost.

As for the board itself, a larger board will provide greater balance than what a smaller board gives, used often by those more experienced on the water. Some people will have a natural balance that will allow them to transition to these smaller boards a bit faster, but starting with a bigger board is your best bet. When choosing a paddle, make sure it is approximately six to 10 inches taller than your height, but choose specifically in that range based on what is most comfortable for you. Unlike a typical paddle, ones used while paddleboarding have an angle, also referred to as the elbow, which is more effective in this stand-up sport.

Paddleboards are recognized as vessels by the U.S. Coast Guard, so wearing a personal flotation device is required. An option that may work better than a traditional life jacket is an inflatable personal flotation device (PFD) that is belted around the waist. This allows a wearer to have less constricted movement, which is especially important during your first experience paddleboarding and it can be instantly inflated by simply pulling one string.

In addition to the board, paddle, and life jacket, make sure to wear clothing that is fitting with the weather along with adequate sunscreen to avoid harmful burns. Wetsuits should be worn in colder waters and bathing suits are fine for warmer temperatures, but making sure whatever clothing you’re wearing is something that will not work against the water is essential.

For beginners, schedule your first time engaging in the sport during calm weather, so as to allow the easiest period of practice time. Paddleboarding is common in many types of waters, from lakes to oceans to rivers, and each arena has its own challenges.

Many people prefer to kneel first on their paddleboard before standing to get adjusted. Falling is common, but make sure to fall away from the board and into the water so potential injuries are avoided. Make sure that when standing your feet are the same distance apart as your hips, with the hips being the source of control while paddling. Keeping your feet molded to the board and your back straight are keys to success and bending the knees will be helpful. Using less powerful, shorter strokes with the paddle will help a beginner get adjusted.

Once you gain practice it may be in your best interest to invest in a smaller, more movable board that gives more control than is offered by the larger boards. After starting in calmer waters, people progress to more active areas that may have distractions such as boats or rapids. Learning the basics is fundamental and will put you well on your way to becoming an expert paddleboarder.

Image from Bill Ebbesen on the Wikimedia Commons

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