Thinking of giving stand-up paddle boarding a try?
If you've never gotten on a stand-up paddle (SUP) board before, the experience can be both scary and exciting. Exciting, because it is a fun and exhilarating experience for sure, and scary because there is a big chance of you losing your balance and falling off your board. Not to worry though, for even the most inexperienced can keep themselves afloat on their SUP boards by just following a few simple steps.
Step 1: Gear up
The first step to getting yourself SUP boarding like a pro (or at least feeling like one) is to get the proper gear. Of course, you will need a stand-up paddle board. There are many different types of SUP boards available, but for beginners it's always better to go bigger. A longer, wider and thicker board will offer the greatest stability, which you will need in order to learn the basics of paddle boarding. Next, you'll need a paddle. Make sure to choose a paddle that's around 20 to 30 centimetres taller than you. You'll also need to get a leash to keep your paddle board attached to you. Lastly, you'll need a personal floatation device. Even if you know how to swim, it's always best to have one on. Aside from the fact that it may be required in your area to wear one, it's simply smart and safe to wear one especially since you are new to SUP boarding.
Step 2: Suit up
Depending on the weather and temperature, make sure you wear the appropriate clothing. In warmer weather you can simply wear a swimsuit and/or a rash guard, and in cooler weather you can wear a wetsuit and other protective clothing. And since you'll be out under the sun for quite a while, make sure you're well-protected by slathering on good sunscreen and wearing a hat, long sleeves, and sunglasses.
Step 3: Carry your board
It may sound silly to have to include this, but once you get your board you'll know why. SUP boards can be difficult to carry because of their enormous size. There are a couple of ways you can do this: lean the board sideways and carry the board under one arm using the handle located at the centre of the board; or carry it on your head. You do this by first lifting the tail of the board and walking yourself under it until you reach the centre of the board, and then balancing the board on your head, with both hands holding the rails or sides of the board.
Step 4: Set up
Before getting a foot in the water, make sure you're all set. Check that you have all your gear with you, and that your personal floatation device and leash are properly attached. Also check that your board's fins are properly attached.
Step 5: Mount your board
Since you're still starting out, it's best to do this on flat, calm water that's free from obstacles. Start by standing beside your board in shallow water-- not too shallow, else the fins will scrape the bottom. Place the paddle across the deck of the board and use it as an outrigger. Hold the board by the rail and the paddle grip (also located on the rail). Hop onto the board into a kneeling position, just behind the centre of the board.
Once you're on the board, try to get the feel of it. Feel the front and back, and side to side balance of the board. Make sure that the board is as level as possible, with no one part submerged or popping out of the water.
Step 6: Stand up
From the kneeling position you can actually just start paddling to get an even better feel of the board in movement, or you can try standing up. To stand up, start in the kneeling position first while grabbing the rails. Place each foot down where your knees are one at a time, carefully keeping the balance as you do. Your feet should be parallel and your toes facing forward. Keep your feet about hip to shoulder width apart, without stepping on the rails. Slowly let go of the rails and try to achieve full standing position, keeping your core at the centre of the board. Keep your knees slightly bent, your head and shoulders upright. Make slight adjustments to keep your balance—balance with your hips, not your upper body.
If you don't get it the first time, don't be discouraged. It may just take a few more tries and maybe even a few falls. If you do feel like you'll fall, try to push away from the board. It's better to fall into the water than on your board.
Step 7: Paddle
Paddling can be done either kneeling down or standing up. When holding the paddle, make sure to hold the top of the handle with one hand, and the shaft in the other. Your grip should be shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms straight with just a slight bend in the elbow. Extend the blade as far as you comfortably can along one side of the board, fully submerging the blade of the paddle. Let your back muscles, not your arms, do the work as you pull yourself ahead of the paddle. Do this 4 to 6 times before switching sides, reversing your hand positions as you do.
There are plenty of different paddle strokes that you can learn later on, but as a beginner, you can start with this simple stroke, and even start with smaller strokes until you gain the confidence and balance to make bigger ones.
Excited to achieve your first SUP boarding experience? Make sure you get all the gear you need. Check out Waves Overseas to find and purchase your very own stand-up paddle board in New South Wales.