A Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding

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Camping and hiking is a nice, but sometimes you want more. If you are by a lake, lazy river, or ocean, then paddle boarding is a great way to enjoy all of that nature. Just stand up on your board and get going, but wait! What do you do if you are just starting out? Hmmm. Fortunately though, you have a Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding right here, so let’s jump right on into it.

How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board

The first piece of gear you will need is a stand up paddle board. It may seem like all boards are the same, but there is quite a variety to them. There are all around, inflatable, fishing, yoga, touring, surfing, and racing paddle boards to choose from. Woah! That is quite a lot, so let’s check out the difference between the boards.

The All Around Paddle Board – the Every Man’s Board

This kind of board is capable of handling just about any condition. It is Jack of All Trades, the master of none. You can use it on the ocean for surfing or just a casual day on the lake, drifting about. It is the most common type of paddle board, providing versatility in all conditions.

The Inflatable Board, it Saves You a lot of Space

By far, this board is the most portable and storable of all the paddle boards you will look at. It easy to pick up and move about. If you are hiking to a body of water for quite a distance, then this board will ease the load you carry. Unlike a lot of other boards, it can better handle bumps, rocks, and white water better.

The Fishing Paddle Board, Feed Your inner Fisherman

Most people will probably not get this board. It is not very common to see people fish off of a paddle board, but it does happen. With these boards, they are wider and longer, making them able to hold your fishing gear and giving you the stability to move around on your paddle board.

The Yoga Paddle Board, Anyone Up for Some Downward Dog?

The decks of these boards are expansive for fitness. Depending on the width and length, you might even be able to do some burpees on one of these puppies. These boards are very stable because of their width. Often times, they also have a comfort pad or mat on top of them to make the deck easier on your knees and feet. Compared to other boards, they do not move as fast.

The Touring Paddle Board, These Go Fast and Glide

These boards are meant to glide and go fairly fast, second only after the racing paddle board in terms of speed. They work best heading downwind on flat water and open ocean. They work best on long distance expeditions. If you are considering paddle boarding backpacking, then this is a board to think about.

Surfing Paddle Boards, Shred the Nar!

In my free time, I like to surf at Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz in addition to camping and hiking, so I see these boards fairly often. Because you will have length, width, and a paddle on your side, it is fairly easy to catch a wave with a surfing paddle board. These boards work best on small and medium-sized waves. You won’t be taking on the 10 footers (3 m) though. You will be able to handle calm waters no problem, gliding effortlessly across the near flat water.

Racing Paddle Boards, Speed is the Name of the Game

Compared to other boards, these are longer and thinner. The creators designed these with speed in mind. If you are planning to race soon, then these are ones to consider. They can glide for quite a long time. For beginners, they can be challenging because they are not very wide, so they take more balance than compared to the other boards listed here.

Advice for Choosing a Paddle Board, Essential to Making the Right Decision

Wow! That is a lot of boards to choose from, so how do you decide? In general, for a beginner like you, dear reader, I recommend an all around board. It is a great beginner board. You can surf with it on the ocean or glide on a slow moving river. You have flexibility in what you can do with it.

Also, it is one thing to read an article online. It is another thing entirely to talk to a person in real life, especially for beginners, so be sure to go into a store to look at boards with your own eyes. It will give you a feel for the boards and what to expect. You can get immediate answers and be reassured by an expert.

One more thing, when considering boards, you want one that is at least 30 inches (76 cm) wide and 11 feet (3.4 m) long at least. This will give you plenty of stability you desperately need as a beginner. If you just rush into a shorter board, it will teach you bad technique and it will not prepare you to handle shorter boards.

How to Stand Up and Paddle

Once you have your paddle board, it is now time to head down to a body of water near you. This could be an ocean, lake, or river. Either way, we will be starting in calm, shallow water. You do want to try to stand up on your board in rough waves. It is quite difficult and you won’t be having any of it, so let’s break down how to stand up.

5 Easy Steps to Standing Up – There is Quite a Bit to It

  1. Stand alongside your board in shallow water atop the soil or sand beneath your feet in the water. This should give you plenty of footing.
  2. Once in shallow water, hold the board by the edges and crawl onto the board until you are in a kneeling position. This will give you stability.
  3. Once atop the board in the kneeling position, steady the board with your hands on either side of the board.
  4. The next step is to move one foot at a time to where your knees were on the board.
  5. Slowly raise your chest with your knees bent. Bent knees give you strength to handle any shocks so you can hold your ground. When you chest is straight up and vertical, you can now stand up.

How to Keep Your Balance – a Whole Other Game All Together

Now that you are finally standing up, congratulations! You are half-way there to stand up paddleboarding (SUP). The other trick is to keep your balance. Fortunately though, the board is plenty wide, so you have extra stability, but that does not mean you should not be ready.

Keep these thoughts in mind when on your paddle board. Your feet need to be parallel with toes facing forward. This will give you plenty of stability to handle the minor shocks like waves that are bound to bump your board. You also want to keep your knees slightly bent and back straight. When your knees are bent, you have power. In almost every sport, your knees are bent. This gives you power. If your legs are straight, you do not have the wherewithal to handle any shocks that come at you.

Lastly, when moving on your board, be sure to shift your weight by moving your hips and keep your gaze at the horizon. This will keep you balanced when waves come at you. They might be small or large or somewhere in between. Either way, they will happen. When you adjust your hips, you respond to the instability below you. By looking ahead, you can anticipate what is coming at you. It is also important to be on the lookout for others in the water. You probably won’t be the only one on the water.

How to Hold a Paddle, Save Your Arms a lot of Work

To hold a paddle, there is actually a technique to it. You use your left hand to hold the top and grab at the middle with your right hand when paddling on the right side. You reverse hands when paddling on the left. Make sure the hand grabbing the center of the paddle is at a 90° angle. When you paddle, dip the tear dropped blade into the water. Also, make sure your arms are straight and twist with from your torso as you paddle, keeping your back straight. Your power comes from your back.

Different Strokes for Different Folks – the Three Types of Paddling Techniques

There are three types of paddling you can do on a paddle board: forward, backward, and sweep.

The first one, the forward stroke, is fairly self-explanatory. You dip your paddle into the water about 2 feet (.6 m) in front of you for three or four strokes and pull back towards you. Then switch to ther other side and do the same with your hands in the opposite positions to go fairly straight. Do not grind the paddle right up against your board. It will not propel your board as well. Put a little distance between the edge of your board and paddle instead.

For the reverse stroke, it is the same hand holding techniques as the forward stroke, but you start from the back of your paddle board and pull your paddle forward. It is a great technique for slowing down, stopping, and turning.

Least common of the strokes, the sweep stroke is under utilized. It is like the forward stroke but you pull in a half oval in the water around your board. This stroke is meant to turn your board. If you do it on the right side of your board, you will go to the left. If you do it on the left side of your board, you will go to the right.

Accept the Fact that You Will Fall in at Some Point

Hey, everyone falls at some point. It is okay. It is only a matter of getting up once you fall.

When you do fall, aim to the side with your butt and hang onto the paddle. This will save you a lot of headache. If you fall right onto your paddle board, it will hurt. There is no doubt about it, so aim for the water with your butt. If you aim with your butt and land on the board, the cushion on your tush with save you. It is one of the fattiest parts of your body, giving you an already in built air bag. When you hang onto your paddle, you prevent yourself from having to swim for it.

Once you are in the water and have your paddle, how do you get back up? It is simple. Grab near the center of the board and kick with your feet for momentum. The center of the board is the most stable, making it able to handle your weight. By far, your legs are the strongest muscles in your body. When you kick, you give yourself the momentum to come over the top and onto your board.

Accessories for Your Board Worth Thinking About

In general, there are two types of gear when heading outdoors, the necessity and the extra. Some people will try to sell you on something being a necessity when it really is not, so let’s dive right on into it.

Essentials that are Necessary for Paddle Boarding and Extras You Might Want to Consider

The Paddle, an Essential for Paddle Boarding

You cannot paddle board without a paddle. It defeats the purpose if you do not have it. When looking at paddles, take your height and the size of your board into account. Those are the two most important factors to consider.

A Leash, it Makes Grabbing Your Board in the Water a lot Easier

You will fall into the water at some point when paddle boarding. It is a guarantee, so you will need a leash. In general, they are about as long as your board and come in a wide array of styles. I definitely recommend one. When I surf, a leash is a necessity. The board becomes like a torpedo without one. The same goes for a paddle board. A leash makes it easier for you to reel in your board and for you to protect others in the water.

The Personal Flotation Device (PFD), Safety Matters

If you are underage, you have to wear a PFD in the water. If you are an adult though, you do not have to wear one. A good life jacket can save your life, so play it safe and save yourself. Your future self will thank you.

Whistle, it is a Requirement on All Along the Seaboard

Before my research, I did not know this, but the Coast guard actually requires that you have a whistle. They classify a paddle board as a vessel, which means you have to be able to alert others on the water of your presence. This means that you need to get a whistle. That was a new one for me. Please note that this only applies to paddle boarding on the ocean.

Extras that Make the Journey a Lot Easier

Board Bag, an Excellent Way to Extend the Lifespan of Your Board

If you are traveling, then a board bag will add years of life to your paddle board. It is a fact of life that accidents do happen, on and off the water. A board bag will protect your board from the odd ball scratches and dings you are bound to run into when on land with your board. If you plan to catch a flight with a paddle board in the future, then it is a necessity. Airlines cannot be trusted for their luggage care, so you will need a board bag to protect from the bumps an airline is bound to pound on your board.

Sunscreen, You Need it to Protect Your Skin

Ultraviolet rays will beat down on your skin, transforming your color to a darker tone. If you want to have nice skin when you are older, then you will need sunscreen. Even if you have a darker skin tone and think you can go without sunscreen, the sun still affects you, resulting in wrinkles later in life if you are not careful.

Wetsuit, for those Chilly Waters

In Santa Cruz, you can go without a wetsuit in the waters of the Pacific, but it is going to be rough. The water is very cold. If you are in warmer waters, then a wetsuit is not necessary. If you end up getting one, practice proper wetsuit care by washing it with fresh water after each use and keep it out of the sun. With a wetsuit, it’s always Summer on the inside.

5 Common Beginner Mistakes

1. Buying all the gear they need right off the bat.

If there is one thing you want to do with paddle boards, it is to try before you buy. Paddle boards are expensive. You have to throw down quite a bit of dough for just a new one of them, hundreds of dollars. I recommend that you either rent a paddle board and gear to start off or borrow from a friend at least once or twice. This will give you a taste of what to expect.

2. Holding the paddle incorrectly.

You do not want to hold it like a broomstick and you do not want a short grip either. It needs to be shoulder width apart. Improper paddling posture and holding will result in back pain. If you want to keep your back in old age, then you need to make sure you hold your paddle correctly.

3. Not watching out for your surrounding.

This is particularly true for surfing paddle boarders. You get caught up in the rush of the coming wave and do not realize someone is behind you and you make contact with each other, resulting in a bad time. A paddle board is big and bulky. It can do a lot of damage, so be aware of rocks, shores, and other vessels like surfers, kayakers, and boaters. It is for everyone’s safety.

4. Standing in a surfer stance on their SUP board.

A paddle board is very similar to a surf board, but the former is much larger and more stable. You can take a wider stance instead of an elongated stance because of the width. In a surfer stance, you are more likely to fall over. It is much less stable and really meant for surfboards, not SUP.

5. Making your arms do the work.

Your back is the backbone of paddle boarding, not your arms. You use your full body when paddle boarding, saving your arms from a lot of strain in the process. It gives you more endurance when you use your full body.

Advice for Your First Time Paddle Boarding

If you think that paddle boarding is not for you or you want to try another water activity, then you might want to consider kayaking. In a previous article, I wrote about kayaking and canoeing safety for beginners. It is an awesome activity where you do not even have to stand up. You only have to sit.

==> I Want to Give Kayaking a Shot <==

Otherwise, you should be just about all set for your first SUP session. It is going to be a good day. Before that though, take this advice in mind so you don’t find yourself in a bind.

You want to start on a calm, sunny, low crowd day. This will make sure everything is easy peezy, lemon squeezy. This means little to no wind, usually in the morning. Mornings are, often, quite calm. There are fewer people and the morning is slower than the afternoon. You can take your time.

You also want to start the day paddling into the wind and paddle back with the wind at your back. It makes the journey a lot easier, but how do you find out the wind directions? This is a bit tricky. It can be difficult to know the wind directions. Read up on the weather for your area and you will be able to figure out the wind direction for where you are planning to paddle board.

Before heading out onto the water, plan for about an hour on the water. This is about as long as comfortable for a first time. You get your feet wet as it is just beyond most people’s limits. For your own safety and to have a blast on the water, go with a friend so you two can keep an eye on each other. Life is a lot more fun with a friend. You can laugh together and share in the joyous memories.

Are You Going to Head Out to the Water?

It is one thing to read an article. It is entirely another thing to go out and paddle board at a place near you. This article was only worth the read if you take action. So what do you say, are you going to head out onto the water? If you click on the link below, you will be taken to Google Search Results for “paddle boarding near me.” A small google search is a step in the right direction.

==> I Want to Try Paddle Boarding <==

If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!

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8 Comments on “A Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding”

  1. Wow Alex! Stand up paddle boarding is something I’ve been interested in doing for awhile now… I had NO idea there was so much to know about it! Inflatable boards? Racing boards? Whistles to wear? You seem extremely knowledgeable on the subject and I’ve really enjoyed reading your article. It’s incredibly helpful! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. I am glad to hear you enjoyed the article Courtney. There are quite a variety of boards and pieces of gear to get. I appreciate the compliment.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  2. Everything I ever wanted to know about learning how to paddleboard! I was a bit surprised when you said there are inflatable paddle boards. All it made me think of was trying to stand up on an inflatable lounger thing in a pool. 🙂 I’ve seen people paddle boarding and thought it looked really relaxing and a fun way to experience being out on the water. Think I’d want to stick to the shallows to start though 🙂

    1. I am glad to hear you enjoyed the article Lynne. When I write an article, I aim to be as thorough as possible.

      You made me chuckle. I can understand where you are coming from with the inflatable paddle boards. I have tried to stand up on an inflatable pool lounger and it did not work. It is a very fun activity to paddle board. Even if you only stay in the shallow areas, you are bound to have a blast.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  3. I have been desperate to learn how to stand up for paddle boarding but I have not been very successful yet. I read this post and you made it so easy for me to follow. So on my next visit to the sea, I will implement what you have written. Many thanks Alex.

    1. It can be difficult to stand up paddle board if you do not know what you are doing. I am glad to hear this article helped you.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. GREAT information on paddle boarding! I live on the ocean, and I have been wanting a paddle board. I have been shopping around looking.

    Also, you are right, that a good paddle is worth the investment too. I have been told that I should not go skimpy when I get the paddle, that they can cost as much as the board! I am a little leery of spending that much on a paddle. What are your thoughts?

    1. I am glad to hear you enjoyed the article Matt’s Mom. When you live near the ocean, you have the opportunity to paddle board. It can be a blast.

      Your question is a good one. The paddle is essential to paddle boarding. When looking at paddleboard paddles, you do not need to go skimpy and you do not need to buy an expensive one either. You can be sure to find the right one for you at a reasonable price. When looking at paddles, you take length, material, and blade size, shape, and offset into account.

      When it comes to length, you go off your height. For material though, the heavier the paddle, the less expensive it is. The materials used determine its maneuverability and durability. The blade determines how fast you move through the water. A bigger blade means you faster and it is recommended the bigger you are. The blade shaping is determined by the type of paddle boarding you do. I hope this helps you.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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