10 things I wish I knew when I started stand-up paddleboarding

Things I wish I knew when I started stand-up paddleboarding

The sport of paddleboarding has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many watersports fanatics and newbies buying paddleboards and taking them to the water to feel the joy of paddleboarding.

Paddleboarding is an accessible sport that people can pick up very quickly. It doesn’t take too many pre-acquired board skills. 

It’s also not as challenging as other watersports like; windsurfing, wakeboarding or kitesurfing, so more and more people are finding a love for paddleboarding.

If you’re beginning your paddleboarding journey, we have a dedicated list of tips and tricks that I wish I knew when I started paddleboarding. 

Tip for when you first start paddleboarding

Check your equipment 

Your equipment is your lifeline. 

Say that again to yourself. 

Good equipment is the only thing that stands between you and the water. 

Make sure you have set everything up correctly, then double-check it. 

The key things you should know and be clear on before you head out on the water are;

  • Is your paddle board inflated correctly?
  • Is your leash secured correctly?
  • Is your paddle connected securely?
  • Do you have a repair kit with you?
  • Are you wearing the correct clothing?

Inflated Board

If you are using an inflatable paddleboard, the board MUST be inflated to the stated PSI levels in the instructions. This can be hard to achieve on some models, make sure it’s blown up fully before you begin your SUP. 

BIG TIP: When you are inflating the board with a handheld or an electric pump make sure the valve is set to the OPEN POSITION/ UP POSITION to avoid air rushing out when you finish pumping. This normally means turning the valve counterclockwise. 

To deflate the board, press on the valve in the downward position and turn clockwise. This will deflate the board quickly. 

SAFETY WARNING: DO NOT touch the valve if you’re already afloat, deflating the board at sea even in shallow waters is very dangerous. 

Leash 

The leash must be secured safely, follow the guide in the instructions to ensure the leash will not un-attach when in the water. 

Attach the leash to the ankle of your “back foot” tightly with the velcro strap secured the entire way around the ankle. Your back foot is the opposite foot of your dominant leg. Identify the foot you’d kick a ball with and then put the leash on the other foot. 

Attach leash

Paddle

If you have a one-piece paddle, make sure it’s the right height. Read more on paddle length here.

If you have an adjustable-length paddle make sure the bolt is fully in place and that the SUP paddle won’t slip out of place. 

Repair kit

Punctures are rare but they do happen, especially around rocks and beaches,, so bring a puncture repair kit if using an inflatable SUP to repair any rips or tears in the rubber. 

Are you wearing the correct clothing?

Read what to wear on a paddleboard here

Lastly, TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! 

Don’t invest too early on. Rent some paddleboards before you buy your own to get a feel for which suits you and your local conditions best. 

Touring boards are normally the most suitable for beginners. Have a look at some here

2. Know the weather conditions 

It’s important to research the area where you are launching, and know the answers to the following questions:

Is the launch zone accessible by vehicle or walking?

If it’s walking access, you’ll need waterproof shoes to access the water. If you can drive close, strap the boards on the roof and off you go.

Is it tidal? 

If it’s tidal it means the tide will be there and high tide and there won’t be any water at low tide. Meaning you can only launch at high tide, and only come back in at high tide. Be careful and don’t get caught out, especially on the journey back in. Always know how you’re going to make it back to shore on the tide. 

Is it an offshore wind?

Don’t go out on offshore winds, and you are more likely to drift out to sea. The wind strength limit for beginner paddleboarders is anything over 10-12 mph.

Is it wavey?

If there is chop and waves you will find it more challenging to stay on your board and you will be more likely to fall off. 

Is it raining?

Yes? Who cares! Rain makes no difference to SUP sessions. Lightning and thunder are a big no, leave the water immediately if this happens. 

3. Have some lessons to learn the basic body positions 

Lessons are a great way to ensure that you’re doing everything correctly from the first instance.

It’s much harder to un-do bad habits than it is to learn initially the correct body position techniques. 

Search for a local SUP instructor to get you on your way. 

Here are some tips from the coaches at Watersports Pro:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart facing forwards, not sideways, on the board. 
  • Keep your eye level on the horizon and don’t look at your feet. 
  • Keep your knees bent and perform a half squat for each paddle stroke repetition.

You might like to read our article about how to stand up on a paddleboard.

4.  Know the most effective paddle stroke

The most effective paddleboard paddle stroke is achieved by keeping your top arm straight, bending your knees and drawing the paddle back with your core. Again, having paddleboard lessons will teach you this.

Learn how to turn on a SUP

5. Know the most efficient way to turn

Beginner Turn

Beginners will start by simply paddling on the opposite side of the way they want to turn. This will turn the board, but only to a certain degree. 

Intermediate Turn

To turn the board quicker, draw a semi-circle from the front of the board to the back of the board in the water, using your body as the pivot point. 

Advanced “Step Back” Turn

To make the turn even faster, step back with your back foot as you turn and sink the tail of the board. This is a more advanced skill and takes lots of practice and balance. 

Let your instructor teach you the best ways to turn your specific board to your ability. 

6. Know if you can get back on the board easily

Many people head out on the sup without any idea how to get back on.

You must know how to re-embark onto the board. 

Check in the shallows if you can easily get your torso onto the board and kick your legs around and up onto the deck of the board. If you struggle to do this with your feet on the floor, it may be impossible when you’re out at sea putting you at risk if you do fall off. 

Life jackets sometimes get in the way of the torso being able to clear the rails of the board. 

Always practice getting back on the board before setting off. 

7. Bring a picnic and a camera

Paddleboarding is one of the only sports where you can safely pack a picnic and camera, either by a backpack or strapping the pack to the front of the board – use this opportunity to enjoy food and beverages on board, and document the moments! Make sure the camera or phone is in a waterproof bag

8. Go with a friend

Try to avoid paddleboarding alone. If you do go alone, bring a radio or phone and tell someone on land that you’re on the water.

Have a friend with you in case of emergency and for a more enjoyable session. 

Paddleboarding is a unique watersport due to the fact that many, many participants can enjoy it together. Use Facebook and social media to find local paddleboard groups!

Paddleboard with a friend

9. Have an emergency plan

Knowing what to do in an emergency can save precious time. 

Wear your life jacket, have your leash securely attached, and know your exits, tides, and currents. Bring a phone to call the coastguard on 999 if you are in the UK in the event of an emergency. 

10. Relax!

Your performance and enjoyment will both be higher if you take a big deep breath, drop your shoulders away from your ears, stop clinging onto the board with your toes, keep your eyes on the horizon and shout “wahoo” with a smile. 

As a coach, when people are learning the major factor holding their progression back is the inability to relax. 

When relaxed your balance increases, muscle tension is used to hold you in place instead of restricting your movement around the board and you will have a more enjoyable SUP session with a smile!

So there you have it, 10 things you now know before you go on your next paddleboard adventure. 

Spread the word and see you on the water!

About the author

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Indie is the keenest watersports and fitness coach you'll ever meet. Whether it's windsurfing, paddleboarding or surfing, if there is any kind of wind or swell you'll find Indie charging on the water. She runs her own fitness and watersports instructor business called trainwithindie.com.

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