The shaky leg sensation when paddleboarding mainly affects beginner riders and can put be down to several reasons; challenging conditions, under-inflated boards, inadequate equipment, nerves, incorrect stance, or incorrect technique.
But don’t worry, it’s very common for first-time paddleboarders to have shaky legs, and sometimes it can take a few tries to get used to.
The more time you spend on the water working on your technique the less you will feel wobbly on your paddleboard over time.
Why do my legs shake when paddle boarding?
So you finally manage to get onto your feet on your SUP and you suddenly by having jelly legs. How annoying!
Alas, there are things you can do to help!
We’re going to explore why your legs may be shaking on the board, how to minimise it and how to progress your paddleboarding ability to get the most out of your time on the water and banish those wobbly legs for good!
The location & conditions
For your first attempts at paddleboarding, you want to choose a calm, flat and super safe location. Rivers, lakes and flat seas are all great paddle boarding options for beginners.
Once you’ve chosen your best spot, make sure you check the conditions. You will need to check a few elements; the wind speed, the wind direction, the swell height, the swell period, the tide and if you’re feeling particularly precious, whether or not it’s raining!
Our article on how to paddleboard on the ocean might assist you further.
As a general rule, you don’t want to head out in any wind above 10 knots (approx 11mph), especially if the wind is blowing “offshore”. Check which direction “offshore” is in your area. Going paddle boarding in strong offshore winds increases the risk of being blown out to sea with a very hard paddle back to shore. Use websites like Wind Guru for accurate wind forecasting.
Until you’re ready to enter the uncharted waters of wave riding on your sup, you will want to choose a flat day if you’re going out paddle boarding on the sea. Use tools like www.magicseaweed.com to check the swell height on your chosen day.
Crucial. Especially if you’re planning on paddle boarding in tidal harbours. Make sure the tide is: A) high enough for you to launch your boards safely, and B) not be at risk of getting taken out by the outgoing tide. Remember tide speed plus wind speed can be a lethal combination if both elements are heading out to sea. So bear this in mind before heading out on the water.
Read more here about the right tide to paddleboard in.
As a beginner aim to go out on the flattest calmest day possible, this will give you the best shot and feel the most stable on the board.
Contending with chop will destabilise the board, make it wobble left to right and give you that wobbly legs sensation as your muscle fibres have to contract at lightning speed to keep you balanced on the board.
Fighting against high winds/strong tides will alter your paddling position and force you to push your weight down through your legs more as you will naturally put more pressure through your paddle stroke, therefore engaging the quadricep muscles more intensely than flat water riding, potentially adding to the muscle tremble.
Trust us, the flatter the water, the easier you will find it.
It’s your responsibility to check your equipment is safe if you’re not launching from a rental centre, so double-check you have attached your leash and there are no holes in your board!
If you’re just starting out paddle boarding you are going to want to select a very stable board with a lot of volume and stability in order for you to nail the basics before progressing onto smaller boards.
The bigger the width and length of your board, the more stability you will have.
If you have been supping on a short and narrow board before you were ready this may be why you’re experiencing wobbly legs.
Try a bigger, wider, longer, more sturdy board on your next venture.
Your boards PSI level
Have you ever seen someone go out paddle boarding on an under-inflated board? It’s very obvious as the board bows in the middle and becomes more banana-shaped.
Under-inflation makes the board less taught, and less efficient and may make you wobble more as the board essentially can hold less weight at a lower PSI.
Use the inflatable pump that comes with your board and pump it up to the correct amount.
Here is some more information on the correct PSI for your board.
Your body position & nervousness
It can be very tempting to feel more connected to the board by clinging on with your toes and tensing up if you’re nervous about falling in.
Try to avoid this natural body mechanism and relax your stance. Bend your knees, keep your shoulders relaxed and try to wriggle your toes. The more you grip on with your toes, the more likely you are to wobble.
Keep your eyes on the horizon, this will bring your torso more upright and aid your balance. The more balanced you are, the less you will be shaking.
Try to exhale slowly and start chatting with your paddle mates, this will switch off the panic part of the brain and enable you to relax into your paddle strokes more, hopefully making you more comfortable on the board and less shaky.
Your paddle technique
You may be paddleboarding hunched over and not fully extending your spine. This won’t help the shakes and you will be stunting the forward inertia of the board. Fully stand up, and keep your eyes on the horizon to help feel more balanced.
Bend your knees on each paddle stroke, squat down to drive the board forward, fully extend and repeat. This action of bending the knees will teach you to be more confutable with movement on the board and get the legs used to being worked out on the water.
Ideas to help stop wobbly legs a paddleboard
Right, now we have identified why the shaky paddle board legs may be affecting your performance. Let’s look at how to fix it.
We can limit the amount our legs shake on a paddleboard by correcting some of the following things; your physical training plan, your kit preparation, and your mindset.
Training the core will increase your overall stability performance. Stabilising the midline is the main pillar to good balance. Here are some good core exercises for paddle boarding.
Get squatting, lunging and glute bridging. Creating stronger muscle tone in the lower limbs will equate to less lactic acid build-up in the legs when you’re on the water and help banish Bambi’s legs! Try these bodyweight leg exercises.
Get yourself a balance board to practise on dry land. Practice makes perfect, epically with balance training. Indo boards are fab, have a look here.
The fitter you are, the less likely you are to be out of breath when SUPing, therefore you are consequently less likely to be depleting the body of glycogen getting the muscles cramps and shakes. Also, the less out of breath you are, the calmer you will feel and the less you will be jittery on the board.
Prepare your kit. Know that you’ve got a waterproof bag with a phone in it to ease the nerves if you need to call for help. Try these bags.
Know you’ve safely attached your leash so there’s no need to feel frightened.
Go out knowing your PSI is top-notch and feel the benefit of a fully pumped-up board!
Calmly remind yourself that the more relaxed you are, the easier it will be and the less you will shake. Don’t force it if you still are shaking too much and take regular breaks on your knees.
Learning a new sport takes patience and time. Enjoy the process, and one day you’ll look back fondly at the shaky leg days!
About the author
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.