A Beginner's Guide to Paddleboarding

two person riding on paddle boards during daytime

Camera Icon Matt Zhou / Unsplash

Paddleboarding, also known as stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), is a popular water sport that offers a unique and enjoyable way to explore lakes, rivers, and coastlines. Whether you're looking for a relaxing activity or a full-body workout, paddleboarding can be a great option for beginners. This beginner's guide will provide you with the essential information to get started on your paddleboarding journey.

Getting Started

Before you hit the water, there are a few key steps to follow when starting paddleboarding:

  1. Select the Right Board: Choose the right paddleboard for your needs. Consider the type of water you'll be paddling on, your skill level, and your intended use (such as recreational paddling, yoga, or surfing). Inflatable boards are popular for beginners due to their portability and ease of storage.

  2. Gather the Necessary Equipment: Along with a paddleboard, you'll need a paddle, a leash, and a personal flotation device (PFD) for safety. Ensure your paddle is the correct size for your height, with the blade facing the right way (angled away from you).

  3. Find a Suitable Location: Look for calm and flat water for your first paddleboarding experience. Choose a location with minimal boat traffic, such as a lake, bay, or slow-moving river. Avoid areas with strong currents, waves, or offshore winds.

  4. Learn the Basics: Before venturing onto the water, take some time to learn the basics of paddleboarding. Practice proper stance and balance on land, understand how to hold the paddle, and learn the basic strokes, including forward stroke, reverse stroke, and turning strokes.

  5. Safety First: Always prioritize safety when paddleboarding. Wear a properly fitted PFD, attach the leash to your ankle or calf to keep the board nearby in case you fall, and be aware of your surroundings and any potential hazards.

Getting on the Water

Now that you have your equipment and basic knowledge, it's time to get on the water:

  1. Start in Shallow Water: Begin in shallow water where you can comfortably stand. Get onto your paddleboard and position yourself on the center of the board, ensuring that it is parallel to the waterline.

  2. Find Your Balance: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, keeping your weight evenly distributed. Engage your core muscles to maintain stability. It's normal to wobble at first, but with practice, you'll find your balance.

  3. Practice Paddling: Start by paddling on your knees to get a feel for the paddle and familiarize yourself with the strokes. Once you feel comfortable, transition to standing up slowly, using the paddle for support. Keep your knees slightly bent and your gaze forward to maintain stability.

  4. Mastering the Strokes: Experiment with different paddle strokes to maneuver your board. The forward stroke is the basic propulsion stroke, while the reverse stroke helps you slow down or move backward. Practice turning strokes, such as the sweep stroke, to change direction.

  5. Enjoy the Experience: Once you feel confident in your paddling skills, take time to enjoy the experience. Explore the water, take in the surroundings, and appreciate the tranquility and beauty of nature.

Tips for Beginners

Here are some additional tips to enhance your paddleboarding experience as a beginner:

  1. Start with Calm Water: Begin in calm and flat water conditions without strong winds or currents. This will make it easier to practice and build your confidence.

  2. Start with Shorter Sessions: Initially, limit your paddleboarding sessions to shorter durations to avoid fatigue. As you build strength and endurance, you can gradually increase your time on the water.

  3. Stay Hydrated: Paddleboarding can be physically demanding, so remember to stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle with you and take regular breaks to rehydrate.

  4. Practice Falling: Falling off the paddleboard is part of the learning process. Practice falling away from your board and learning how to remount it safely. It's all part of the fun!

  5. Take a Lesson: Consider taking a paddleboarding lesson from a certified instructor. They can teach you proper techniques, safety protocols, and advanced skills to improve your paddleboarding abilities.