How to Stand Up Paddle Board
You do not need sup lessons to get started as a beginner or to start your first sup adventure. The first step to learning how to paddle board will be to find the perfect board for you. Whether this is a standard hard paddle board or if inflatable sups would be the better board type for you. And what water sport do you want to do most often.. sup fishing, ride waves, do sup yoga or sup touring or paddle to lose or maintain body weight or simply to just enjoy the outdoors while getting a full body workout.
Once you have the right board, and I highly recommend renting it first if possible. The next step is to ask the store, manufacturer or rental staff for some advice on paddling techniques. Advanced paddlers are often more than happy to share paddling techniques they have picked up along the way and help plan your first sup outing.
Paddle board selected now what equipment should I get?
The first piece of gear you should get is a coast guard approved personal floatation device, leash to attach to one foot a safety whistle and a sup paddle that is adjustable or or fixed to the proper height for you and allows for a comfortable paddle grip. And a note pad or phone to let friends, family or loved ones know where you plan to stand up paddle board and when you will be back.
Choosing a location to practice is key to learning how to paddle board. In Utah where we are headquartered we are lucky to have many scenic options even for being in a desert. Tibble fork reservoir is a great place to learn to paddle board. It is a scenic spot with plenty of other paddle boarders to help with your paddle technique or make friends for a future sup adventure. The reservoir has low wind speed which makes for an easier paddle. While a fast wind speed is fun when going a straight line with the wind behind you it does make for a grueling paddle putting your core muscles to the test. A calmer wind will also give a nice glassey surface to paddle on. It is also off-limit to powerboats so the lack of wakes and big waves will help your paddling experience.
Once at the lake, beach or river I prefer to launch my sup board reversed so the fin is in deeper water. I then start in a kneeling position and paddle the board straight back. Once I have paddled a short ways I stay in the kneeling position to help maintain balance and then move so I am facing the opposite direction. It is now time to try to slowly stand, paddle tucked scoot to the center point of the board. Move your knees to be shoulder width and then knees slightly bent start to slowly stand. If you are a bit wobbly it is ok to keep your knees bent and feet parallel then paddle the board forward with a forward stroke. It is also important to keep your paddle blade forward. Our blades have the logo on the front of the paddle blade to make this easy, look at the below photo to see the logo and the reverse launch set up.
I am now able to paddle forward although how do I stop?
The reverse sweep stroke is the way to do this. To perform the reverse stroke plant the sup paddle behind you, and then pull the sup paddle towards the front of the paddle board and repeat as needed.
Forward stroke check, stop check...how do I turn this paddle board?
An easy way to get your SUP to turn is just to paddle on one side. The paddle board will make a slow arc in the opposite direction. It's a great technique while you are still unsteady on your feet as there are no sudden movements which means a greater chance you won't be swimming.
Paddle boarding tips for a faster turn. Using your paddle as a brake. In this case, Put your paddle in the water on the side that you want to turn on, slightly behind your feet with the scooper portion of the paddle facing the nose of the paddle board. Now pull the blade of the paddle towards the nose of the stand up paddle board.
This backward paddling not only slows your forward momentum but it also speeds up your turn quite a bit. Once the turn begins, switch the paddle to the other side of the board and paddle normally. This will complete the turn for you and get you paddle boarding in the direction you were aiming for. If you are not stable on your paddle board this move has a greater chance to get you swimming, more on that soon.
This next paddle technique will be for more advanced and stable stand up paddle boarding riders. How ever it is a fun one to practice and one that can be learned fairly quickly. And the swimming sessions that come from it will help keep you cool and refreshed in the summer heat. It is also why a good leash and personal flotation device is recommended.
Move your feet into a surfer's stance with one foot forward toward the nose of the board and the other behind toward the tail. Then paddle on the opposite side of the board of the direction that you want to turn. Having the nose of the stand up paddle board out of the water will increase the speed of the turn.
I am swimming now not stand up paddle boarding...how to get back on the board.
When you feel yourself starting to fall, try and hold onto your paddle and try to fall flat away from your board like doing a belly flop. A flat fall will keep your fall shallow in case there are rocks near the surface of the water. Once I know an area well I just go with the fall and enjoy the refreshing break.
Now locate your board and swim to it or use the leash to pull the board back to you. Then place the paddle back on the board. Grab the center handle and pull while kicking until you can reach the opposite rail. Then kick hard and pull yourself back up on the board and get back to stand up paddle boarding.
Rember that you can rent gear and paddle boards until you find the setup that works for you. Maybe don't rent a safety whistle although no issue with the rest. A personal flotation device that I prefer and is perfect for any water sport other than white water or river surfing is the Onyx M16 it is a low profile device that won't interfere with your sup adventure and will also keep you from getting a ticket as a personal flotation device is usually required to legally paddle board.