Whether you want to relax and find your Zen or explore or get a good workout in, stand up paddle boarding will get out on the water and having fun in no time. The best part is, you don’t need to have prior surfing or paddling experience. Just grab your Smooth inflatable board and these SUP tips and tricks to get you started, and you’re good to go:
10 Tips & Tricks for a Great SUP Experience
Start in Calm Flat Water
If this is your first time on a board, you may want to start out in calm, flat water like a lake or large pond. This way, you won’t have to worry about waves coming at you and moving your board around. Starting in calm water also allows you to wade out with your board and go at your own pace. You can get the feel of the board and find your balance before you try more challenging waters. You might practice getting on and off of your board in the water, too.
To stand up on your paddle board, first start in a kneeling position. Then, stand up with one foot at a time. There is no need to stand in a “surf stance.” Paddle boards are made for you to stand in the middle of the board, facing forward with your feet parallel with the board. Think, “Toes pointed to the nose.”
Hold your paddle with two hands—one on top and the other on the shaft. Be sure that the curve of the paddle “scoops” the water as you stroke (like scooping ice cream).
To move forward, reach out a little ways in front of you with the paddle; then, strongly pull back, keeping the paddle as close to the board as possible without scraping against the side. End the stroke about where your feet are.
Paddling too far away from the board will make it harder to paddle, cause you to turn, and may make you lose your balance. You’ll need to alternate sides periodically to maintain a straight path. When you switch sides to paddle, be sure to change your hand position as well.
Wear swim attire you feel comfortable moving around in as you paddle. Keep the weather in mind, too. A long-sleeved rash guard will help protect you against the sun. If you’re in chilly water, consider a light wetsuit.
If you don’t already have a leash, go get one! A leash is what will keep you attached to your board. If you fall off your board, your board won’t get too far if you’ve got your leash on. Also, a leash will prevent you from swimming after it, especially if you’re in the ocean where a wave may take it. Keeping your board tethered to you will also prevent it from becoming a projectile and possibly injuring other surfers, paddlers, and swimmers as well.
Choose a thick and wide all-around/inflatable SUP board if you are a beginner. A thicker and wider board will create more stability and a smoother learning experience. In addition, inflatable SUP boards are just as sturdy and durable as other paddle boards, yet they offer a bit more cushion (in case of falls). They also offer extra grip for getting on and getting up.
Another bonus to inflatable SUP boards is their portability. You won’t need roof racks (although you can use them if you prefer), a ton of accessories, or even much space in your home to become an avid paddle boarder. Smooth’s inflatable SUP boards roll just like a large sleeping bag.
Check the Weather
Are you trying to go out on a windy day? Your body may act like a sail. Strong winds may steer you every which way and make it harder to paddle around. If you aren’t yet experienced with paddling in wind, be sure to take the weather into consideration before heading out into the water.
As you get the hang of standing up on your board and paddling, be sure to engage your core. Don’t paddle solely with your arms or back—you’ll get tired and sore quickly, and it’s harder to keep your balance! Instead, keep your knees slightly bent (athletic stance), tighten your core, and place your paddle in the water and “scoop” yourself forward. SUP is just as much an ab workout as an arm workout!
Learn How to Fall
It may sound silly, but you’ll appreciate learning how to fall correctly. Falling is inevitable at some point, especially if you’re just starting out. But don’t let that scare you! Thankfully, you’ll have a soft watery landing if you do learn to fall the right way. If you feel yourself becoming unstable and know a fall is imminent, try to lean away from your board and lightly fall off to the side into the water (not onto your board).
Don’t try to jump in front of your board (as you may get hit with it), and consider other people around you as you don’t want to land on them or hit them with your board either!
If you’re in shallow water, gently fall to the side. Don’t jump off feet first because you could injure yourself (imagine jumping into a shallow swimming pool).
Once you’re off the board, try not to kick down because you may kick the rocks, reef, or bottom beneath you. Instead, assume a flat swimming position. Keeping your legs behind you, horizontally pull yourself back onto the board.
Just Keep Swimming (I mean, paddling!)
When you’re starting out, you may be tempted to look down at your feet, at your board, or have your eyes glued to your paddle. The best way to stay stable and get moving on your paddle board is to look up at the horizon.
Looking up is especially important if you’re paddling out in the ocean with surf. When you’re out in the ocean, a good rule of thumb is to “never turn your back on a wave.” In other words, keep your head up, know your surroundings, and just keep paddling!
You’ll gain muscle memory, so you won’t have to keep checking your foot placement or if you’re paddling correctly. Soon, you’ll be able to just look forward and enjoy the ride!
How to Dismount
To safely get off, paddle back to the shore, go back onto your knees one leg at a time, and slowly get off of your board one leg at a time.