Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a great workout and a fun way to kill a couple of hours on the water. It’s more beginner-friendly than other watersports, but you still need to learn the basics before you grab your paddle and head out into the open water.
The Basics of SUP
Stand up paddle boarding, or “SUP” for short, entails standing on a large board and using a paddle to move through the water.
The basic equipment that you need includes:
- Paddle Board: Paddle boards are usually over 10 feet long, which means they are a couple of feet longer than surfing longboards. They have a lot of width as well, typically around 32 to 34 inches. The result is a big and buoyant board that keeps the rider stable. They are often made from an EPS foam core that is then laminated. There are also inflatable paddle boards that are surprisingly durable and very affordable.
- SUP Paddle: Ideally, an SUP paddle should be around 10 inches taller than the rider. It typically has a tear-drop blade shape and is used to drive through the water. An SUP paddle is a lot like a canoe paddle, only much longer.
- Personal Flotation Device (PFD): A PFD is required when you’re outside of a swimming or surfing area. It will help you if you encounter an issue.
- Light and Safety Whistle: A light will help you if you get lost as the natural light fades while a whistle will allow you to alert others.
How Do You Stand Up on a Paddle Board?
Now that you know what sort of paddle boarding equipment to buy, let’s cover the most basic technique that you need to learn: How to stand up on an SUP paddle board.
- Place the board in water so that the water is about knee-high.
- Climb onto the board slowly so that you are in a kneeling position. You should be kneeling behind the center of the board.
- While holding the sides of the board to keep it stable, steadily adjust your feet so that you’re standing instead of kneeling. Take it one step at a time.
- When both feet are planted on the board and your knees are bent, gradually raise your upper body and straighten out.
- Keep your balance, extend fully, and straighten your legs.
Balancing, Turning, and Paddling
Once you learn how to stand on an SUP paddle board, there are just a few more basic techniques to master:
- Stay Balanced: Keep your feet parallel and roughly hip-width apart. Your knees should be ever-so-slightly bent and your upper body should be upright. Don’t stare at your feet—keep those eyes ahead.
- Paddle: Turn the blade of the paddle slightly toward you and dig it into the water away from the board before pulling it toward you. Keep it upright and don’t hold it diagonally.
- Turning: To turn sharply, angle the blade away from you and push outward with the paddle low in the water.
Is Stand Up Paddle Boarding Good Exercise?
Stand up paddle boarding is definitely good exercise. It forces you to focus on your balance which, in turn, will help you to build a strong core. It may not look like much, but after an hour of paddling you’ll realize just how strenuous it can be.
If we’re comparing it to an hour in the gym, however, it’s not as effective. It’s also nowhere near as effective at burning calories as jogging or playing sports. It’s all relative. On the one hand, it will help you to work most of your muscles and will burn some calories. But at the same time, there are more effective ways to build muscle and burn calories.
Of course, pumping dumbbells for an hour or going for a jog is nowhere near as entertaining as stand up paddle boarding, and that’s where this activity really shines as a workout.
How Easy is Stand Up Paddle Boarding?
Again, it’s all relative. Stand up paddle boarding is certainly easier than surfing. You have a bigger board under your feet and you’re not relying on the energy of the waves to propel you forward.
It’s also arguably easier than many other watersports, including tow sports, bodysurfing, and bodyboarding. But is it easy in the sense that everyone can jump on a board and be a master on their first try? Not at all.
If you have some experience with board sports, you should adapt to stand up paddle boarding very quickly. It may feel a little slow and frustrating if you’re an experienced surfer, but the balance shouldn’t be an issue and the paddling techniques will be easy to learn.
On the flip side, paddle boarders with no experience and no balance will struggle during the early stages. That’s why it helps to take a few lessons and to keep your expectations low.
Paddle Boarding Tips
To make sure you have the best experience possible when you next get on your stand up paddle board, take a look at the following paddle boarding tips:
- Inflatable Paddle Boards: Don’t dismiss inflatable SUPs as being cheap and nasty. They are not like the cheap toys that you buy on weekend beach vacations. They are durable, strong, and affordable. An inflatable board can be your best friend if you’re a beginner as it’ll fit better in your board bag, be easier to store away, and save you a few bucks in the process.
- Learn to Swim: If you don’t know how to swim, learn. If you’re a decent swimmer, get better. It will make your life much easier when you keep tumbling into the water.
- Practice Makes Perfect: Practice your paddle technique on dry land before you go anywhere near the water. And when you eventually do have some blue beneath your feet, make sure you’re not too far out. You will need to learn how to keep the board straight, your body weight balanced, and your paddle stroke consistent before you start venturing into deeper waters.
- Stay on Your Knees: If you’re struggling to keep your balance, stay on your knees. You can practice your paddle strokes without worrying about losing your balance. Once you stand, remember to keep your knees slightly bent and take it one foot at a time.
- Explore: Once you have mastered the basics of stand up paddle boarding, try some of the more advanced techniques. Advanced paddlers can start thinking about SUP fishing, SUP yoga, white water paddle boarding, and more.
Last but not least, if you’re looking for your first stand up paddle board and are preparing for your first ever session, don’t get too caught up in the specifics of paddle board construction.
It’s easy to get lost in the details (Should I buy an inflatable board or a hard board? Should it be 33 inches wide or 34 inches wide?). Just buy a board made for beginners and that should be sufficient.
After all, most boards made for beginners are designed to be long and wide and to provide more stability and durability—just what beginner paddlers need.
Many beginners focus too much on the finer details and before they know it, they’ve spent more than they can afford on a fancy new board just because it was recommended by someone way above their skill level.