A quick lesson can teach you the basics in most extreme sports. A skateboarding or snowboarding lesson might not make you an expert overnight, but it should flatten the learning curve a little and limit the falls, sprains, breaks, and everything else that comes with the territory.
But what about paddle boarding? Do you need to take a paddle boarding lesson before you buy/rent your first board?
Do You Need a Paddle Boarding Lesson?
Some stand up paddle board rentals will give you a quick lesson when you pay your fee. It’s more than a token gesture, as it ensures that your first ride is a little more bearable and it means you’re less likely to damage the board.
However, most paddle boarders agree that you don’t really need a lesson when you are first introduced to the sport. If it’s free, you should definitely accept the offer and take whatever paddle boarding tips they give you. But if it’s an optional extra, it’s often best to skip it and just learn yourself.
Stand up paddle boarding isn’t as difficult as surfing. You don’t need to rely on your own strength and balance as you have a paddle to help you. What’s more, paddle boards are much bigger and provide more buoyancy.
If you have no experience with surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, or any other sport that requires balance, agility, and core strength, then you might want to invest in a quick lesson. If not, and you don’t mind wiping out, you can afford to skip the lesson.
But don’t rush to the waves just yet. Take a look at the stand up paddle boarding tips below before you go any further.
Essential Paddle Boarding Tips
To make sure your first experience with paddle boarding goes smoothly, keep the following tips in mind:
Wear a Life Jacket and Leash
Wearing a life jacket is essential. It doesn’t matter how strong of a swimmer you are—that jacket will keep you safe and ensure your head stays above water. It’s also essential that you wear a leash, which will keep you attached to the board.
Not only will the jacket and the leash protect you, but it will make you a little more confident on the water knowing that you’ll be able to get right back on the paddle board if you fall off.
Learn How to Get On and Off the Paddle Board
To get on your paddle board from the dock, first wear the leash and then place the board in the water, making sure it doesn’t float away.
Use your paddle to support you as you climb onto the middle of your board, staying on your knees and as close to the center as you can.
When you’re stable, it’s time to paddle away. Only when you are away from the dock should you think about standing up.
To get on the board from the shore, just take it to water that is knee-high and scramble on top while staying as central as possible. You can use a similar method to fling yourself back onto the paddle board after you have fallen off.
Paddle the Paddle Board
To properly paddle a paddle board, you will need to point the concave part of the paddle forward in the water. Reach over, grab it, and then pull it back. Paddling in the proper way will ensure that you stay stable on the paddle board and it will also help to drive you forward in a straight line.
You should be paddling with your knees slightly bent and your body still. You will need to engage your core muscles to stay on the board, lest you move around too much when you’re paddling.
Turning the Paddle Board
To turn on a paddle board you can use a sweep stroke, whereby you move your paddle out wide instead of straight back. You’re performing a “sweeping motion”, and it should help to steer the paddle board in the opposite direction. It is a very slow and controlled way to steer.
To turn the paddle board quickly, simply stroke the paddle on the opposite side of the board.
Keep Your Distance
To make sure you don’t bump into any surfers or paddle boarders, try to keep your distance when you are paddle boarding for the first time.
A lot of the serious accidents that occur on the water are the result of board/surfer collisions and happen when surfers and SUP boarders get too close to one another and cause chaos.
Avoid the Big Waves
When you are surfing, you need to catch waves if you want to gain the speed needed to perform tricks. With paddle boarding, you get all of the speed from the paddle and those waves are more problematic than helpful.
Keep your stand up paddle board out of the water when the waves are too big and the wind is too strong.
Keep it Cheap and Simple
Don’t run before you can walk. When you’re learning how to ride paddle boards for the first time, you need to take it easy and learn all of the basics before you try more technical stuff.
Leave the SUP yoga and the long-distance rides for when you actually know what you are doing.
By the same token, you should avoid spending too much money. It can be exciting to start a new hobby and you probably have your eye on all kinds of flash SUP paddle boards, along with a fancy board bag, paddle, and other accessories. But what happens when you get out on the water and discover that paddle boarding isn’t quite what you were expecting?
It’s best to keep things simple and cheap to begin with. An inflatable paddle board will be more than enough in the early stages, allowing you to get accustomed to the paddle stroke technique and giving you a chance to ride waves and practice your skills without blowing your budget.
Inflatable SUPs are also easy to store, so you don’t need to worry about it gathering dust in the attic or basement for the next decade.
Summary: Learning with Paddle Boards
The best way you can learn is to try, fail, and learn from your failures. That’s why many boarders recommend skipping the lesson, hopping on the board, and trying paddle boarding out for yourself.