Before you get into the water, ensure you know the safety basics and have the right equipment as per our SUP safety section. A beginner’s board must be large enough so that you can safely stand on it even in choppy water. Narrow race boards are not a good way to start….(more Info on Board Types is here). Same goes for the water. Start with flat water with as little wind and current as possible.
All Hands On Deck
First, ask be honest with your swimming ability. Weak swimmers should wear a life jacket ‘cause you might fall in. Never leave your board ! If you lose the paddle, use your hands to paddle the board and get your paddle, is much easier than swimming. Always paddle upwind first. It’s much more difficult than down wind. Don’t get caught to far out against in a distance downwind, because your going to need lots of energy to return home.
Put the board into the water, and go on your knees. Put the paddle in front of you, in a 90 degree angle towards the board. Use the paddle for balance while you carefully get up.
The first time on the board, try to be relaxed, you might find the board tippy moving from side to side. Don’t Stand horizontal to the board like a surfer, stand facing straight forward with a wide parallel stance. Any reposition of your feet are to be made in tiny half-inch steps or hops. Relax, bend your knees, relax and stay loose in the hips. Use your paddle for balance, move blade forward or backward to keep steady, and even lean on it or pull up on it to find your balance. Keep your paddle in the water as much as possible and never let go of it.
Where are my feet supposed to be?
Stand in the middle of the board. Too far forward will sink the nose. Too far back will drag the tail and slow you down. You generally want a wide centered parallel stance for long-distance paddling on flat water because it’s more stable and gives you easier, even paddle transitions from side to side. When the water is choppy, or in the waves, you’ll want to position your feet more horizontal stance with your dominant foot forward like in surfing, use a safety leash and attach it to the rearward foot.
The First Stroke
When using your paddle have the top of blade up by the nose and close to the board, and with the whole shaft above the rail, top hand directly above the bottom hand. Stroke backwards. Visualize pulling the board forward in the water. Don’t try to extend the stroke too far past your legs. The front part of the stroke is the most efficient part. Also extending the stroke to far back angles the blade too much and pulls the edge of the board down. Your blade is angled forward for two reasons – to make the blade more stable in the water (as you’ll see if you try to stroke with the blade backwards) and to improve the release of the blade as you pull it up.
Pull the blade up and bring it to the front again (as straight as possible, avoid a wide circular motion to the side).
After some time, the board will veer off course. Then it is time to switch and paddle on the other side. To paddle on the other side, don’t cross your arms. Your hands need to switch position. The hand that was on top, moves down and the one that was down moves up to the handle.
Skilled paddlers can track straight for 12-20 paddles before switching, but that requires some experience.
How to paddle effectively
Don’t just paddle with your arms. Use your whole body weight. When throwing the paddle into the water, bend your upper body down. After pulling the blade out, quickly move the paddle to the front in the most direct way by lifting your upper body up again.
How to Stop?
Stopping is easy, just but your paddle vertically into the water.
How to Turn?
The easiest way to turn initially will be to put the paddle in at the back of the board where the fin is and make a big half-moon shaped sweep to the front of the board.