What to Know Your First Time Paddleboarding


Keep a Check on the Weather and the Wind

Weather.gov has a ton of information available onlFirst and foremost, always be safe and know before you go. Check your local weather forecast for any possibility of storms or wind changes to be expected. Once on the water, pay attention to wind directions and speeds.  A paddler standing upright on a SUP is like a sail on a sailboat, winds can suddenly propel you out and into the deep quickly and unexpectedly.  If the wind does happen to catch you off guard, immediately drop down to your knees with your paddle underneath, and/or lay down and paddle yourself back like a surfer into safer and shallower waters.

Weather.gov has a ton of information available online, and there are a wide variety of mobile apps available that will allow you to keep this information in your pocket at all times.

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Over the years, Maria’s discovered that sharing the paddleboard with her three dogs strengthens their bond and inspires her to push the boundaries of what’s possible. 

She’s shared her passion for paddling as an author, instructor, dog trainer, and regular contributor to our blog. Here are some of her stories that have moved countless human-canine duos to get on board with a new adventure.

Check out all the SUP-related stories on our blog for some of Maria’s top posts and inspiration that’ll have you planning your next trip around a SUP session with your canine first mate.

Maria Christina Schultz is an outdoor enthusiast, American Canoe Association-certified stand up paddleboard instructor, and author of two books. Her dogs are her constant companions while paddling, camping, mountain biking, and running. Follow along with all of their adventures on Instagram

3. Plan your route

Unless you have experience surfing, start out in a flat body of water, like a lake, while you get your sea-legs and learn the proper technique.

Plan your route carefully if you’re going somewhere with limited visibility. For example, in some places in Florida, shallow channels are connected by mangroves, which can be maze-like and difficult to navigate. Keep your phone or GPS in a waterproof pouch with you at all times in case you get disoriented.

Additionally, begin by only going half the distance you think you can go, then turn around. It’s easy to overestimate your endurance and stamina at first, especially if winds are in your favor. However, it’s important to remember that winds and tides can shift and make the trip back to shore more difficult.

6. Best Paddle Boarding Tips

To ensure you have the best time on your SUP use our top paddle boarding tips to avoid making the common SUP mistakes.

  • DO: Always hold the paddle with one hand on the top of the handle and the other on the shaft.
  • DON’T: hold the paddle like a broomstick, with both hands on the shaft.
  • DO: Keep your feet parallel, spread shoulder width apart, and your toes pointed toward the nose.
  • DON’T: Get in a surf stance – everyone wants to, but that makes paddling on the flat water ten times harder. Plus, you will fall. Save your surf stance for the surf.
  • DO: Make sure your grip on the paddle is shoulder width apart — short grips will give you a powerless stroke.
  • DON’T: Only use your arms – you’ll get tired faster and not paddle efficiently. Let your big back muscles do the brunt of the work.
  • DO: Dip the blade fully into the water and take a long stroke, letting your large back muscles do the work.

5. Start in a seated position

Source: Holly Mandarich, Unsplash

The easiest way to learn how to paddleboard is to start in a seated position.

Walk your board into knee-deep water, being mindful of the fins. Start by getting on the board, one leg at a time, into a kneeling position. Keep your weight at the center of the board, near the carry handle.

It may be uncomfortable to stay on your knees longer than a few minutes, so feel free to play around with different seated positions. Some people enjoy sitting with their legs crossed, while others like to extend their legs straight out.

It’s truly difficult to tip your board while sitting, since your center of gravity is so low. Take this time to get a feel for paddling and get used to the (in)stability of the board.

History of Prone Paddle Boarding

Knowing how an activity came about makes it a little more exciting, don’t you think?

The story of paddleboarding is not quite clear. There are several versions, but here is the one that is widely told.

In the 18th century, there was a British explorer named Captain Thomas Cook. Towards the end of the century, he decided to visit the Hawaiian Islands with a friend, John Webber. There they saw the natives using boards (more like wood planks, at the time) to move around in the water.

Over time, people started using these planks for more than just transport. They became surfing boards. This resulted in most of the board watersports you see today.

As for the paddleboard design, all the credit goes to a guy named Thomas Edward Blake. He brought a forgotten surfboard design to life in the 1920s. While the board designs have now changed for some activities like surfing, Thomas Blake’s idea is still being used in prone paddleboards today.

7. Paddle Boarding Tips for Your First SUP Adventure

Keep these tips in mind as you dip your toes into the wide waters of SUP.

1. Size Up Your Board

Many beginners get started on a SUP that’s too small for them. When your board is too small, it can be difficult to maneuver and stay balanced. You’ll want to make sure you’re choosing a board that’s the right size for your needs and skill level.

2. How to Balance on Your SUP

Stand on the board with your feet hip-width apart and parallel. Point your toes forward, bend your knees, and look straight ahead. (You might feel tempted to look down, but don’t!) Engage your core, and make sure you’re paddling the right way.

3. Holding Your SUP Paddle the Right Way

The correct way to hold your SUP paddle may contradict your initial instinct. To hold it correctly, angle the paddle blade away from you, toward the nose of your board. Lightly hold the T-grip with one hand, and hold on to the shaft with the other. Rotate hand positions when you switch paddling from side to side.

4. Falling Off Your Board (And Getting Back Up Aga

4. Falling Off Your Board (And Getting Back Up Again)

Every paddler falls now and then, no matter how experienced. Aim to fall away from your board and flat into the water. Then, get right back on the horse – er, board. While treading water next to your board, grab onto the center handle, and use it to pull yourself up. Pull on the handle with your arm and kick with your legs to get back on your board.

5. Learn to Paddle in a Wide, Open Space

5. Learn to Paddle in a Wide, Open Space

If you’re new to the open water, make sure you head out with an experienced fellow paddler. Be sure to check the weather in advance, and let someone know when and where you are going. Always make safety your priority.

6. Paddle with Your Core

Your core is stronger than your arms, so the benefits of this tip are two-fold. Engaging your core makes paddling easier and makes for an excellent low-impact exercise. Who needs a crowded aerobics class when you’ve got your board and the sparkling water beneath you? You’ll paddle faster and farther from your core than you ever will from your arms.

7. Be Aware of the Wind

Before you hit the water, check the direction of the wind. Be sure to face towards the wind on your way out. This way, if you’re fatigued on the way back, the wind can boost you instead of fight you. If you come across strong winds out on the water, get on your knees and move your hands toward the middle of the paddle’s shaft. If you need to, you can “row” the board, canoe style, until you can safely stand back up.

8. Hold Your Head Up Straight

Keeping your head up high and looking straight out ahead will help you maintain balance on the board. Resist the urge to look down at your feet!

9. Avoid Common Beginner’s Mistakes

  • Don’t hold your paddle with the curved part of the blade facing toward you. Instead, you’ll want the angle of the blade to point away from you.
  • Don’t face the opposite direction on your board. One easy way to orient yourself is to check for the location of the fins – if they’re in the back, you’re facing the right way.
  • Don’t paddle solely from your arms. Your core strength is where it’s at!
  • Don’t paddle from a surfboard style stance. Keep your feet parallel to each other!

This will become second nature before you know it. You’ve got this!

4. How To Stand Up On A Sup

Always start in calm, flat water with a nice wide board. We recommend using a 30-inch board that is about 11 feet long for all SUP beginners.

The board should feel comfortable and not unstable when standing up. If it still feels too unstable after several attempts to gain your balance, try a larger, wider paddle board.

Follow these steps to stand up on a SUP:

  • Get the board out into in water so the fin is free from hitting the bottom
  • Start in a kneeling position – on your knees take a few strokes on each side of the board
  • Slowly, stand up with one foot at a time and stay in the middle of the board with your feet parallel to the stringer – about shoulder width apart
  • Keep a slight bend in the knees and your core centered over the board
  • Keep in mind you may fall off, when you do, hop back up and try again. If you get cold easily, we recommend wearing a thin wetsuit.

SUP Beginner Tip: Similar to the common beginner surfboard mistake, many people start out on a board much too small, and can never seem to gain balance and become disheartened. Learn more about how to choose the right size SUP board for you. If you’re unsure, always go wider and thicker.

Plant, then Pull to Paddle

When you are ready to begin paddling be sure that the blade is planted fully in the water before your pull back. This provides you the most power from the blade as well as helping to stabilize you. Additionally, having the blade planted fully into the water acts as a brace to help with your balance as you begin to paddle.

Make Sure You Have these SUP Board Accessories

There are so many accessories for paddle boards, but a SUP Board Leash and Personal Floatation Device (PFD) are the stand up paddle board accessories that are critical to your safety.

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