A Beginner’s Guide to Standing up on a Paddle Board
Everything you need to know before getting onto a paddle board.
When you're looking for a fun water activity you can learn fairly quickly, try paddle boarding. It can be calm and relaxing as well as a full-body workout and provides the boarder with a unique way to view the water. Rather than risk injury by attempting to paddle board with no instruction, read these helpful tips to make your experience a success.
Use the Right Gear
Paddle boarding requires minimal gear, making it easy to get out on the water quickly. Here are some essentials to bring along:
- Paddle board: Rent or borrow a board for your first few rides until you decide whether purchasing your own stand up paddle board is a good investment.
- Paddle: Make sure to use the correct length paddle for your height so you can operate the board comfortably.
- Portable light and whistle: While a light is only necessary if you intend to be on the water after sunset, the United States Coast Guard mandates that you carry a safety whistle so you can alert other boaters to your presence.
- Life jacket: This is not necessary if using the paddle board in a swimming or surf area, but is mandated if you paddle in open waters. Because paddle boards are classified as vessels, the Coast Guard requires adults to have a life jacket or personal flotation device on board and children must be wearing one.
- Appropriate clothing: Most people wear a combination of board shorts, a swim suit and a rash guard during the summer months. A wetsuit may be needed during cooler weather when hypothermia may occur.
- Sunscreen: Always wear sunscreen when engaging in activities on the water. Sunglasses and UV-protective clothing can also guard against sun damage.
- Leash: This keeps you tethered to the board so it doesn't float away if you fall off.
Now that you're all geared up, it's time to figure out how to use the board.
In the right conditions, you should be able to paddle around while standing up on your first trip out. Start by standing beside the board in knee-deep water. With one hand on each side of the board, get on the board and kneel just behind the middle. With both hands still on the edges of the board, slowly raise one leg up in a progressive motion until your foot is where your knee was on the board. Repeat the process with your other leg. Rise slowly and keep your legs bent for stability. It is best to keep your chest up while attempting to stand instead of hunching over.
Keeping Your Balance
Try to choose a small lake or pond where the water is calm for your first outing. It can also be helpful to pick a spot without obstacles like buoys or other vessels. To stay balanced when a wave comes, keep your feet centered on the board and spread apart as wide as your hips. Make sure your knees stay bent to help your stability. Your head, shoulders and back should remain straight to avoid unnecessary weight shifting. Your eyes should stay focused on the horizon, as staring at your feet can allow a wave to catch you off guard. Luckily, it is fairly difficult to get injured if you happen to lose your balance and fall into the water. However, if you are in more shallow water and slip off, having a progressive insurance may not be a bad idea incase you end up getting hurt!
The less wind there is, the easier paddling will be. For safety, try to paddle into the wind on your route out so that you won't have to fight the wind on your trip back to shore when you're tired. To move forward, dip the paddle into the water towards the nose of the board and push it through the water towards the back of the board. Once you've pushed the paddle as far back as your ankles, pull it out of the water. Repeat this process on alternating sides of the board to move in a relatively straight line. To go backwards, slow down, turn or stop, simply execute this process in reverse. Start with the paddle just behind your ankles and pull forward.
Regardless of your level of experience, paddle boarding can be a wonderful activity. Add to your safety and fun by going with a friend. You can help each other out if necessary and enjoy quality time conversing on the water.