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What’s SUP? Stand up paddleboarding tips for first-timers

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What’s SUP? Stand up paddleboarding tips for first-timers

Imagine if there was a way to get the experience of surfing, only without the crashing waves or the risk of falling off your board and getting caught in a swell.

While surfing’s certainly exciting, sometimes you don’t want something quite as, shall we say, intense. Sometimes, you just want to chill out and fill your beach day with some less full-on activities.

If you’re looking for a new and novel activity that isn’t quite as full-on, may we suggest stand up paddleboarding?

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP for short) is a fun, unique activity.

Best of all, it’s extremely newbie-friendly, meaning anyone can pick it up - provided they...

Choose the right paddleboard

Size matters when picking a paddleboard - while most boards fall into the 10-11 foot range in length and around 33 inches for width, you might have to size up or down depending on how much you weigh.

Just remember that it won’t just be your balance that’ll be impacted by how big of a board you go for. Bigger boards also tend to be less maneuverable.

And it isn’t just size, either - there’s also the question of shape.

While any type of board shape will do the trick, for a first-timer, we suggest sticking to a planing hull. While you lose out on speed and agility, these wider, flat-bottomed boards tend to be more stable - just what you’re looking for as a first-timer.

Finally, there’s material.

Newbies and first-timers are best off sticking with solid boards rather than inflatable ones. 

The added weight of all that foam and fibreglass grants even more stability, while also offering better performance too.

Don’t forget: the paddleboard itself isn’t the only piece of gear you’ll need to make this work

A lot of first-timers get tunnel vision, focusing on finding the perfectly-sized board and forgetting all the other stuff they’ll need to go paddleboarding for the first time.

red paddle co inflatable sup

For starters, you’ll need a:

  • Paddle (to move around on the water)
  • Floatation vest (especially if you’re paddleboarding in deeper water)
  • Tether (to stop your board from floating away)

And that’s on top of all the other standard pieces of kit like sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare, or sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

Make sure you know which one’s the front end

If you’re going with a more beginner-friendly planing hull, you might run into some issues the moment you hit the water: namely, you might not know which end is the front.

Not only will this impact your experience - going the wrong way is tiring - but it can also be a tad embarrassing.

Beginner boards tend to have blunt front-ends. At first blush, this doesn’t look all that different from the back of the board.

Our advice? Flip your board over and look for the fins before rushing into the water - that’s the back of the board right there.

Paddle with your core, not your arms

Wait, what?

Something a lot of first-timers overlook is that paddleboarding can be very tiring, especially if you’re not used to it.

If you’ve ever been canoeing, you’ll know how much energy paddling can take. And if you haven't, just remember that one cubic metre of water literally weighs a tonne.

red paddle co ride sup

Needless to say, paddling for however long is going to tire your arms out pretty quickly - instead, try your best to paddle with your core.

Not only does this save your arms, but your core muscles are also much more powerful than your arms, and less prone to tiring out.

We know, we know, it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense. For a visual representation of how this works, just check out this video.

Check the wind

Ideally, you’ll only break the paddleboard out on days with minimal wind.

The reason’s pretty self-explanatory: paddling into the wind simply makes your job a lot harder than it needs to be, tiring you out sooner.

While you gain a burst of speed if the wind’s to your back, don’t forget that you’re going to have to paddle back to shore at some point.

Ideally though, we suggest checking the forecast and choosing a day where the wind forecast looks good.

Not only does it make paddling easier, but it also reduces waves and ripples, making for an easier first-time paddling experience.

Eyes forward

As a newbie, your first instinct is to look down to make sure you’re doing it right, and to avoid falling into the water.

Standing up straight is incredibly important for stability when paddleboarding. Unfortunately, looking down often leads to you leaning forward, affecting your balance.

While it may be more comforting to look down, try not to, as it can totally throw you off-balance.

Fall safely

One of the first things they teach you in martial arts classes is how to fall safely - while it may sound like a bit of an oxymoron, learning how to protect yourself when you take a fall can protect you from all sorts of injuries.

Paddleboarding is no different.

A lot of first timers automatically try to grab onto the board as they fall, The result? A lot of black eyes and split lips.

You’re going to fall off your board. It’s practically inevitable, especially if you’re still new to the whole thing. When this happens, you’ll want to aim for the water instead of the board.

And don’t worry about the board floating off, either - assuming you’ve got a tether attached, it should be easy to get your board back.

Stay away from waves

Once you get a little more experience under your belt (and a board more suited to rougher waters), go for it.

red paddle co

Until then however, try to stick to still waters where there aren’t a lot of other people to bump into.

In particular, start your paddleboarding by choosing places with gentle waves to help you build up experience on a board. We suggest either avoiding beaches altogether, or selecting ones that have wave breaks or a reputation for gentle waters.

And most importantly, have fun

While it’s possible to do exciting things with a paddleboard, for most people, it’s just a fun way to spend time at the beach and get on the water.

Focusing on what you’re doing wrong or whether you’re using the right type of board or if your technique looks good to the more experienced paddleboarders will just bring you down. 

Instead, focus on what you’re doing… and focus on having fun while doing it!