Paddleboarding – How To Get Started On A Great New Sport

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Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is the water sport most Brits want to try out, a study by Holiday Cottages found in 2021.

More than 40% of people questioned, in all age categories, were keen to get paddling. As we approach warmer weather, there’s no better time to branch out and attempt a new sport.

With this in mind, the team of experts at Wave have created a SUPer beginners guide to paddle boarding, covering…

  • what you need
  • safety measures
  • equipment choice and
  • balancing tips.

In 2021 around 11.8 million people participated in boating activities once or more. This shows an increase of interest by almost double from the previous year.

So why not get back onto the water by trying your hand at paddle boarding?

Navy Woody, Aqua Tourer and Navy Pro paddleboards from Wave


What kind of board?

First you need to find the right board. Choose a wider, longer, thicker board as your beginner paddle board. The greater the space on the board, the easier your stance will be while you learn to transition from kneeling to standing. This will give you the best chance of maintaining your balance as you learn to navigate the waters.

As you improve your balance and technique, you can start advancing to shorter and thinner boards. This will test your core strength, and should be considered when you delve further into the sport.

Choosing a leash

A leash can be a good safety measure for beginners. As you are likely to fall off the board often, learning to balance and self-correct, you don’t want your board to drift too far away. You might consider different leashes, including a waist, ankle, or bicep leash.

Ben Cook, from SUP specialists Wave says, “Keeping safe while paddle boarding is key for all our customers, whether you are an experienced paddle boarder or someone trying the sport for the first time. When buying a leash, you should consider the water you will be dealing with. Most learners should practise on flat water until they are experienced enough to handle their board.

“An ankle cuff leash is perfect for beginners as it offers the best chance to learn without losing your board each time you fall off!

“If you are starting to experience more turbulent waters, you might want to consider transitioning to a waist leash, which can be the quickest release in case of danger.”

Safety First

Practise on land

As with any sport, practice makes perfect. According to the Royal National Lifeguard Institution, you should consider getting training lessons on land before hitting the water. This can teach you the correct techniques when mounting, dismounting and moving your board, as well as the best safety precautions for when you are out on the water.

Falling with confidence

Pic: Shutterstock

No matter your experience level, you are going to fall into the water at some point. This is especially so for beginners learning to maintain their balance on the board. While you are still learning to paddle board, you will want to learn to fall and remount your board safely.

Ensure you are in safe water, preferably waist or chest deep, to prevent injury – if you are nervous about remounting, stay close to the shore.

When falling, make sure you fall away from your board. This can be either falling straight back off the tail of the board or to the side. Remember, paddle boarding is a water sport, so embracing the water is natural. The best way to fall is flat. You should be wearing a flotation device of some sort to help with the fall.

Stick to calm waters

Aqua Tourer paddleboard, Wave

The best way to remain safe is to keep to a level you’re comfortable with until you have further training. You don’t want to be learning to paddle board for the first time in aggressive water. Instead, find flat water lakes or other calm waters to practise your techniques. Attempting a big wave could lead to injury.

Movement and balance

Starting position and transitioning

When you are starting to go out onto the water, you will want to be kneeling in the middle of the board. At this point, pushing away from shore, your paddle should be in front of you, perpendicular to your board. Once you are confident that you are balanced, you can start rowing slowly, alternating between sides.

When you are at a comfortable distance from the shore and feel steady enough to stand up, do so one foot at a time. Make sure your feet are pointing forward, shoulder width apart, and your knees slightly bent to help you maintain your balance.

Maintaining your balance

Pic: Shutterstock

Now that you are up on your board, you will want to keep your balance. If your stance is correct, you should be fairly balanced already, but once you start paddling, it can become harder to maintain stability. For the best chance of staying on your board, remember to paddle with your core. Your centre should be tight.

Keeping an eye on the horizon will also help maintain this, as looking down at your board and where you are paddling could throw you off centre.

Look after your valuables!

Don’t forget to make sure your valuables are safe. Keeping your phone close by is about more than just making sure you an get that all-important selfie: it could save lives if you or another water user gets into difficulties. Use a waterproof phone case and make sure it’s got a safety strap or lanyard. This will keep the phone close at hand but also out of harm’s way.

Stand-up paddleboarding is an incredible workout that also allows you to enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of being out on the open water. Find out the types of courses available and some more safety advice here.

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