How to stand up paddle

Stand up paddling is a great way to get out on the water and get a fantastic workout at the same time. It may look easy, but there’s lots to keep in mind while you’re on your board. From physical placement to safety precautions, we’ll break it all down for you! 

group of people practicing stand up paddle

If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to get a longer, wider, thicker board for increased stability. There are different types to choose from—epoxy boards are made from fibreglass and are hard and rigid. Inflatable boards offer a bit more give, and are easy to pack up and transport. They are a great option for travelling, and for accessing remote bodies of water. Added bonus: they pack up into their own compact bags and won’t take up much storage room—perfect for small apartments!

Pick the board that’s right for you, grab your paddle, and then learn the right techniques to get up (and stay up!) on your board. 

SAFETY FIRST

A few safety tips to remember before you head out:

○ Bring a personal flotation device (PFD) and consider bringing a whistle as well.
○ Always wear a leash. Strap it to your ankle or lower leg, so your board won’t float away from you if you fall off.
○ Be aware of safety hazards in the water. Look out for rocks or shallow reefs that could be harmful if you fall off your board.
○ Start facing the wind. You don’t want to paddle out too far with the wind behind you, and then discover it is too difficult to paddle back when you’re going against the wind.
○ As a beginner, always go with a friend, or make sure there are lifeguards nearby.

woman with uv shirt ready to stand up paddle

Gearing up

○ Strap your leash to your ankle or lower leg.
○ Be sure to hold your paddle correctly: one hand on the handle and the other hand towards the centre of the shaft. If you hold the paddle horizontally above your head, both arms should be at a 90° angle.
○ Dress for the temperature of the water, not the air. There is a good chance you will end up in the water, so wear a wetsuit if the water’s chilly!
○ Wear sunscreen and/or a hat. Sunglasses are a good idea, and a UV top will protect you from the sun’s reflection on the water.

Getting started

○ Start in knee-deep water, so your fin doesn’t touch the ground.
○ Get up on the centre of your board on your knees.
○ Find your balance, and take a few strokes while you’re on your knees.

Standing up

○ When you are ready to stand, place your hands on the board in front of you.
○ Slowly move one foot at a time, and place it exactly where your knee was.
○ Take a moment in a squatting position to regain your balance.
○ Keep your back straight, and slowly stand up with your gaze forward (not down!).
○ Steady yourself before you take your first strokes.

Perfecting your stroke

○ Make sure the paddle is angled away from you, not facing you, so that you get the most traction in the water.
○ Remember that the power of your stroke should come from your core, not your arms.
○ Keep the paddle close to your board, not stretched out too far to the side.
○ Reach forward, and then pull your paddle back through the water, stopping close to where your feet are so that you don’t waste energy by flicking the water up behind you.

Falling off

○ Falling off your board is inevitable, just make sure to do it safely.
○ Fall to the side, away from your board, so that you don’t hit the board on the way down.
○ Try to fall flat on the water, so that you don’t go too deep and hit anything that may be deeper below the water’s surface.
○ Since your board is attached to you with the leash, it won’t float away. Simply pull the board close to you and get ready to get back up.

two people paddling on a lake

Getting back up

○ Grab the handle in the middle of the board with one hand, and reach for the other edge of the board with your other hand.
○ Let your legs float up to the surface of the water.
○ Using your elbows on the board to steady yourself, kick your legs up onto the board and return to a kneeling position in the centre of the board.
○ Repeat the steps to come to a standing position on your board.

Many schools offer SUP classes; and it is highly recommended to take a few beginner’s lessons when you are just starting out. Once you get the hang of it, stand up paddling is a very pleasant, low-impact activity you can enjoy all season. It’s perfect for all ages and can even be combined with other activities when you get more confident on your board—SUP yoga, anyone? Whatever type of stand up paddling you do, you’ll work your core, your balance and your concentration. You’ll get a solid dose of Vitamin D, and a refreshing splash in the water as well. Enjoy!

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