Mastering the Art of Stand Up Paddleboarding: A Beginner’s Guide

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Are you ready to embark on a new adventure? Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is not only a great way to explore the water, but it’s also an incredible full-body workout. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast like me, a nature lover (also me!) or someone looking for a fun new hobby, SUP is a fun activity to try.

In this beginner’s guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get started with stand up paddleboarding. From choosing the right paddleboard and paddle to understanding the basic techniques, we’ll cover it all.

Don’t worry if you’ve never tried SUP before – this guide has got you covered. Ready? Okay, let’s master the art of stand up paddleboarding together. Or at least master the basics 😉

Blowing up an inflatable stand up paddleboard

Different Types of Stand Up Paddleboards

Before we get into the tips for how to SUP, we first need to talk about the different types of boards – and there are quite a few. When it comes to choosing a stand up paddleboard, there are several factors to consider, including your skill level, intended use, and personal preferences.

All-Around Paddleboard

The most common type of paddleboard is the all-around board. These boards are versatile and suitable for various water conditions, from calm lakes to small waves. They are stable, easy to maneuver, and ideal for beginners.

All-around boards typically have a rounded nose, wide body, and a flat bottom, providing stability and balance. These and inflatable boards are the best for beginners.

Surfing Paddleboards

For those interested in catching waves, there are specialized paddleboards designed for surfing. These boards are shorter, narrower, and more maneuverable than all-around boards. They have a pointed nose and a rocker shape, which helps them glide over waves and make quick turns.

Surf SUPs require more skill and balance, so they are best suited for intermediate or advanced paddlers.

Touring Boards

If you’re looking for speed and long-distance paddling, touring paddleboards are the way to go. These boards are longer and narrower, allowing for efficient gliding through the water. They often have a pointed nose and a displacement hull, which helps to slice through waves and maintain stability.

Touring SUPs are great for exploring open waters, lakes, and rivers.

Specialty boards

For those who want to combine SUP with other activities like yoga or fishing, there are specialized paddleboards available. Yoga SUPs have a wider deck and a more stable design, allowing you to perform yoga poses on the water.

When you see people doing yoga poses on SUPs just know that those are different boards than the standard ones or inflatable ones. I tried to attempt a yoga pose on my board and almost fell off immediately.

Inflatable SUP

And lastly, for those of you who don’t have space for a giant board, there are inflatable stand up paddleboards. This is the style that I have since I live in downtown Vancouver and have no space for a giant board. My board rolls up very compactly into a large bag.

Sitting and relaxing on my iSUP

Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards

Since we are talking about the different kinds of paddleboards, I’m going to share my experience using an inflatable stand up paddleboard from Newell Outdoors. I have tried both standard paddleboards as well as inflatable boards.

I definitely prefer the inflatable type because they are easier to store and transport. The inflatable type is easy to bring with you if you travel a lot like I do. They’re also easier to carry down to the beach because they roll up into a backpack bag.

Newell Outdoors iSUP Bantry Board

Newell Outdoors is a family-owned-and-operated company based out of Calgary Alberta. I love supporting Canadian companies so I was happy to find Newell and try one of their inflatable boards.

One of the first things I noticed was that the bag for my iSUP did not come with wheels like others do. This is an intentional design feature by Newell because it reduces the weight, making it lighter to carry the board and equipment. While the bag is a large backpack, it is comfortable to wear and doesn’t feel that heavy.

Since I use my SUP at the beach, having wheels on my bag would be a hindrance and not an advantage since wheels do not roll on sand. I love that my bag is lighter because it doesn’t have wheels. For me, the wheels would rarely get used.

The first time I got my iSUP out of the bag and blew it up, I immediately noticed the quality of the board. If I’m being completely honest, I was concerned about the quality and stiffness of an inflatable SUP. I am happy to report that I had nothing to worry about. When completely inflated, my board is stiff as a rock. It is solid and doesn’t really feel like an inflatable board.

All Newell iSUPs come with a kayak conversion kit. I haven’t tried mine yet, but I think it’s a neat idea. I can see myself using it on days when the ocean isn’t as calm but I still want to go out on my board.

Newell inflatable SUPs are designed and built for rugged Canadian terrain, which is where I live. They are hand-crafted using military-grade, double-layer PVC. They are extremely durable and strong, even in the rockiest of conditions. Newell Outdoors is definitely one of the best options for inflatable SUP in Canada. They are so confident in the quality of their board that they come with a 2-year warranty.

What is the Newell Stand-Up Paddleboard Weight Limit?

Don’t let your size or weight hold you back! The majority of the Newell inflatable stand up paddleboards for adults have a weight limit of 350 lbs. The Magento board has a slightly higher weight limit of 400 lbs. Newell paddleboards for kids have weight limits of 150 lbs.

Sitting on a SUP is a great way to learn how to balance on a stand up paddleboard

How to Stand Up Paddleboard – Proper Techniques

While it is called ‘stand up’ paddleboarding, you will see people kneeling as well as sitting. When the water is rough, most people will kneel to avoid falling off. I love to sit and take a break every once in a while. However you choose to ride, let’s first get you to understand the proper techniques for how to stand up paddleboard.

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable paddleboarding experience, it’s important to know and understand the proper techniques. Here are some key techniques to keep in mind.

Balancing on the board

Start by positioning yourself on the board in the center, with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel to the stringer (the centerline of the board). Keep your knees slightly bent and your core engaged to maintain stability. Find your balance by shifting your weight from side to side and front to back.

Hold the paddle with one hand on the top grip and the other hand on the shaft, slightly above shoulder height. The blade of the paddle should be facing away from you. Your top hand should be positioned slightly forward, while your bottom hand should be about halfway down the shaft.

Moving on the board

To propel yourself forward, reach the paddle out in front of you, submerge the blade fully into the water, and pull it back towards your ankle. Rotate your torso and engage your core for maximum power. Repeat the stroke on the opposite side, alternating sides with each stroke.

To turn the paddleboard, use a sweeping stroke known as the sweep or C-stroke. Extend the paddle towards the front of the board, submerge the blade into the water, and sweep it in a wide arc towards the tail of the board. This will create a turning motion. To turn in the opposite direction, switch sides and repeat the sweep stroke.

Bracing is a technique used to maintain balance and stability when conditions get rough. Place the paddle blade flat on the water’s surface, slightly away from the board, and apply gentle pressure to stabilize yourself. This technique can be especially useful when navigating choppy waters or when encountering waves.

Relax and have fun

Remember to maintain a relaxed and fluid motion when paddleboarding. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques and find what works best for you. With practice, you’ll become more confident and efficient in your paddling skills.

If you fall in, that’s okay! It’s all part of learning. Don’t be afraid to get wet, after all, you’re n the water. I have fallen in a few times when boats whiz by me and I can’t maintain my balance with the wake of the boat. If you fall, stay calm, swim over to your board, get up and try again.

Blowing up an inflatable SUP on the beach

Essential Equipment for Stand Up Paddleboarding

To fully enjoy your paddleboarding experience, it’s essential to have the right equipment. Here’s a list of the essential gear you’ll need:

1. Paddleboard: As mentioned earlier, choose a paddleboard that suits your skill level and intended use. Consider factors like length, width, volume, and weight capacity. It’s recommended to start with an all-around board, or an inflatable stand up paddleboard, if you’re a beginner.

2. Paddle: The paddle is your primary tool for propelling yourself through the water. Adjustable paddles, such as the ones that come with inflatable boards are a great option because they can be customized to fit different users and paddling conditions.

3. Personal Flotation Device (PFD): A PFD or Lifejacket is a must-have safety item for any water activity. Choose a PFD that is comfortable, properly fitted, and approved by relevant authorities. It should be worn at all times, especially in areas with strong currents or when paddling in open waters.

4. Leash: A leash is a cord that attaches your ankle to the paddleboard. It is essential for safety, as it prevents the board from drifting away if you fall off. Choose a leash that is suitable for the type of paddleboarding you’ll be doing, whether it’s flatwater, surfing, or touring.

5. Sun Protection: When paddleboarding, you’ll be exposed to the sun for extended periods. Protect yourself by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Consider wearing a rash guard or wetsuit for added protection and insulation in colder waters.

Remember, safety should always be a top priority. Familiarize yourself with local regulations, weather conditions, and any potential hazards before heading out on the water.

Using a paddle to stand up paddleboard

Benefits of Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

Now that you know how to stand up paddleboard, let’s talk about the benefits of it and why you should try it. Stand up paddleboarding offers a wide range of benefits for both your physical and mental well-being.

First and foremost, SUP is an excellent form of exercise. It engages your entire body, from your core muscles to your arms and legs. Trust me, it gets tiring! But it’s one of the more fun workouts you can have.

The constant balance and paddling motion help to build strength, improve endurance, and increase flexibility. Additionally, the low-impact nature of SUP makes it suitable for people of all fitness levels, including those recovering from injuries.

Not only is SUP a great workout, but it also allows you to connect with nature. Whether you’re gliding along a calm lake or navigating through gentle ocean waves, paddleboarding provides a unique perspective of the surrounding environment.

You can observe marine life, enjoy breathtaking views, and immerse yourself in the serenity of the water. This connection with nature has a calming effect on the mind and can help reduce stress and anxiety. Almost every time I go for a paddle in English Bay, I spot a seal or two. How amazing is that?!

Lastly, stand up paddleboarding is a social activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family. It’s a great way to bond with loved ones while having fun in the sun.

You can explore new places together, challenge each other to races or games, and create lasting memories. So grab your board and paddle, and let the adventure begin!

enjoying a sunsert on a SUP

Stand Up Paddleboarding for Fitness and Relaxation

Stand up paddleboarding is not only a fun and exciting activity but also a fantastic way to stay fit and relax. Here’s how it benefits your physical and mental well-being:

1. Full-Body Workout: Paddleboarding engages your entire body, from your core muscles to your arms, legs, and even your back. The constant balancing and paddling motion requires strength, endurance, and coordination. As a result, you’ll build muscle, burn calories, and improve your overall fitness level.

2. Low-Impact Exercise: Unlike high-impact activities like running or jumping, paddleboarding is gentle on your joints. The buoyancy of the water reduces the impact on your muscles and bones, making it an excellent option for people with joint pain or injuries. It allows you to get a great workout without putting unnecessary stress on your body.

3. Mental Relaxation: Stand up paddleboarding provides a unique opportunity to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life and immerse yourself in nature. The peacefulness of the water, the sound of your paddle gliding through it, and the beauty of your surroundings have a calming effect on the mind. It can help reduce stress and anxiety and promote mental clarity. Sometimes, I stop and sit on my board to enjoy the scenery around me.

4. Mind-Body Connection: Paddleboarding requires focus and concentration. As you navigate the water, you’ll develop a strong mind-body connection, where your thoughts align with your physical movements. This mindfulness can enhance your overall well-being and help you achieve a state of flow.

To maximize the fitness benefits of paddleboarding, consider incorporating interval training, strength exercises, or yoga poses into your paddle sessions. You can also join paddleboarding fitness classes or group workouts to add variety and motivation to your routine.

When learning how to stand up paddleboard it's a good idea to wear a PFD

Safety Tips for Stand Up Paddleboarding

Now for the boring, but very important part of this guide – safety. After all, you will be going out on the water and anything can happen. While stand up paddleboarding is generally a safe activity, it’s important to take certain precautions to ensure your safety on the water.

Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:

1. Learn to Swim: Before attempting stand up paddleboarding, it’s crucial to know how to swim. While wearing a PFD or lifejacket is a good idea, having basic swimming skills will give you added confidence and peace of mind.

2. Check the Weather: Always check the weather forecast before heading out. Avoid paddleboarding in stormy or excessively windy conditions, as they can make the water more challenging and dangerous. Stear clear of the water if there is lightning. Be aware of any changes in weather conditions while you’re on the water.

3. Start in Calm Waters: If you’re new to paddleboarding, it’s best to start in calm and protected waters. This will allow you to practice your balance and paddling skills without the added challenge of waves or strong currents. As you gain experience, you can gradually explore more challenging conditions.

4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Pay attention to your surroundings at all times. Look out for other watercraft, swimmers, and potential obstacles like rocks or submerged objects. Keep a safe distance from other paddlers and respect any navigational rules or regulations in your area.

5. Use a Leash: Always wear a leash when paddleboarding, as it will prevent the board from drifting away if you fall off. Choose a leash that is suitable for the type of paddleboarding you’ll be doing and make sure it’s securely attached to your ankle.

6. Know Your Limits: Be honest with yourself about your skill level and physical abilities. Don’t attempt to paddle in conditions or locations that are beyond your capabilities. Start with shorter outings and gradually increase the duration and difficulty of your paddleboarding sessions as you become more experienced.

By following these safety tips, you can minimize the risks associated with stand up paddleboarding and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

Choosing the Right Location for Your Adventure

The beauty of stand up paddleboarding is that it can be enjoyed in a variety of water environments. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right location:

1. Skill Level: Different locations offer different challenges. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start in calm and protected waters like lakes or lagoons rather than the ocean. These environments provide a stable and controlled setting for practicing your skills. As you gain confidence and experience, you can gradually explore more open waters and even venture into surf or whitewater.

2. Water Conditions: Consider the current water conditions when choosing a location. If you’re a beginner or prefer a more relaxed paddleboarding experience, look for locations with calm waters and minimal waves. If you enjoy a bit of excitement, you can try paddleboarding in small waves or even ride larger waves if you’re an advanced paddler.

3. Scenery and Nature: Stand up paddleboarding allows you to immerse yourself in nature and explore stunning landscapes. Choose locations that offer breathtaking scenery, such as crystal-clear lakes, lush mangroves, or picturesque coastlines. Paddleboarding can be a great way to discover hidden gems and observe wildlife in their natural habitats.

4. Accessibility and Amenities: Consider the accessibility of the location and the amenities available. Look for places with easy access to the water, parking facilities, restrooms, and nearby shops or restaurants. It’s also helpful to find locations that offer paddleboard rentals or lessons if you don’t own your own equipment.

Remember to respect the environment and any rules or regulations in place at your chosen location. Leave no trace, avoid disturbing wildlife, and be mindful of any protected areas or sensitive ecosystems.

What is the Difficulty Level of Using a Stand Up Paddle Board?

Going stand up paddleboarding is easier than you might think! At first, you will likely wobble a bit while you get accustomed to standing on water. But it won’t take long before you get the hang of it.

Stand up paddleboarding is a sport for people of all skill levels. You don’t need to be an athlete, you just need to be willing to try.

Be sure to use the leash on your SUP

What to wear stand up paddleboarding?

You are going out on the water so dress for swimming. I wear a bathing suit and sometimes a PDF when I go. I was a lifeguard for 12 years and am very confident in and around the water. Since I am a very strong swimmer, I don’t always wear a lifejacket/PFD but I highly recommend wearing one if you aren’t a strong swimmer.

If the weather is cooler, or the water is very chilly, you may opt to wear a wetsuit. This will keep you warm, especially if you fall into the water. Always be prepared to go in the water. Even advanced paddleboarders can fall in when a wave unexpectedly comes by. If wearing a wetsuit, put your PFD overtop of your wetsuit so you are both safe and warm.

What to wear on your feet

I tend to go barefoot, but if you are in a place with lots of rocks, you could wear water shoes to protect your feet as you enter and exit the water. However, do not wear regular shoes or sandals because they make swimming very challenging.

If you wish to wear shoes, be sure to wear appropriate water shoes meant for swimming. Should you fall into the water, you want to be able to easily swim back to your board.

Accessories to wear stand up paddleboarding

An accessory I love for all water sports is my sunglasses cord. I swear by mine and wear it every single time I’m in the water. If you do fall off your board, you will lose your sunglasses unless they are attached to you with a cord. It’s the best $5 you’ll ever invest, trust me!

If you are someone who burns easily or is bald, you may want to wear a hat to avoid burning the top of your head. Choose a hat with a string that will stay on if you fall into the water. You also don’t want it to be swept away if a gust of wind comes along. Baseball caps aren’t great for water sports as they tend to fly off your head.

If it’s a hot, sunny day, the one thing you should definitely wear is water-resistant sunscreen. Be sure to buy one that is reef-friendly so you don’t damage marine life.

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Disclaimer: I was gifted a Bantry iSUP by Newell Outdoors but these options are my own and have not in any way been swayed by the company.

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