Dos and Don’ts of Stand Up Paddle Boarding

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Stand Up Paddle Boarding is one of the fastest growing sports around.  130,000 boards are sold across the US and Europe every year and it’s only growing.  Its easy accessibility is part of the appeal.  In fact, it got started as an adaptation of surfing in Hawaii as a way for the surf instructors to get up above the water and see their students while teaching.  So, it’s hard to argue that there is an absolute right or wrong way to take on this sport.  With many variations (yoga, fishing, kayak-style, etc.) you are free to make it your own and get comfortable finding what works for you.  That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind to make your day of paddle boarding easier.

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Finding the right gear:  Do your research and think about what you want to do on the water and how you will be transporting your board.  Don’t go and buy the first board you see.  There are lots of different options which provides a range of equipment and add-ons, which is great for growing as a paddle boarder.  But, a few minutes of thought and research at the beginning will lead you the right gear and save frustration later.

Learning to stand up:  Do hold your paddle correctly: one hand on top and one further down the shaft.  Put some room between your two hands because short grips make it harder to paddle.  Experiment to find the right grip width for you. Don’t hold it like a bat with both hands on the shaft.  Do stand with feet shoulder length apart and facing forward.  Don’t stand on the board like a surf board.  It’s tempting, but it doesn’t work and you are more likely to fall.

Paddling: Do make sure you dip the paddle fully into the water to get started.  This will help your balance and get you moving.  Don’t use only your arms.  Use your back muscles to take long, efficient strokes.  Let the big muscles in your core and back do the heavy pushing.  

Don’t paddle in shallow water.  This can damage the fins and even the board if a rock is tall enough.  Once you are in shallow water it’s best to jump off in knee deep and push you board to shore. 

Learn to turn: Do move your paddle in a “c motion” to turn the board.  Start next to the board and move away from yourself and then back again a little further down the back of the board.  Don’t forget to try the other side to go the other direction.

Learning to fall:  It will come up no matter how hard you try!  It shouldn’t be a problem as long as you remember that it’s softer to land in the water than it is on the board.  Consider using the paddle board leash as it will help you to recover your board after you come up.  Do fall away from the board.  Just keep your knees slightly bent while paddling so that you can use the momentum of the fall, combined with your legs as springs, to push you away from harm.  Don’t be scared of falling in – everyone does it and it’s even a part of the fun.  

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Taking care of your gear:  Do learn how to pick it up and carry it using a shoulder method or buying a handle to pick up from the middle.  Don’t drag your board.  Don’t transport it in a car or automobile without a protective bag that will protect it from accidental bumps and scratches.  

Do rinse off your board after using it in saltwater.  It’s important because the salt will dry and harm the board over the long term.  Don’t store your equipment in the sun where UV rays will break down the finish and degrade the board.  You’ve invested in the board, so be sure it’s around a long time to enjoy.

Taking care of your passengers: Do make sure your passenger(s), (including your dog) wear the recommended safety gear: life jackets, clothing, etc.

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Just like any great activity it’s more fun to do with a friend.  In the case of an outdoor water sport that buddy can also watch your back and give advice and share a laugh when needed.  Do find a friend or two to head out with the first few times you go or find a paddle board community to join.  Most importantly have fun; take care of yourself and your gear (as it will take care of you) and don’t forget to enjoy the water and the day!