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At first, SUP may seem a little difficult activity, especially since the paddles seem tall, strangely shaped and awkward to handle. But with a little help from these tips and tricks, as well as a bit of practice, don’t worry, paddling padawan, you will master the sport in no time.
The first step to properly paddling is choosing the right size. As a general rule of thumb, the paddle should by 6-10” taller than you, though this depends on the type of water you intend to ride on (taller for flat water, shorter for waves).
The Right Direction
One of the most common errors made by beginners is holding the paddle so that the curve of the blade is facing towards them. While this may seem like the natural way of holding it, it actually causes drag, slowing the rider down and forcing them to work a lot harder than they need to. Be sure to point the curve of the blade away from you for a smoother, easier ride.
Paddle boarding requires use of the whole body: legs, back, core, arms, everything. One of the most important steps is ensuring that you have the proper posture, as this will provide better balance and prevent discomfort. Stand with your feet parallel to one another, about shoulder width apart, and your knees slightly bent. Keep your back straight, and shoulders level, but relaxed, and always look up. Not only will this keep you from colliding with your fellow paddle boarders, but also help with maintaining balance. With this stance, you won’t be taking unintentional dips in the water any time soon!
Left or Right? Can’t Go Wrong!
Deciding which hand goes on the T bar on top of the paddle is as simple as finding which side you are paddling on. If you are paddling on the left side of the board, the right hand goes on top, and vice versa, with the other hand resting slightly below the middle of the paddle, closer to the blade than to the top.
When it comes to paddling, it’s a good idea to switch sides every few strokes to maintain a straight course.
If you stay on one side for too long, the board will begin to turn in the opposite direction, so if you are paddling on the left side, the board will begin to turn right.
Experts will always say, “Use your core, not your arms.” This is extremely important because relying on just the strength of your arms will not only tire you out, but can also lead to injury. As mentioned before, the best way to paddle is to keep your knees slightly bent; this will keep you balanced. Lower the paddle into the water towards the front of the board, then twist your torso as you pull the paddle back to about where you are standing, and repeat.
Slowing Down and Braking
To slow down or brake, simply go in reverse. Begin with the paddle going in the water towards the back of the board, and push towards the front, alternating sides more often than you would going forward. To stop, another technique some paddlers like to employ is to carefully move towards the back of the board, causing it to tilt down and back slightly, causing drag.
Don’t Lose the Paddle
If you ever do fall off your board, instinct may tell you to let go of the paddle, but don’t do it. In fact, some paddlers recommend holding on to the paddle with both hands as you fall. However, if you do let go, the paddle should typically surface not too far away from you. If you are wearing a leash for your board, you can swim out and grab the paddle. If the paddle is farther away, or you do not have a leash on your board, get the board first, climb on, and prone paddle to it. Prone paddling is essentially like swimming: you lie down on the board and use your arms to paddle.
While at first it may seem like paddle boarding can be intimidating, with a lot of steps to remember and techniques to follow, a lot of it comes naturally, and the rest will come with a little bit of practice. Happy paddling, folks.