Riding a stand up paddleboard is relatively easy once you understand a few basics.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
It wasn’t a surprise, really.
On vacation a while back at a state park, while kayaking, the family and I decided to rent a stand up paddleboard. We’d never tried one before, but it looked fun, right? We figured we’d take turns riding it.
There were two college-aged guys working the concession along the beach. Walking up, I overheard a conversation between them.
One asked where a rented motor boat had gone.
“You mean that boat, down there near the spillway, just beyond the sign that says ‘Danger, no boats?’ That’s them,” said the other.
Then he sat back down, shirtless under his safari hat, and stared unconcernedly through sunglasses and a haze of smoke from a cigar that, if it cost $100 an inch, would have set him back more than half a grand.
So when his advice to a bunch of first-time paddleboarders was to “stay in the middle or you’ll fall,” well, I wasn’t expecting much better.
Thanks, Captain Safety.
We didn’t need much direction, I suppose. It was a warm, even hot, mid-week summer day on an uncrowded lake that was glassy calm. So we learned by doing, under what were the best conditions for some newbies like us.
And ultimately we had a lot of fun.
Things would have gone a little smoother, and we’d have had more fun faster, if we’d known a few basics, though.
So, with that in mind, here are a half dozen tips for getting started.
Getting on. Most paddleboards have a fin on the bottom side, something meant to make it easier to steer. Put the paddleboard in water deep enough to cover the fin. Standing in the water between the board and shore, place both hands flat on the board, then follow with one knee, then the other.
Standing up. From that kneeling position, and with your hands still on the board, bring one foot forward so that it’s flat on the board. Bring the other foot forward, then stand, as if rising from a squat. Look forward, toward the horizon, all the while.
Finding the sweet spot. Stand too far forward on your board and the nose will plow into the water, with the fin in the air. Stand too far back and the end will sink, with the nose in the air. To get centered, stand your paddle upright, with the blade on the board. Using it as a brace, slowly step forward or back until you are in the best position.
Paddling. On shore, adjust your paddle so that it’s a few inches taller than you. Then, on your board, place one hand on top of the paddle’s knob, with the other a bit farther down (your hands should be about shoulder width apart when holding the paddle over your head). Paddle with your knees slightly bent, so that each stroke involves using your core muscles – namely, your abdomen – rather than just your arms.
Falling. If you fall off your board, fall away from the board. The water is more forgiving than it is. Don’t dive headfirst, as you can’t be sure how deep the water is or what hazards are below the surface. Hold on to your paddle if you can, but more importantly, be sure to have a life jacket on and a leash connecting your leg or ankle to the board.
Getting back on. There are two ways to get back on your board: from the side or back. In either case, grab the center of the board – many have a handle there – and allow your feet to float to the water’s surface. Then, while kicking in a swimming motion, pull yourself forward. You can then lay on the board like a surfer and paddle to shore with your arms, or stand up.
It’s all easier than you might think, and it’s lots of fun. You can surf waves on a paddleboard, explore quiet coves looking for wildlife and enjoying wonderful scenery, get some great exercise or even fish.
A little practice is all it takes to get comfortable.
Cigar smoke and a carefree attitude are optional.
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