Stand Up Paddle Boarding is an amazing recreational sport that brings us into Mother Nature, exercises our whole body and reconnects us with our inner selves and loved ones.
Paddling might sound easy, you just hop on a board, stand up and paddle, right? Well no. There's a lot more to paddle boarding than meets the eye, and you probably make some mistakes while SUPing without even knowing it.
To help you, we're here to debunk the most common paddling mistakes and to give you an idea of how NOT to paddle.
One of the most important things about paddling is balance. A common mistake many beginners make is to stand too far forward on the board.
The fins at the back of your board act as rudders, allowing the board to turn in a desired direction or to ride in a straight line. If you stand too far forward on the board, the fins will be out of the water, making it more difficult to control the direction of your SUP.
A good indicator of where your feet should be placed on the board's deck pad is the center carry handle. Most SUPs have a carry handle to help with transport, and when you're paddling your board your feet should be slightly behind that handle. If you don't see the carry handle when you look down, you need to step back.
Another mistake related to foot placement is standing too close to the edges (rails) of the board. For example, if one foot is closer to the rail, your weight will not be evenly distributed and you will likely tip over.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, directly behind the carry handle and make sure both feet are evenly spaced from the rail.
DO NOT GRAB TOP OF PADDLE
The more leverage you have, the more you get out of your paddle stroke. Gripping your hand on the top T-bar handle of your paddle gives you the best control and leverage when paddling through the water.
The hand you place on top of the paddle should be on the opposite side of the side you are paddling. For example, if you are paddling on the right side of the board, your left hand should be on top and vice versa.
HAVING YOUR ARMS TOO CLOSE TO EACH OTHER
After grasping the T-bar at the top of the handle, you should also rest your second hand comfortably on the paddle shaft.
The best way to find the right width between your two arms is to place your paddle on your head, place one hand on the T-bar handle and the other on the shaft so your elbows are in a 90 -degree angles are.
If you have your arms too close together or too far apart, paddling will be difficult and you won't get the most out of your move.
The paddle length should be your height plus approximately 10 inches.
NOT HAVING THE RIGHT PADDLE STROKE
Efficient paddle stroke technique makes all the difference in paddle boarding.
There are three main strokes that, once mastered, will have you paddling freely and effectively through the water.
The forward stroke is the most important paddle stroke of all, and that's the stroke you'll be using primarily on your board.
As you face forward, rotate your shoulders and hips, reach forward, and keep the paddle above the surface of the water. With the blade tilted forward, fully submerge the blade in the water and slide the blade toward you. Take the blade out of the water and repeat this process.
The reverse stroke helps turn your board in the direction you want to paddle.
Place the paddle in the water near the tail of the board. When the blade is fully submerged in the water, keep your arms straight and move the blade forward. Repeat this process until your board is pointing in the desired direction.
The side you hit is the way the nose of your board moves. If you want to go left, perform the reverse hit on the left side of your board. If you want to go right, then reverse the stroke on the right side of your board.
The sweep shot is another method you can use to rotate your board. With your knees slightly bent and your arms down, place your paddle in the water with the blade perpendicular to the board.
Move your paddle away from the board in a semi-circle motion, starting at the nose and ending at the tail. You can also do a reverse sweep and follow the same steps but start at the end of the board and sweep towards the nose.
Efficient paddling technique lets you glide through the water, uses less energy and has a more enjoyable paddle boarding experience.
If you want more information on paddling effectively, check out our beginner's guide to paddling on a board.
USE YOUR ARMS TO PULL THE PADDLE
Now it may seem like all the muscle work required to paddle is coming from your arms, but that's not really the case.
Proper paddling technique requires using your core and leg muscles to pull yourself through the water. They will be your driving force and most of your energy should be focused on them, not your arms.
YOUR PADDLE BLADE IS POINTING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
Believe it or not, SUP paddles have a right way and a wrong way.
The blade of the paddle is designed at an angle, and this angle should always be pointed away from you for optimal speed and directional stability.
If you paddle with the angle facing you, you'll be slowed down by drag as you pull water up in a scooping motion. Most paddles have finger grips on their T-bars to indicate which direction the paddle should be held.
LOOK AT YOUR FEET
We've already mentioned that balance is key when paddling, and if you don't want to jump in the water it's important to always look up.
Balancing on the board can be difficult at first, and while looking down is our natural instinct, you'll likely end up in the water at the end.
A trick to remember when you're having trouble with balance is to focus on something on the shore. Once you've selected an object, paddle towards it and keep an eye on it.
DO NOT CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST
Whenever you head near water for any reason, it's important to check the weather forecast to make sure you're not paddling in dangerous weather conditions. Thankfully, modern technology can provide us with accurate and constant weather information straight to our phones, allowing us to make quick, informed decisions about whether it's safe to paddle!
Paddle boards, especially inflatable paddle boards, can be pushed around in strong winds, making it dangerous to go out on the water.
Strong winds can also create large waves that would be impossible for novice paddlers and could result in an uncomfortable and dangerous paddling experience.
It's a well-known fact that water and electricity don't go well together, and being out on the water in the middle of a storm is a disaster that awaits.
If a storm is brewing on your chosen day on the water, it's probably best to play it safe and paddle another day.
At the other end of the spectrum is the beginner's mistake of paddling when it's too hot.
The sun is at its hottest from 10am to 2pm and you should do your best to avoid paddling during these times. If the temperature is too hot, you could suffer from heat stroke, sunburn and dehydration, which are much more common in the summer months.
GOING OUT WITH THE WRONG GEAR
Fully preparing for your paddle boarding trip is just as important as mastering your specific paddling style.
Many things need to be considered before heading out such as the type of paddling you want to do, the environment you will be paddling in and the safety precautions you need to take.
Different types of boards are used for different things, and making sure you have the right type of board for your skill level and desired activity can make a world of difference.
Beginner paddlers want an all-round board with a wide deck as they are the most stable and perfect for recreational activities. Experienced paddlers who want a faster, more maneuverable board are better off opting for a dedicated touring or racing board.
For sports like fishing and SUP yoga, wide deck boards offer the most space to perform yoga moves and carry additional fishing gear.
For more information on which board is right for you, see 3 Different Types of Paddle Boards and How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board.
Every paddle boarder should take safety precautions before hitting the water. It is important to wear a well-fitting life jacket when paddling as it can save your life should something happen.
If you're paddling alone, a whistle is another simple but great tool that can get others' attention if you need help.
Packing water is another safety precaution that can really make a difference when out on your SUP. A bottle or two of water can prevent dehydration and potentially save your life in an emergency.
Wearing the wrong clothes can affect or interrupt your paddle boarding trip, and being too cold or sunburned can really spoil your mood.
The summer months call for clothing with UPF 50+, a sun hat and sunglasses to protect against sunburn and sun damage.
Investing in a quality wetsuit during the winter months, suitable for the water temperature you intend to paddle in, will keep you warm while still allowing you to paddle 365 days a year.
PADDLING IN BUSY AREAS
For novice paddlers, paddling on flat water is important to build your confidence and keep you stable on the board. Paddling too close to other people, especially other beginners, can create ripples in the water that could potentially knock you off the board.
If you want to step up a notch and ride waves, find yourself a quiet break with few surfers. Surfers hate paddleboarders hogging the waves, so it's better to stay clear and find somewhere less crowded.
KEEP YOUR BOARD IN THE SUN
Storing or leaving your stand up paddle board in the sun for long periods of time is a big no-go.
Leaving your board in the sun can cause delamination, which means the EPS foam core in a hard board becomes unstable and separates from the shell. In an inflatable board, the heat can cause the air inside to expand and burst the seams.
If you don't want to pay a professional to fix your board (if it's even repairable!), then your best bet is to keep it out of the sun and in a cool, dry place like a garage or under a patio.
DO NOT USE A PADDLEBOARD LEAD
A paddle line is there to prevent your board from floating away from you if you fall on it. Sure, this comes in handy when you're about to fall safely into the water and just trying to retrieve your board, but in situations where you're lost or tired, your board acts as a life-saving device and you don't want it floating away from you.
A coil paddle leash like the GILI 8' Paddle Board Coiled Ankle Leash is compact, lightweight and even has a hidden key pocket.
YOUR BOARD WILL NOT INFLATE TO THE RECOMMENDED PSI
An inflatable paddle board has a recommended PSI that you should pay close attention to. If you don't inflate your board properly, the board can lose its stiffness and become harder to paddle. On the other hand, if you inflate your board too much, the pressure inside can cause the board to burst.
The GILI 12V Electric iSUP Paddle Board Pump allows you to choose your desired PSI. As soon as you press the button, the pump inflates your board with the perfect amount of air.
PADDLING IN WATER THAT IS LESS THAN KNEE DEPTH
A potential beginner mistake is paddling in less than knee-deep water. When you first start paddling it's good to practice in shallow waters until you get the hang of it, but paddling in waters less than knee deep can cause a problem for your fins.
Their fins are approximately 20 to 25 cm long and are easily damaged when they hit a rock or the ground. Also, if they get caught on something, your board will stall and you could be thrown off the deck.
DO NOT CHECK YOUR WEIGHT LIMIT BEFORE PADDLING
Paddle boards can support a certain weight, and if the total weight on the board exceeds this, your board will sit low in the water, making paddling and steering difficult.
Before setting off for the day, it's best to combine your weight and the weight of any passengers or equipment you will be carrying on board, and ensure that total is under the board's maximum weight capacity.
Paddle boards are big pieces of gear, but that doesn't mean you can fit your whole family on a single board.
Board overcrowding comes with reaching weight capacity. Having too many people or too many things on your paddle board can cause the board to ride low and the limited space makes paddling difficult.
Ideally, you and one other adult, child or dog will fit comfortably on the board without jeopardizing your valuable paddling space.
DO NOT PRACTICE FALL SAFETY
Falls are inevitable and eventually they will happen to you. Fall safety practice is crucial to avoid injury if you fall into the water.
If you are feeling unstable and there is a likelihood of falling off the board, you should always fall to the side. If you fall off the side of the board you will land straight in the water and you will not hit the deck of your SUP.
Important Tips: Try not to fall on your paddle and never dive head first because you never know how deep the water is.