We get asked all the time if stand-up paddle boarding is hard. The answer is, no, it is not hard! It all comes down to if you have the right board for your size (weight and height), the paddle is adjusted to the correct length, and that you're using the right techniques, and knowing your SUP stuff.
Understanding SUP Basics
Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) offers a fun way to play on the water, with the added benefit of a full-body workout. And, since you stand at full height on your board, it gives you a unique vantage point for viewing what’s down under the water and out on the horizon without being confined to the hull of a kayak.
Learning to paddleboard is not nearly as daunting as you might think but before you head out on the water for the first time, it’s helpful to know a little bit about SUP gear and basic technique. To get started paddle boarding, you’ll want to learn:
- How to get geared up to SUP, you’ll need your paddle board, of course, as well as a couple of other essentials.
- Basic SUP paddling techniques, just a few skills will ensure you don’t end up paddling in circles.
- A few helpful tips for your first SUP outing (spoiler alert: try to make wind your friend. Nobody wants to be a Human Sail).
- Stand up paddle board: Your first time or two out, you may want to rent gear or borrow from a friend. If you fall in love with SUP like most do and want to do more of it, consider buying your own. Your board choice is determined by a combination of paddler weight and skill, your intended use, and the local conditions. Different boards excel at different disciplines: such as recreational paddling, surfing, touring, racing, and SUP yoga.
- Paddle: The correct length paddle will reach up to your wrist when you stand the paddle up in front of you and raise your arm above your head.
- PFD (Personal Flotation Device): The U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand-up paddleboards as vessels, so if you’re paddling outside a surf or swimming area, you have to have a PFD on board. Adults don’t have to wear the PFD, but children must. Check your state’s regulations for age requirements. PFD’s can vary from the old-school orange ones that go around the next to an around-the-waist version that inflates when you pull a cord.
- Proper clothing: During the summer months on a warm body of water, most people choose to wear some combination of a swimsuit, board shorts, and a short- or long-sleeved rash guard for sun protection. For cool conditions where hypothermia is a concern, wear a wetsuit or drysuit.
- Leash: Most boards come with a leash that tethers your SUP to you, keeping it close by if you fall off. Your SUP is a large flotation device, so being attached to it can be important for your safety. It can also be important if you fall off your board in windy conditions (especially if you are on an inflatable SUP). There are leashes designed specifically for surf, flatwater, and rivers; be sure to purchase the correct one for your intended use.