Sup complete guide to get started
SUP, acronym for Stand Up Paddle, or as I've also heard it called paddle surfing (!) is definitely the summer sport and has been for several years now. In fact, in the summer there are more and more people who approach water sports and among all the Sup is undoubtedly the one that best manages to combine fun, training, ease of learning. Not to mention the fact that the conditions for practicing it in the summer are almost always there and not only at the sea, but also on lakes or rivers.
Standing on the board, rowing with a paddle allows you to explore hidden corners of our coasts, get away from crowded beaches, keep fit, have fun with the whole family or friends and, with a little practice, even catch the waves as in surfing ... in short, it is a very versatile sport that everyone can experience in their own way.
For these reasons the SUP is already loved by many people. There are those who already practice kitesurfing or windsurfing who use the sup to keep fit and pass the time when there is no wind; there are surfers who take out their sup when the waves are too small or completely absent, or when they want to go with their girlfriends and children for a ride in the sea and then there are all those who are looking for something a little more stimulating of running to keep fit or who want to take their yoga and pilates sessions to the next step.
So if you haven't had the opportunity to try it yet, I suggest you do it as soon as possible and you won't regret it.
But let's go in order and see 5 practical tips to have fun right away.
1. Choose the sup board
Board, paddle and a leash are basically all you need to do Sup, but choosing the right board can be a more complicated aspect than it seems, especially if you don't have a minimum of knowledge of the subject or don't come from surfing. With the right board in a few hours, or even minutes if you have a good attitude, you will already be able to stand up and walk around peacefully. With the wrong board you may not succeed at all! This is why choosing the right sup board for a beginner is essential.
I'll try to make it easy. A large board is more stable, even if a little less manageable, so to start you will need a nice large board, possibly a specific model for beginners or an Allround model. In any case, the models dedicated to wave, race and downwind are absolutely to be avoided because they are too technical.
The size of the Sup board is chosen based on the weight, the use you want to make of it and your level / aptitude. In principle, a beginner weighing around 75kg should choose an all-round board that is at least 30' wide and with a volume of around 150 litres. If you intend to use the board to go there in two, bring a picnic or something like that, fearlessly abound with liters, while if your goal is to get close to the waves, you are athletic and perhaps come from surfing, you can decrease the liters.
As far as length is concerned, the ideal is to stay between 9' and 11'. Most beginner SUP boards measure around 10 feet which is a great fit.
Note: Stand up paddle board measurements are expressed in inches, like surfboards and beyond length and width it is essential to consider the volume. Forget those who indicate the measure only in cm or do not indicate the liters ... usually these are really cheap products.
Rigid Sup or Inflatable Sup
This is the dilemma!
Having to choose your first stand up paddle board, you are surely wondering whether or not to buy an inflatable sup. Clearly an inflatable Sup has several advantages, but also some disadvantages, so it is good to be aware of them before making the purchase so as not to have to complain immediately afterwards.
The advantages of an inflatable sup essentially concern its practicality and ease of transport, but also the economic aspect should not be underestimated.
An inflatable sup fits in a fairly compact backpack and weighs less than 10kg. Easy to take to the beach with any car or even by bicycle.
As for the price, it is generally much lower than a "classic" stand up paddle and this is also a plus.
ADVANTAGES OF INFLATABLE SUP:
- Easy to carry
- Competitive price
The disadvantages however concern the performance. An inflatable SUP is much less tolerant of wind and chop. The wind is certainly not a friend to stand up paddling, but if you are on an inflatable sup, even a slight breeze can be a problem.
Apart from this, as you progress and look for more speed or fun on the waves, your inflatable will probably no longer be the right tool and you will have to replace it with something more performing.
INFLATABLE SUP DISADVANTAGES:
- Less performance
A rigid sup is probably the best choice if you live near the sea and you don't have transport problems, if you want to use it to surf the waves or if your idea of sup is not so much to go for relaxing walks as to dedicate yourself seriously to this sport.
2. Paddle, leash etc.
In addition to a board, you will of course need a paddle. Professional paddles are generally made of carbon or other fibers and are cut to the right size for the rider who will have to use them.
The paddles for beginners, but not only, are instead adjustable. The adjustable paddles have the great advantage that it can easily be shared by everyone in the family, or you can adjust it according to your needs. This is why we definitely recommend an adjustable paddle to start with.
Furthermore, there are paddles that can be divided into 2 or 3 pieces, which are much more comfortable to be transported. Inflatable sup paddles are always of the divisible type... because what's the point of having a sup that fits in a bag, if the paddle doesn't fit in the trunk of your car?!
As for the leash, the general rule is that it should be longer than the board, usually 1 foot longer.
In addition to this you will need a wetsuit or lycra or t-shirt to protect you from the sun (depending on the season), a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
Once you get the hang of it and start venturing a little further afield, remember to bring along a bottle of water or even a dry bag with your cell phone... it being understood that going too far is never a good idea.
3. Getting started with the sup
As already mentioned, stand up paddling is quite easy to learn, with a not very steep learning curve and practically zero risk of injury (at least until you get close to the waves). Given these premises, it is clear that stand up paddling can easily be learned on your own, without danger and having fun. Of course, if you are on vacation and want to face some waves or a long excursion, without any skills, the advice is to do it with an instructor. But if you get yourself a suitable board, you can easily learn to stand up paddle on your own, just taking care to choose a suitable place and the best weather conditions.
At this point it will just be a question of trying, taking care not to go too far until you are well aware of what you are doing.
Sup is easy and suitable for the whole family. It's also a great way to introduce children to water and surfing.
4. Technique or how to stand and paddle
After getting the equipment and having opted for DIY, you just have to try.
It should be needless to say it... but when in doubt I prefer to be banal. To start, choose a day with no wind or waves. Keep an eye on the weather and don't stray.
The best way to get started and build confidence gradually is to get on your knees on the board and start paddling. Only when you are comfortable with this position can you get up. Keep in mind that it's easier to stay balanced while the sup is moving forward than if it's stationary. So when you go from the kneeling position to the standing position, do not stop rowing but continue.
The right position is with your feet in the center of gravity of the board. When you stand up, place your feet parallel and roughly hip-width apart. Many sup boards have a handle at their center of gravity. If your table also has it, it is on its sides that you will have to position your feet.
Back straight, gaze forward and knees slightly bent to accommodate the movements of the board.
As far as rowing is concerned, it is important to keep the paddle close to the board, so as not to lose your balance. Try to get a continuous movement. One arm pulls at you while the other pushes.
If you lose your balance do not try to recover by holding on to the plank. You'll just end up falling on it and hurting yourself. Rather go far with a dive, also paying attention to the paddle.
5. Have fun, train, progress… and choose your discipline
Now that you have taken your first steps, all you have to do is explore the infinite possibilities that stand up padding offers, dedicating yourself to the discipline or disciplines that are most in your comfort zone. Any examples?
Long excursions exploring secret stretches of coast at sea or along freshwater streams. This is perhaps the most practiced activity with stand up paddling and probably the one that many have in mind when approaching sup for the first time. For excursions with the sup, an all-round board, even an inflatable one, will initially be fine. In the future, however, you will want to go further and further and you will probably prefer a specific touring board. Sup touring boards are generally very long to improve speed and directionality, the bow is pointed and the hull is V-shaped to improve stability even in slightly rough seas. Being generally very voluminous and stable, these are boards that can also be used as a first board.
Surfing the waves like surfing. If you've always wanted to learn surfing but find it too difficult and tiring, approaching it through stand up paddling is definitely a great idea. Many surf schools offer it as a preparatory activity for beginners to surf. In stand up paddling there is no need to learn the take off to stand up on the board. You start standing up and, moreover, from that position you have a better view of the wave than from lying down. Furthermore, the board is very large and the oar helps to stay on the wave and balance. All reasons why approaching surfing with sup is easier, but still very stimulating.
If this is your goal, you can certainly start with an all-round board but then move on to a specific surf sup which is shorter, less bulky and with an accentuated rocker. All features that make these boards less stable, especially for beginners. As far as inflatable boards are concerned, they can certainly be fine at the beginning and will undoubtedly allow you to have fun on not too demanding waves... then you'll need something more performing.
Sup Yoga and Pilates
If you are a Yoga or Pilates enthusiast then you could take advantage of the benefits of practicing it on the sup. Yoga can be practiced anywhere, but in the water, on a stand up paddle board, perhaps at dawn, it's truly a unique experience. Sup Yoga is clearly on the rise and is now widespread in swimming pools, but it is on the lakes and the sea, immersed in unique natural contexts, that the experience becomes even more intense. Absolutely to try at least once even if you are not particularly expert in these disciplines. The boards to be used are those for all-round beginners. It is essential that the table is very wide and voluminous. Then there are specific boards designed precisely for maximum stability when stationary, rather than when moving.
Sup fishing or Sup fishing is a discipline that has been gaining ground in recent years and consists of fishing comfortably on your inflatable Sup, mainly at sea but also in lakes or rivers. All you need is a sufficiently large and stable sup and of course a small fishing rod with some bait. There are even specific models of fishing sup around, but in reality a good inflatable touring or all-round sup will do just fine.
By adding a foil to the sup board you can practice one of the most recent disciplines that are taking the field in the world of paddle surfing. Foiling is rapidly expanding in all sectors of water sports from kitesurfing to surfing and of course sup. By adding a foil to a paddle board you will have the ability to hover above the water to surf even the smallest waves. Naturally you cannot use just any sup but a special rigid board. Furthermore, from here to the wing foil the step is short ...
SUP wing foil
First of all what is the wing: the wing is an inflatable wing halfway between windsurfing and kitesurfing which we have already talked about. The beauty of the Wing is that it is inflatable, easy to use and much safer than a kitesurf wing. It is a novelty that exploded in the summer of 2019. A novelty in full evolution and whose potential is being discovered year after year. Combined with a Sup, even inflatable, there are already some ideas for fun. But I must warn you that the wing is not suitable to be used with a traditional Sup in this way... i.e. it's good to try but if you want to go upwind and have fun, you need at least a foil Sup but really specific wing boards have little to do with a sup..
Which sup to buy to start
Now you are probably wondering which sup to buy to start. First of all, we advise you to read this inflatable sup buying guide
Then we can help you choose your first sup by recommending a couple of really cheap but valid models, one from decathlon and one on amazon that will be fine if your goal is to have fun in the summer by paddling a bit in calm waters, without waves and without wind. These are not suitable sups if you have performance in mind. If you are looking for a sup that is fast, with which to cover several kilometers or with which to surf the waves, these sup are not suitable. But if your idea is to have fun and spend some time in the water, and maybe even take your child on it, then take a look at one of these two sup for beginners that we recommend and if you are not very light then abound with liters and don't be afraid to choose the larger size. However, an inflatable sup is not a particularly performing board, so an extra size has no particular contraindications in terms of handling and performance but will allow you to have more comfort and safety.
As a first sup, if your idea is to spend little, our advice is to take a look at the Valwix 11' sup by decathlon. Of course, decathlon also offers smaller and cheaper sups than the ones we have indicated to you, and they are perfect if you are alone and light... but if you want to go around in two, better stay on the 10 footer.