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SUP 101-Getting Started with Stand Up Paddling

Posted on October 14, 2014

SUP for the first time!

So you are ready to take the plunge and try one of the fastest growing water sports in the world! Stand up Paddle to me is one of the best ways to enjoy being on the water! As a certified SUP Instructor I believe it is important to take a lesson for your first time with a certified instructor someone who is going to really look after your safety and teach you proper stroke technique and just set you up for a positive experience for your first time. But if you plan to venture out with out a lesson here our a few tips you need to know.

1. Know the conditions!- Every time I get a call for a lesson I am looking at the wind conditions and surf size, making sure it will be safe for my customer and that their experience will be enjoyable. Just be aware that whether you are heading out on a lake our ocean the conditions can change very quickly so be alert and aware of your surroundings. We do not want you to be on the next episode of I shouldn’t be alive! There are several good websites you can use to see the forecast of the wind and waves before you head out.

2. Equipment- For your first time on a SUP I would encourage a bigger board around 12 ft with a width of at least 30 inches. The bigger and wider the board the more stable it will be for you I put my customers on the 12”1 Laird Paddle Board with a 31 inch width it’s a great board that is very stable and great to learn on and it could hold up to about 270 Pound person. If you are smaller you might not need such a big board but again in my opinion if it is your first time the bigger the board the better. To judge the size of your paddle it should be about 9 inches above your height. It would be good to have a leash and a PFD in case you fall.

3. Get in and out of water- Most injuries happen on a SUP whether on a lake our ocean when you are about 5 feet from shore. In lakes you are not worried about waves but many people get to comfortable coming in to shore and if they are standing on the board and get into the shallow water there fins hit the sand and they go head first into the sand and that is not fun! For the ocean you need to be aware of the waves, I have seen so many people when coming in on a SUP not paying attention of the wave that is coming behind them and you know what happens next. So when launching and returning to the shore I would encourage you paddle out on your knees and choke up on paddle like a canoe or you can get on your stomach and prone paddle with the paddle head flat side under your chest. Once you are in a safe place get ready to stand.

4. Stand, Paddle and Turns- Once you are out in the water its time to stand! You want to get a little momentum paddling on both sides of board on your knees while your hands are choked up on the paddle close to the blade of paddle, make sure your knees are in the center point of board most boards have a handle in the center of the board you will want your knees on either side of the handle. You will get on all fours with paddle in the right hand or left whatever is comfortable for you with the blade of paddle facing towards the water. Don’t hesitate and jump to your feet if it is hard for you to do both feet at once you can step up one leg at time and make sure you are centered with the handle of board in between both feet and your feet facing forward shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Eighty percent of your balance stems on where you are focusing so once you stand focus straight ahead not looking down at board or water it will be a lot easier to balance.
Then start the paddle stroke with one hand on top grabbing the paddle handle and the other half way down the paddle. Keep your arms extended with a slight bend in elbows which will force you to paddle more with your core. Rotate your hip and reach to nose of board put paddle in water the paddle should be perpendicular which will force your top arm to straighten and stroke throwing top hand over like throwing a punch and other shoulder rotates like a one arm row. All the power in your stroke will be how far you can reach towards nose of board and stroking to your feet if you go past your feet it will slow down your recovery. You will probably switch your stroke after 3-4 strokes depending on wind and currents to keep you going straight.

A couple of basic turn strokes that you will need to know is the Front sweep stroke turn which you would put paddle in water angle blade away from board and stroke away from board at a 45 degree angle. If Paddle is on right side it will turn the board left and on left side it will turn board right. The back sweep is just reversing and throwing the paddle to the tail of board and stroke to the nose do this 3-4 times and then throw paddle over and do a front stroke this can turn you around pretty quickly just make sure you bend your knees a little to braise yourself and keep you from falling in water.

5. Be Prepared – Its good to communicate with someone that you will be going out for a paddle and where. Also to have plenty of water, snacks and what my wife always calls me out on is putting on sunscreen! So these are just a few tips to make your first time on a SUP safe and enjoyable know get out there and have fun!

Written by Tyler Lennon, Paddle Instructor/Trainer with Cove Paddle Fitness

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