New to paddling? SUP Yoga Instructor Adi Carter provides some easy tips to make those first paddle experiences memorable and stress-free.One of the biggest things to remember is that balancing on a paddleboard for the first time will feel very unusual to someone who has never done it before. Similar to riding a bike, it’s easy to get the hang of it but there are definitely "sweet spots" you will find to maintaining that balance. Once your confidence sets in, you are good to go.
However, when you are completely new to the sport it is common to be a bit apprehensive. The best thing you can do is take all measures possible to feel safe, centered, and in control.
Safety is a tricky word with water sports. The simple fact is there are many risks when you venture out into the water. These risks should cause alarm for anyone, but especially for people who do not have confidence in their swimming abilities.
Bulky PFDs can get in the way and make it difficult to climb out of the water into any craft. I recommend wearing a low-profile PFD like an Astral YTV for easier access.
PFDs will keep you afloat, but is it up to you to get back onto your board or swim to shore.
Once you find the PFD that fits you and meets your needs, practice swimming in it. Don't navigate too far off-shore. The best way to prepare is to actually prepare.
After you've swum around in your PFD, practice jumping off and getting back on your board. Again, the best way to prepare is to actually prepare.
Always best to check in on someone’s swimming abilities and put anyone
Pro Tip: Make sure to also have a dry bag for phones in the event you have to call for help.
Feeling centered on your board starts well before standing upon it. Learning where to put your weight on the board will directly influence your balance, speed, and paddle efficiency once you get moving.
Get on the board in a hands-then-knees manner. Come up to a tabletop position with your navel/belly right over where the center handle of the board is.
From tabletop, you can choose to sit or kneel first. This allows you to test out your paddle strokes with a lower center of gravity. The Butterknife paddle is essential for all beginners (and experienced!) paddlers, as it gives you a lot of versatility in your ability to sit, kneel, or stand and paddle with plenty of efficiencies.
Once you are comfortable paddling in the kneeling or sitting position and can paddle towards open water, then it is time to try standing.
To stand, return to the tabletop position with weight on hands and then move one foot up alongside the center handle. From there make sure to grab your paddle and then shift weight into that foot to stand up, bringing your other foot to standing.
Shuffle your feet to bring them hip-distance apart on either side of the center handle and then grab hold of the handle or you paddle and place it in the water for additional balance. As with most movement-based activities, you will feel more centered and balanced when you get some momentum and continue to move forward.
Pro Tip: When moving from kneeling to standing, place your paddle perpendicular to the deck pad. Grab the paddle shaft with both hands, and use the momentum from pushing the shaft into the deck pad to help get you up and standing.
Control of yourself and your gear is essential in all water sports, especially when dealing with variable conditions such as wind, currents, waves, whitewater, or even a fast-moving thunderstorm.
it is essential to do your research on the type of water you will be paddling in and the wind/weather forecast for the day.
For beginners, try to start on a lake or pond that does not have any currents or waves and make sure there are no winds or storms on the forecast. Always paddle into any winds first so as not to get pulled out further then you want to go only to have a massive struggle battling headwinds on the way back.
Pro Tip: Wear an ankle leash during flatwater paddles so you're never too far from your board if you fall off.
Adi Carter is a team rider for Hala Gear.