One of the best things about stand up paddleboarding is how easy it is to get started. If you can stand up and wield a paddle, you can most likely standup paddleboard. But there are a number of easily remedied mistakes that new paddlers tend to make.
1.) Not taking a lesson…paddleboarding is an easy sport to do, but it is not easy to get good at it. If you forgo a lesson and just head out on the water, you will get going, but you will probably hold your paddle backward and have very little efficiency. That’s fine if you just want to tool around and see what it feels like to practically walk on water. If paddleboarding is something that you want to pursue, consider taking a lesson from a reputable teacher. You will learn the proper way to hold the paddle, the stages of the stroke, how to self-rescue, and some little tricks to keep you on course and having fun.
2.) Holding your paddle backward. For many people, the way you hold your paddle is counterintuitive. You are not trying to shovel water when you paddleboard. You are actually trying to plant the paddle blade in the water and pull the board past it. So having the blade angled correctly gives you greater reach with your paddle and that is where most of the power in the stroke comes from.
3) Pulling your stroke too far past your feet. There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to paddling, the Hawaiian and Tahitian strokes. The Hawaiian stroke is a much longer, slower stroke. The Tahitian stroke keeps all of the business way out in front in very quick, short strokes. Most advanced paddleboarders will subscribe to something in the middle. There are simple exercises that you can do to get a feel for where the power phase of the stroke is, and you will find that it is from where your paddle enters the water to your feet. Pulling past your feet adds little value and can actually create drag and ultimately slow you down.
4.) Not falling in…that’s right, the mistake is NOT falling in. When you fall in early on, a lot of great things happen. You will learn to get back on your board, or self-rescue. This is a pretty easy thing to do, and it’s important that you know you are able to do it. The most popular way to do it is by holding on to the far side of the board and kicking your legs out straight. When your legs are straight out on the surface of the water, you should be able to pull yourself back up on the board. Once you fall in, you tend to relax. You no longer have the death grip with the toes on the board. Once you are already wet, who cares if you fall in again? You can only get so wet. You will be safer out there knowing how to get back up on your board and you will likely have more fun being more relaxed. Besides, if it is a really hot day, you will be much cooler.
5.) Not Relaxing. Paddleboarding is fun and there’s something very calming about walking on water. The more tense you are, the harder it will be to stay on the board and enjoy yourself. Relax, take some deep breaths, keep your knees soft and if you get wet, who cares?! See mistake number 4…not falling in…
6.) Not being aware of conditions. If you take a lesson, the instructor should ensure that you are not venturing out in inappropriate conditions. But if you rent a board and take it out on your own you need to be careful about where you take it and what the conditions are like. Obviously, you don’t want to be on the water in a thunderstorm, but you also need to be aware of wind speed and direction, currents, tides and swell if you go out into open water (which we really wouldn’t recommend doing on your own). You would be amazed at how much more challenging these elements can make paddling. Granted it doesn’t have to be perfect when you first venture out. If you go out when it’s windy, paddle into the wind first so that the wind will help you on the return trip. The same principle applies to any currents. Also be aware of the forecast and be cognizant of these elements change. It is very easy to paddle out with the help of a wind and/or current. You will be amazed at the amount of ground/water you cover very quickly. But it will be many times harder to get back so plan ahead!
7.) Looking down. Particularly when you are first trying to stand up, it is tempting to look down at your board. Don’t. Your feet aren’t going anywhere…they are firmly glued to the board at this point. Look ahead of you, at the horizon, and keep your knees soft. Your body will naturally make necessary adjustments. You tend to go where you look, so if you’re looking down….well, you do the math. If you do look down, and you do get wet, then you just avoided mistake number 4. Do you see a trend here?
The biggest thing is that you have fun out there. Don’t worry about looking silly and falling off. We all fall off. It’s how you learn. Relax, take in the beautiful scenery and enjoy the ride!