People considering trying standup paddleboarding tend to fall into two camps…those who think it looks easy, or those who think it looks hard. Those in the former camp are likely to forego the lesson(s), rent a board, and figure it out themselves. Those in the latter camp are much more likely to take a lesson. But is it really necessary to take a standup paddleboard lesson or lessons when you are first starting out? That depends…
It depends on
- You…how confident are you? How comfortable are you with trying new things? How comfortable are you on the water? Etc.
- What do you want to do on your paddleboard? If your only goal is to paddle to a beach spot to sunbathe, you probably don’t need a lesson to get there. If you want to get a good workout, learn to paddle efficiently, learn new strokes, improve your technique, learn about racing, surfing, etc, lessons will benefit you
- Where will you be paddling? If you are on flatwater, it will be much easier to wing it. If you are in open water and are not used to navigating open waters, you should work with someone. It takes an entirely different skill set to handle yourself in open water, especially when there are boating channels, currents, and swells to contend with.
- How you learn. If you learn by reading and watching videos, go for it. If you need interaction, to be able to ask questions and get feedback, opt for lessons.
- How receptive you are to instruction
As is the case with most activities, you can certainly learn to paddleboard on your own. You can get out on the water, figure out how to stand up, and paddle, probably all with relative ease. And there are a wealth of videos and articles out there that can help you with your technique and strokes. However, this is no substitute for working with a good instructor.
Here are 7 ways you can benefit from working with a good standup paddleboard instructor
- You can develop good habits right from the start…it’s much easier to learn good habits right off the bat than to break bad habits and have to relearn the good ones later
- You will learn good safety practices so you comply with laws, and reduce the inherent risks of being on the water.
- Good standup paddleboard instructors should have a wealth of tips to help you learn new skills with a much smaller learning curve than you would have on your own
- Feedback. There is nothing like getting immediate feedback to help you reinforce the good and correct the not so good. It is easy to develop less than desirable habits and not even realize you have them because you can’t see yourself paddling. A good instructor can identify and correct these habits.
- You can ask questions and get practical answers. There are some great forums and resources out there, but good instructors will welcome your questions and gear the answers to your needs and style of learning.
- Because of the relatively small learning curve for paddleboarding, you can gain a lot of knowledge and skill pretty quickly. So you can get a lot out of a lesson or clinic, and then you can put in the time on the water practicing and developing your skills on your own. But you will have a good base to build on.
- As you become a more efficient paddler you will get a better workout, and you will be able to do more, go further, venture out in varying conditions, and be safer on the water. Lessons can help you get there.
Everyone has a different paddling style. The more knowledge and instruction you are able to soak in, the more you will be able to pick the elements, strokes and techniques that resonate with you to further develop your style. Some people spend their first couple of times out “toe death gripping” the board to stay dry. For most people, it is a good idea to take a lesson your first time out to learn the basics of safety, how to get up, paddle, turn, etc. But you may find that it behooves you to paddle on your own a couple of times to gain some comfort and confidence before returning for more instruction. At that point you are probably going to be more receptive to learning new skills and taking your paddling up a notch (or several).