So you are going to learn how to paddleboard…you are on your way to a really fun time! Caution…paddleboarding has been shown to be addictive in lab rats.
Here is some information to help you get started. If you are taking a lesson or renting a board, they should go over all of this with you. But if you are like me and like to read about what you are getting into before heading out, this is for you. We’ll look at
- What to expect
- What you need to know about your equipment
- How to get up and get paddling
- Tips to help make it fun!
What to expect
Here is where we try to allay your fears. In our experience, until these are addressed, most of the other stuff we say falls on deaf ears. So here are the most common concerns we encounter
1-“I’m not going to be able to do this”. Yes, you will. Some people take longer than others to get up, but if you want to get up, you will.
2-“I’m going to fall in”. Possibly. But so what? Paddleboarding is a water sport and that’s how you learn. Once you have gotten wet and figured out how to get back on the board, many of your fears will melt away, you will relax and you will have more fun. It can help to go out there expecting to get wet so you are more willing to relax and try different things like pivot turns and cross stepping.
3.”If I do fall, I won’t be able to get back on the board”. This is rarely a concern. There is no hard and fast rule for how to get back on a board, a variety of methods work. Usually, the best way is for you to figure it out yourself. If you kind of pull yourself across the board and then throw your legs up on the board, you can get it done, or you can get on from the tail and scooch yourself up. Or you can find your own way. If you have ever had to get back into a canoe in the middle of the lake…it’s nothing like that! I’ve never seen anyone tip the board over trying to get back up and if you are in a lesson, the instructor can show you how to do it and can even help you by holding your board while you get back on. Everyone finds a method that works best for him.
You will need a paddleboard and a paddle to get started. You may also need a life vest (pfd) and a leash depending on where you are paddling. The board should have a carry handle in the middle. This will be the center point of the board and where you should find the most stability. Keep this in mind when you get on the board.
The paddle should be adjusted to your height so that when your hand is completely extended overhead, the handle hits right in the upper part of the palm…just below where your fingers join. It will generally be held with the blade angling away from you (I have only seen one exception to this). To determine the distance between your hands on the paddle, extend your arms above your head and then bend your elbows to 90 degrees. That is approximately the distance that you want your hands apart. One hand will go on the top of the handle and the other will go that distance away from it on the shaft.
What to do
First thing’s first. Get your board in the water. If you need to carry it down to the water, use the carry handle and the board should balance itself out pretty well. Just be careful that the back end doesn’t sag and hit the ground.
When the board is in the water, you will need to get it far enough out so that your fin is not hitting the sand or rocks. If you are in the sand it will be extremely difficult to move and if you get caught up in rocks it can damage the fin and stop you in your tracks.
Having cleared the fin you are ready to get on. Most people find it helpful to start out kneeling. So just climb on one knee at a time with that carry handle between your knees and your knees about shoulder-width apart.
Start paddling. When you are sitting down you will need to choke down on your paddle so you don’t stress your shoulders. Switching sides that you paddle on every few strokes will help you go straight. When you switch sides, you also switch your hands so your top hand will become your bottom hand and vice versa. It is good to get used to paddling on both sides. You will likely feel wobbly at first but that’s ok. You will not tip the board over so use this time to get a feel for how shifting your weight will shift the board. Moving will make you more stable-so paddle.
When you are comfortable on your knees you are ready to stand up. Place your paddle across the board and one leg at a time stand up. Before you lift your upper body pick up the paddle. Look straight ahead (not down at your board or the water…trust me on this one) and start paddling. Most of all relax. Again, being in motion will give you stability so the sooner you get paddling the better off you will be. Once you make it this far, you are officially paddleboarding! Congratulations! Now keep moving and enjoy the ride.
Tips to help you have fun
- When you stand up…look straight ahead. You will go where you look so if you look down, guess what…?
- Once you stand up-start paddling…movement is your friend and will keep you stable
- Every 4-7 strokes change the side you paddle on to keep the board going straight. You will also want to switch your hand positions when you do this
- RELAX…can’t say it enough…relax the death grip your feet have on the board, wiggle your toes, BREATHE and let yourself have fun. You are basically walking on water. Enjoy it!