Stand Up Paddleboarding may look pretty straight forward- stand on the paddleboard and go, right? Well, not exactly. There’s a few things you need to know about your gear and how to use it before you start off on your adventure. We always encourage people to take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor to prevent common mistakes that can develop into bad habits or make your paddle adventures more difficult than they need to be. But if you just can’t wait for a lesson to get out there, here’s a few SUP paddle basics to help you get started on the right track.
How To Hold The Paddle
One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is holding the paddle backwards. SUP paddles are designed so that the blade meets the shaft at an angle. When holding the paddle, the blade should angle AWAY from you and NOT TOWARDS you. To remember this, think of the bend where the blade meets the shaft as the heel- like the heel of your foot- it’s always behind the front of the blade and not the other way around.
Two basic reasons why the blade is angled: 1) So that you have some extra reach and your paddle blade enters the water further in front of you. 2) So that the blade stays vertical as it approaches the area where your feet are thereby giving you the most power and glide.If you have your paddle backwards you’ll be losing reach and power.
Don’t Paddle Past Your Feet
A lot of beginners will not take the blade out of water until it is way past the area where their feet are. You should always take the paddle out of the water BEFORE OR AT your feet. Paddling past your feet creates a ton of drag against the front your paddle and that slows you down considerably and makes you work a lot harder than you need to.
Where to Put Your Hands
Many beginners will instinctively hold the paddle with their hands too close together because it feels the most comfortable. The problem with this is that you lose a lot of power and control over the paddle. When holding the paddle your hands should more than shoulder width apart from each other.
To get the correct distance hold the paddle over your head using both hands. Place one hand on the handle like you would do while paddling. Now move your other hand along the shaft until your elbows form a 90 degree angle- that’s how far apart your hands should be while paddling. This will give the proper leverage to control the paddle as you pull it through the water and give you power you need for good speed and glide.
Length of Paddle
Having the paddle that you are using at the correct length for your particular height is extremely important. Many beginners start out using a paddle that can be adjusted for use by multiple people or for different applications, i.e. flat water paddling vs. surf. The other option is to have the paddle cut to your specific size. Either way, for flat water touring you probably want the paddle to be about 8 or 9 inches taller than your height. So if you are 6 feet tall, your paddle should be about 80-81 inches.
If your paddle is too short you will be bending over a lot to get the blade all the way down into the water. This will eventually lead to sore lower back that can develop into more serious problems if not corrected. If your paddle is too long you will be placing undue stress on your shoulders, which can also lead to joint pain and injury. Having your paddle at the right length sets the stage for proper form.
Blade All the Way Down in the Water
Another common beginner mistake is not getting your blade all the way down in the water. Getting your blade all the down into the water will help you maximize your speed and glide. It will also force you to think about making a cleaner entry and exit without splashing.
Taking a lesson from a qualified paddleboard instructor at you local SUP shop is always the best way to get started. But these are some useful tips to keep in mind. Stay tuned for more paddling tips throughout the summer!