Will I get wet?
Maybe…after all paddleboarding is a water sport. If you are not willing to get wet, you probably shouldn’t be going out. Many people do not get wet, but those who do usually have more fun. And the sooner you fall off and learn how to get back on the better. Once you are already wet, and you know how to get back on, you are more likely to try more things because who cares you’re already wet? It’s not a badge of honor to stay dry. If you get wet it just means you tried something new.
What should I wear?
Something that you don’t mind getting wet: a swimsuit, board shorts, or other moisture wicking, quick-dry, preferably SPF rated, clothing will work great. You probably want to stay away from cotton clothes, they don’t dry out and bind up on you.
What do I need to bring?
A towel, a change of clothes, sunscreen, hydration, a hat, sunglasses (with a strap to keep them on if you should fall in preferably one that floats…or glasses that float) and water shoes are not a bad idea. Whenever you are going to an area you are not familiar with, water shoes are a good thing to have. If you find yourself somewhere rocky, full of shells, with random glass, your feet will thank you for having shoes. Even if I paddle barefoot I usually bring shoes on my board in case we stop somewhere in our travels.
Is it hard to stand up and paddle?
It is easier to stand up and paddle than most people expect. Everyone is different, and the environment plays a huge role. If your first time out is in open water and you are dealing with boat wakes, currents and waves, it will be much more difficult than if you are in a sheltered lake. But most people (in a calm environment) are standing and paddling within about 15 minutes. Usually, fear is the biggest factor that slows progress down.
Do I need to do anything to prepare?
Nope…you don’t need any special skills to get out and paddleboard other than the ability to swim. There is nothing special that you need to do in advance to get you ready to paddleboard.
How much do the boards weigh?
It varies widely, but most decent quality boards will be in the 20-30 lb range. Some Carbon boards come in lighter, and some larger, well-built boards are a little more than that. But for the most part it is much more difficult to get used to maneuvering the size of the board than handling the weight.
How much do boards cost?
Again, it varies- a lot. Most good quality epoxy or inflatable standup paddleboards are in the range of $900-$1700. Boards that cost less than $900 often do for a reason…either they are heavy, not well made, or they are not well shaped (so the boards don’t perform well on the water). Boards at the high end of that range are often performance-oriented boards either surf specific or race boards, and are usually carbon. You usually get what you pay for when it comes to standup paddleboards. But just like with cars, many people are perfectly happy with a Toyota. But Mercedes exist, and cost what they do, because there are people out there who want (and will pay for) the additional features.
How much do paddles cost?
Most good quality paddles are in the $150-$400 range. There are a few very high end performance paddles that are closer to $500, but most people don’t need to spend that much. Paddles closer to the $150 are going to be considerably heavier but might be more durable because of the materials used. They will not be as clean entering and exiting the water (ie you might splash quite a bit) but if you have a number of different people sharing a board or if it is likely to get knocked around, an adjustable paddle in the $200 range might be perfect for you.
I got a good board, so I can save some money on the paddle, right?
Beware cheap paddles! If you have to choose between getting a good quality board or a good quality paddle, go with the paddle. This is your main tool and it’s your connection to the water. It is what will put the wear and tear on your body. You may pick up two different paddles in a store, and while the carbon paddle is noticeably lighter you might want to save some money and go with the fiberglass model. Even though it doesn’t feel too heavy in the store, when you compound that weight over the course of thousands of strokes, you’re putting more stress on your body than you probably want to. There are instances where the less expensive paddle makes more sense, see above. But if you are going to be the only one using the paddle, you take care of your stuff, and you want to have the best experience you can, do yourself a favor and invest in a good paddle. It will definitely enhance your paddleboarding experience.
What kind of board do I need?
That depends on the type of paddling you want to do. Visit your local sup shop to determine what type of board will suit your size and paddling goals best.
Do I really need paddleboard lessons?
That depends entirely on you and what you want to be doing out there. Will you need a lesson to get up and paddling-doubtful? But if you want to learn how to properly hold the paddle, how to properly size the paddle, how to turn, how to get back on your board when you fall off, and proper paddling technique so you are paddling efficiently and protecting your body from injury, then yes, you really do need lessons. A qualified instructor can show you a variety of strokes and proper technique so that you get the most out of your paddling and you can minimize the risk of injury.
How do I transport a board?
Most paddleboards (if not all by now) have a carry handle built into the board. So if you are lucky enough to have water outside of your back door, you just grab the board by the handle and drop it in the water. If you are like the rest of us and have to transport your board to the water, the easiest way will be with a roof rack that has crossbars. If you have them, then all you really need is a set of tie downs. SUP specific ones will protect your board and car from the buckles and will make it hard to over-tighten. Ratchet straps are dangerous because you can very easily over-tighten the straps, putting too much pressure on the board and damaging it. Rack pads are also a nice thing to add some cushion between your board and the crossbars. In a pinch, pool noodles over the crossbars will also do the job.
If you lack crossbars, there are soft racks that you can use, and while they are fine for short trips around town, they are not suitable for long distance travel.
I have a board and a paddle. What else do I need?
One of the beautiful things about paddleboarding is that there is relatively little equipment involved. In addition to the board (with the fin) and paddle you need a leash and a PFD. You should wear a leash whenever you go out. For river paddling, you need a special type of quick-release leash, which easily detaches if you get caught on something so you don’t get held under the water while trying to release a typical style leash. The US Coast Guard requires you to have a PFD and whistle on your vessel when in their waters. The fines for noncompliance can be steep so you might as well just follow the rules.
There are plenty of other cool gadgets you can get for your board from tie downs (if your board isn’t already equipped with them) to dry bags, waterproof phone cases, water bottle holders, speed trackers, etc. But those are not necessities, just bonuses.
How do I care for my board?
Paddleboard maintenance is pretty simple.
- For your typical epoxy paddleboard you want to keep it out of direct sunlight when it’s not on the water. If your board gets hot to the touch you need to get it in the shade or in the water. Pressure can build up inside the board and cause the board to rupture or cause the outer shell to pull away from the foam core. Even though most boards have a vent plug to release some of this pressure, they can only release so much at any given time and strong sun can be too much of a match for the vent plug.
- When you use your board in salt water give your equipment a freshwater rinse afterwards.
- Avoid sand against the finish, it will wear down the finish and scratch it up in no time.
- Do not stand or sit on the board on land when the fin is in.
- Basically treat your board like glass (it is fiberglass after all). You don’t completely need to baby it, but take care of it.
- Avoid bumps and bangs. Just like with your car, these will result in scratches, dings and, chips.
- A board bag can be great for sun and ding prevention, particularly when you are traveling with a board. Just make sure that you do not store your board wet in your bag or you will end up with mildew. And make sure there is no sand on the board or in the bag when you put it in or it will scratch and wear down the finish.
Above all else, use common sense when caring for your equipment…you paid a lot of money for it, so why wouldn’t you want to take care of it.
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