Beginning any new activity can be a bit challenging and at times, straight up overwhelming! Most people just avoid starting a new activity just out of the fear of the unknown. The “if” factor keeps many people on the sidelines, which is a real shame!
If you’re considering picking up the Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP), but you’re concerned about the “if” factors, you’ve come to the right spot. Here are the top 6 SUP beginner mistakes and how you can avoid them!
- Paddle Blade Direction
One of the first things to do when you’re stepping on your SUP for the first time is to make sure that you’re holding the paddle correctly. SUP paddles are shaped to give you the most efficient stroke each time you dip it in the water.
Start by looking at the blade of the paddle. Notice that the blade of your paddle is curved to create an efficient stroke while in the water while allowing you to easily withdraw the blade from the water at the end of your stroke. You want to ensure that the inside of the curve in the blade is facing forward toward the direction you are going.
The next mistake that many new Stand-Up Paddle Boarders make is getting a board that is too small for their skill level. One thing to keep in mind when renting or buying a SUP is that the larger the board, the easier it will be for you to balance on it. This is because the surface area of the board will help displace a larger area of water underneath you, making the board feel more stable.
Many beginners get frustrated when starting to use a SUP because just standing up on it can prove to be very challenging. By using a larger and wider SUP, you’ll ensure that you will have an easier time learning how to transition from standing, to kneeling, to sitting on your board without falling in the water. This will increase your confidence and get you out on the water more, which in turn will increase your skill level! A 10’6’’ long board with 33’’ width is great to start with for beginners.
- Mounting/Dismounting the Board
Getting onto and off of a SUP might seem really easy but can prove to be challenging for many beginners. While you may have seen many competent riders simply jump onto the board effortlessly, they’ve perfected their balance to a point where getting on a board comes as naturally as sitting in a chair! Don’t worry, you’ll get there once you’ve learned the basics.
The easiest way to get on your SUP from the shore is to place it in the water in a shallow area that will allow you to stand next to your board. From there place your chest on the middle of the board, getting a feel for where your weight is pushing the nose and tail of your board. You want your weight to be evenly distributed and to keep the board level on the water. Once you’ve established this, swing one of your legs over the top of the board so that you’re straddling the board. Adjust your weight so that the board is level in the water and that’s it! You’ve successfully mounted your SUP! From there you can get to kneeing position or try to stand up slowly.
Luckily, dismounting your SUP is much easier than getting on it. The best thing to remember is that you want to get off on the sides of your board rather than the front or the back. The most important part of dismounting the board is to ensure that there aren’t any hazards that you might land on when getting off the SUP.
But what if you fall off your SUP where you can’t touch the bottom? What’s the best way to get on in that case? If you find yourself in the water where you can’t touch the bottom, the first step is to try to stay calm. We know how you can easily get into a flight mode when you suddenly fall into the water, but try stay calm and make your way to the tail of your SUP. From there, grab the side rails of the board and push the tail end down into the water. Then, pull yourself up onto your board like you’re climbing a ladder. Be patient as you climb and you’ll find yourself back on top of your board in no time! We also have article on different ways to get back onto your board after falling, just search on our site!
- Dragging the Board
A big mistake many beginners make is dragging their SUPs to the water. While SUPs are designed to be durable and to last a long time, they aren’t designed to take the constant abrasiveness of rocks, sand, and even dry grass. By dragging your SUP to the water, you’ll risk creating holes in your board which will significantly shorten the life of your SUP.
Carry your SUP to the water by holding it under your armpit and grabbing the handle in the middle of the deck. If you find that this is uncomfortable to do or that your arms simply can’t reach the carrying handle, get a friend to help you carry your board to the water. That way you’ll extend the life of your SUP for years and years of fun to come!
- Eye Focus Points
Many beginners end up going for unintentional swims when starting out because they focus their eyes on the board rather than where they want to go. It’s tough to do, because your body has been conditioned to focus on the places that feel unstable or insecure. When standing in the water on a SUP for the first time, it can feel very unstable!
To combat this feeling, be sure to look to the horizon line. The horizon isn’t going to change and will give your eyes a stable place to focus on. It’ll feel strange at first because you’ll want to redirect your focus to your board, but with practice you’ll feel a lot better by looking ahead instead of looking down. It is kind like when you learn to ride a bike for the first time.
- Paddling Technique
Many beginners tire themselves out too quickly by paddling incorrectly. While you do have some mechanical advantage by using a paddle instead of just your arms, the potential energy that you waste by only using your arms will end up biting you in the butt at the end of the day!
To properly paddle, you need to think about how you can use your entire body to help get the most out of every stroke. When you start your stroke, lean forward towards the nose of the board as you dip your paddle into the water. With your arms straight, pull the paddle backwards towards the tail of your board by leaning backwards. As your paddle gets close to the tail, then you can bend your arms to follow through with the paddle stroke and withdraw the blade from the water.
Don’t forget to practice this on both sides of your SUP!
Now that you have identified 6 of the most common beginner SUP mistakes and how to fix them, you’ll have more confidence getting out and trying the wonderful sport of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding. Take your time to practice each technique discussed to ensure that you do it properly and don’t develop bad habits. Also consider starting your SUP journey by going with a friend! Having a friend around to help give you feedback can dramatically speed up your progress as you learn how to SUP. Plus, it’s way more fun to have someone to laugh with as you learn!
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