If you have been kayaking over the last few years, you probably noticed that you were sharing the water with folks who were on standup paddle board. If you are on a Sarasota vacation or you are a resident who wants to try something new, here are some of our best tips on paddleboarding in order to enjoy our waterways in a whole new way.
If you already engage in regular exercise, learning how to SUP will be easier in terms of balance, agility and strength. But anyone can learn to SUP with practice. We do recommend finding calm, flat water to try standup paddleboarding for the first time. There are many great places in the Siesta Key area that offer perfect water conditions – be sure to read about The Best Places to Paddleboard in Siesta Key.
Tips to Have You Paddleboarding in No Time
Before we begin: Those who wish to paddleboard should know how to swim and feel comfortable in the water, as well as wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times.
If you do not consider yourself a strong swimmer, consider staying in water that allows you to stand easily, especially when you are learning.
- Practice on Dry Land: The easiest way to initally learn to stand up properly on a paddle board is to get used to the movement on solid ground first. Practice going from your knees to your feet while holding onto the paddle until the movement feels comfortable enough to try in the water – which is much less stable.
- Acquaint Yourself with Your Paddle: Beginning SUPers often make the mistake of holding their paddle backwards. SUP paddles feature a slight bend where the shaft meets the blade. The bent angle of the paddle should point toward you, so the “face” of the blade is forward. This will result in easier strokes, with less drag, more efficiency and less fatigue. Getting used to holding the paddle correctly on dry land will help you be more comfortable when you stand up in the water.
- Choose the Right Place to Launch: When you are new at paddleboarding, you want to make it as easy as possible – and limit any conditions that may be problematic and distracting. Choose a warm day without wind or waves, and find a shallow beach with comfortable water temperatures. Remember, you are likely to be in the water a lot as you learn.
- Begin From a Kneeling Position: A low center of gravity makes you feel more stable and confident. Remain on your knees when you first push out and until you get the feel of the water, different paddle strokes and the feel of the board’s movements.
- Stand to Your Feet: Just as you practiced on dry ground, get to a standing position in one motion, bringing your paddle with you. You can plant the paddle in the water or in front of you for extra stability on the unstable surface.
- Be Mindful of Your Stance: From the kneeling position, check to ensure your knees are placed on either side of the middle handle. Concentrate on establishing a wide stance as you stand up. You will be less stable and more likely to lose your balance if your feet are placed too closely together, and it isn’t easy to shift around once standing. Stand in the center of the board, straddling the middle handle, keeping the knees loose and unlocked.
- Practice Falling and Get Used to the Leash: This may seem counter-intuitive, but “falling correctly on purpose” can help you to be more safe overall. Practice falling away from the board, hanging on to your paddle so you don’t lose it due to wind or currents. The momentum of a fall typically pushes the paddleboard away from you, making the leash an essential safety feature. One end of the leash should be attached to the back of the board, and the Velcro wrap will be placed around the ankle or calf. While some find the leash inconvenient, you’ll be glad to keep the board within easy reach.
- Practice Climbing Back on the Board: New paddleboarders should have the expectation of falling – and therefore should practice getting back onto their board in a controlled situation so they don’t panic if it happens.
- Swim to the center of the side of the board
- Grab the handle with one hand and the far edge of the board with the other hand
- Kick the feet out behind the body, not below
- Give a strong kick and pull with ltaneously to boost the upper body onto the board
- Face the front, get into kneeling position and stand when ready
- Keep Moving Forward: Paddleboarding is easier when you are moving and have forward momentum. After standing and gaining balance, get your paddle in the water as soon as possible to start moving. If you want to stop to enjoy the scenery or get a closer look at the fish, use your paddle as the “third leg” of a three-legged stool to keep you balanced – either by placing it in front of you on the board, or on the sand bottom if the water is shallow enough.
- Use Long, Straight Strokes, Look Forward and Relax: With knees loose and bent, reach out in front of you and plant the blade in the water. Pull the blade back to your feet as you stand straight up. Utilize core muscles and upper body to experience a more efficient, powerful stroke that eases the strain on arms and shoulders. While beginners may be tempted to watch their feet while paddling, concentrating on the water and horizon will make it easier to maintain balance and stability. Relax your body, and keep your legs and knees flexible to move up and down with the motion of the water. If you need a break, kneel or sit on your board.
As you become more proficient at paddleboarding, you can increase your skill by learning more paddle strokes for better steering and bracing. You may want to consider a few lessons from a professional paddle boarder in order to “get your sea legs” before you venture out on your own.
A Few More Important Paddleboarding Tips
- Check the Weather Forecast: All paddleboarders, regardless of experience level, should be aware of water conditions, air and water temperatures, and potential storms. Everyone should get off the water if thunder or lightning is present or storm clouds are looming.
- Dress Appropriately: The body loses heat quickly when wet, so cold air and water temperatures can be dangerous. In the summer on Siesta Key, this is not a problem. But if you are in the water on a cool day, or if water temperatures are cold, wear a wetsuit and stay close to shore.
- Always Wear a PFD: Safety is always the first consideration in any water sport – if you are uncomfortable with a bulky life vest, ask about lower profile options.
At Ride and Paddle, we provide everything you need for a great day out on the water – from boards to paddles, PFDs to launch recommendations! If you want to try paddleboarding on your next Siesta Key vacation, we are the only call you need to make.