On the Gulf Coast of Florida, life revolves around the water – from the Bay to the Gulf, from canals to rivers, we love and participate in all kinds of water sports. While boating has always been a popular pastime, the accessibility of kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding has driven their recent surge in popularity.  After all, both sports require less equipment and can be learned by virtually anyone with a desire to try it out. In this article we will concentrate on learning more about stand up paddle boarding, also known as SUP. Paddle boards look like surfboards, but are generally longer and are considered more stable.

Why is paddle boarding so popular? One of the reasons the paddle boards are so prevelant in this region, from Longboat Key to Venice island, is the fact that our varied bodies of water tend to be calm and free of waves. The sport can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels (although it does take a bit of practice to perfect your balance.) While the SUP craze grew up in serene waters, SUP surfing is growing in interest – although the Gulf Coast rarely sees waves worthy of this version of the sport.

Like kayaks, SUP boards can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, but require more exertion to provide a meaningful workout. Once you’ve mastered balancing on your board, you can simply paddle harder or faster to increase the intensity of your workout. When people paddle at a light to moderate level of exertion, their abdominal and back muscles are engaged. But to engage the obliques and build strength, exertion must be at a level of moderate to hard.

What do you need to start paddle boarding? We recommend that newcomers to the sport rent a paddleboard for their first few attempts. this is so they can ascertain if they enjoy paddle boarding before making the investment in equipment. If you are on vacation on any of our Keys or along our coast, you can rent a SUP board to utilize over the course of your stay. SUP boards are either solid or inflatable, but don’t let that term fool you – inflatable SUP boards are hardsided and quite stable. You’ll need a padde, and many people prefer a leash to ensure the board stays with them if they fall off – although that is less of a concern in our calm waters.

Like any water sport, you should wear a PFD (personal floatation device) at all times on the water, and have a water bottle to stay hydrated. In order to stay safe and comfortable, consider bringing a dry bag with a towel, first aid kit and sunblock; a waterproof pouch for your phone, sunglasses and a hat.

How do you paddle board? The first attempt at standing on a paddle board may feel awkward. You might feel like you are going to tip off (and probably will at first). Your paddling may feel ineffective, and overall it may be a strange sensation to be standing on water. However, there are some basic tips for beginners hopping on a paddle board that should get you proficient in no time.

  1. Put on your PFD and grab your paddle.
  2. Wade knee-deep into the water, and climb on the board by kneeling on the traction pad.
  3. While still kneeling, position the paddle perpendicular to the water.
  4. Place one blade ahead of you on the side of the board and begin to stroke.
  5. Once you are confident in ability to paddle and move forward properly, you are ready to stand up.
  6. Place one foot on the board while keeping one knee on the pad. Once you feel stable, push up to stand.
  7. Make sure your paddle length is correct – the top of the handle should be at your forehead.
  8. Bend your knees just a bit, and tilt enough at the waist to reach forward without losing stability.
  9. When paddling foward, switch sides occasionally to stay in a straight line. (similar to kayaking or canoeing)

It’s Time to Try SUP!

If you are ready to try paddle boarding – whether you live here or are visiting on vacation – call Ride and Paddle. You can pick up your equipment, or we will gladly deliver it to your home or hotel. We encourage you to explore our beautiful region from the water, but don’t forget to rent everything else you need for the family. From beach chairs to bicycles and beach wheelchairs, Ride and Paddle will provide you everything you need for the best beach vacation.