Once you’ve made the decision to try Standup Paddleboarding (SUP for short) on your newly purchased or rented SUP board, it’s worth learning how to get started so that your first steps are quick and safe. Despite the indisputable fact that standup paddle boarding is the easiest water sport in the world, it’s all the more reason to take your first steps in a fun way.
SUP swimming equipment
SUP board a beginner should be wide, min. 80cm wide and the bigger displacement, min. 180-200 liters the better for people under 80kg, and for heavier one’s min. 270 liters of displacement (the displacement should be calculated 1:1 to kilograms and preferably the reserve for a beginner should be about three times our weight, so 50kg x 3 = 150 liters 80kg x 3 = 240 liters or 100kg x 3 = 300 liters) It will not be a problem if a child or a light woman starts on too large board but a heavy man on a too-small board may have a problem with swimming even in a sitting position, let alone to stand up.
Paddle for SUP board should be 40cm longer than our height, to start with it is better to be too short than too long. We determine the length by resting the paddle with the feather (the part we paddle), at the same level in front of us. Holding the handle with the hand we pay attention that our arm is slightly bent at the elbow. Overbending the arm means that the paddle is too long, and if the hand is bent close to a right angle (90 degrees) it means that the paddle is too short.
A vest to SUP is highly recommended, even mandatory for children, as it is for adults. Remember that in many areas in Poland swimming without a vest (on yourself or on the board) is prohibited and in case of an encounter with the water police, you may be fined.
Leash a leg rope is not a gadget, but often more important than a vest, especially on rivers and waves. It makes sure that when you attach your SUP to the board (leg, above the ankle, or above the calf) you always have your SUP within “arm’s reach”, or here literally legs. On the river, it prevents us from chasing the board when it is swept away by the current, and on the waves, it prevents the board from bumping into others who have come to ride the waves with us.
Where can I swim on a SUP?
For the first time, you should go to a calm body of water, necessarily on a windless day. Flat water, so-called “mirror water”, without the slightest wave and “standing air”, when not even a leaf on the trees is a dream for everyone swimming on SUP boards, especially for those starting their adventure. A calm body of water and a windless day is a must. Whether sitting, on your knees, or standing up, it will be easier to balance, feel the board, and get used to how the board reacts to our behavior, and position on it. You will quickly learn how to turn the board, and maybe after 15-30 minutes, you will be doing everything with your SUP board, not the other way around.
- Do not start on the sea on the waves, or rivers, maintaining balance even in a sitting position will be much more difficult, and the lack of feeling on the board, and the lack of ability to jump and turn can lead rivers to fall into various obstacles, and on the waves, for example in the Baltic Sea, we can easily and quickly enter our big board in other playing or swimming between the waves beach people.
- Rivers or waves, let’s leave for another step and let’s swim at least 5-10 hours in easier places. About safety rules in swimming on the waves or rivers, we will soon write another article, because the knowledge on the subject is quite a lot, and the dangers of accidents in swimming on the lake much, much greater
First SUP exercises
The most comfortable way to carry the board is to hold it by the handle in the middle of the board (inflatable boards – a piece of strap, wrapped in neoprene, rubber, composite boards – a hole, a cavity). For children or delicate women, it would be easier to carry the SUP with two people, one holding the bow and one holding the stern.
- Beware of the ballast (fin/centerboard), as in shallow waters it can be too long and will hook on the bottom. Therefore you should go min to “knee-deep” with a tendency to more than less. It is also about not breaking it when we get on the board and it slightly “sticks” and rests with the centerboard on the bottom.
- At first, we put the paddle across the board about 30-40cm in front of the handle and while keeping it leaning on the board we step onto the board with our knees and stay in a kneeling position. Then take the paddle in your hands and catch it lower. Do not hold the handle at the top, because it will be uncomfortable.
- Try to rock the board a little, swaying from side to side, to see how it reacts to moving your body weight from side to side (from side to side). Try to feel the board and get used to its quick reaction and “response” to our movements
- We paddle with the right side of the blade, i.e. bent forward (most beginners think it is the other way round, but more on that in the next article…) We should pay attention to putting the whole blade in the water, not just half or 1/3.
- Stopping, or putting the feather in the water and holding it firmly. This gives a lot of resistance and is like our brake, the board will lose speed and after a while will stop.
- Trying to turn, we paddle harder on one side, making stronger, longer movements, so we catch more water and the board starts to turn more violently. Alternatively, after 2-3 moves, put the paddle to the other side of the board, put it in the water and hold still, or make 2-3 moves, backward
- After a while of trying to lift yourself up, but still remain in a kneeling position, now the center of gravity of your body will be a little higher and the board will react a little faster, and maintaining balance will be a little more difficult
- The next step is nothing more than an attempt to stand up, so again we rest the paddle across the board, and holding it we stand up first with one foot, then the other. We try to straighten up to the end.
In the beginning, we can slightly bend the legs in the knees, so that the center of gravity remains slightly lower than in a completely straight position.
If you’ve gotten to this stage faster than 5 minutes, you can consider yourself a SUP surfer who has a good aptitude for paddle boarding, without much trouble with balance and board feel. Float either pumped or composite boards, it’s up to you to decide which design suits you better or what you primarily want to do on your first SUP board.
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