SUP Techniques on the Water Standing Up on Your SUP
When you’re new to the sport, it’s best to start out in flat, calm water that’s free of obstacles like boats and buoys.
At first, you may find it easier to kneel on the board rather than to stand upright. Here are the steps to get you started: · Standing alongside the board in shallow water, place your paddle across the deck of the board and use it as an outrigger. The paddle grip is on the rail (edge) of the board; the blade rests on the water. · Hold the board by the rails. One hand will also be holding the paddle grip. · Climb onto the board in a kneeling position, just behind the center point of the board. · From that kneeling position, get a feel for the balance point of the board. The nose shouldn’t pop up out of the water and the tail shouldn’t dig in. · Keep your hands on either side of the board to stabilize it. · Once you’re ready, stand up on the board one foot at a time. Place your feet where your knees were. You might also bring a friend to help stabilize the board as you get the hang of standing on it.
To maintain your balance as you stand upright on the board: · Your feet should be parallel, about hip-width distance apart, centered between the board rails (edges). Don’t stand on the rails. · Keep toes pointed forward, knees bent and your back straight. · Balance with your hips—not your upper body. · Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright, and shift your weight by moving your hips. · Your gaze should be level at the horizon. Avoid staring at your feet. · Much like bicycling, when your forward momentum increases, your stability increases as well.
Once you’re comfortable balancing on the board in flat water, it's time to take off on a longer excursion—where the real fun begins.
Some pointers about the basic paddle boarding stroke: · If you’re paddling on the right, your right hand is lower and on the paddle shaft. Your top (left) hand is on the top of the grip. · The elbow (angle) of the paddle faces away from you. This may look and feel counter-intuitive at first. · Keep your arms straight and twist from your torso as you paddle. Think of using your torso to paddle rather than your arms. You have more strength in your abdominal muscles than in your arms. · Push down on the paddle grip with your top hand. · Plant the paddle by pushing the blade all the way under the surface, pull it back to your ankle, then out of the water. · At first, keep your strokes fairly short and close alongside the board. No need to overpower it. · A small draw stroke at the beginning of the paddle stroke will keep you going forward. · To go in a reasonably straight line, paddle about 4 or 5 strokes on one side, then switch to the other. · When you switch sides, you’ll reverse hand positions.
There are several easy ways to turn a paddle-board.
· Sidestroke: One way is to simply paddle on one side until the nose turns in the direction you want to go. Want to turn right? Paddle on the left. Headed to the left? Paddle on the right. This will make a long arcing turn. · Backpaddle: A faster way to turn or reverse direction is to simply drag the paddle or paddle backwards on either side of the board. · Sweep stroke: Plant your paddle towards the front of the board and take a long sweeping stroke away from the board and towards the tail. Your board will turn to the opposite side of the stroke.
· Stepping back on the board or looking over your shoulder to the direction of your turn also helps in making a turn. · Another turn that works well, especially in surf, is to paddle on your dominant side (i.e., if you’re right-handed, put your left foot forward and paddle on your right side). Really bend your knees and put more weight on your back foot. This allows the board to pivot and turn quickly.
When You Fall
Stand up paddle boarding is relatively easy to learn, but expect to take the occasional fall as you’re gaining skills. For those inevitable times you lose your balance:
· Aim yourself to the side, so that you fall into the water and not onto the board. Falling onto the board is more likely to cause an injury. · If you get separated from your paddle and your board, get your board first, then paddle it to retrieve the paddle. · Never leave your board, if you lose the paddle you can paddle it with your hands easier than swimming, also the wind can blow it away faster than you can swim. Always paddle up-wind first, it is way more difficult than down wind. Do not get caught a long distance down wind, you may not make it back.
· Stay attached to your board with an ankle leash if you are on a lake or ocean. DO NOT use a leash on a river as it may snag and hold you down.
· Your paddle is your friend – keep it in the water as much as possible. You can push the blade forward or back to keep from falling, and even lean on it or pull up on it momentarily to keep from falling. Never let go of your paddle.
· Foot position – Stand in the middle of the board, too far forward will sink the nose, too far back will drag the tail and be slow. You generally want to stand centered with both feet about shoulder width apart and facing forwards for long distance paddling on flat water. But when the surface is choppy or you’re in waves you’ll want to adopt surfer's stance with your dominant foot forward just as in normal surfing.
· Paddling – reach forward with your paddle and put the blade in almost vertically, close to the board. Stroke back, visualizing pulling the board forward in the water. Don’t try to extend the stroke too far past your legs, that angles the blade too much and pulls the board edge downwards. Your blade is angled forwards for two reasons–to make the blade more stable in the water (as you’ll see if you try to stroke with the blade backwards) and to improve the release of the blade as you pull it up. Stroking too far backwards defeats that smooth release.
· Happy feet – You need to learn that your feet are not bolted to the board. As your balance improves you can move around the board more. In flat water paddle boarding you need to imitate this learning by forcing yourself to move your feet around. Shift from centered to fore and aft stance. Move your back foot more towards the tail then back centered again. In chop your learning will be automatic–when you master sideways chop you’re bound to be moving about on the board.
· Turning and Spinning–Initially you’ll be turning the board slowly by stroking away from the board, but this is the slow way around. Fine for flat-water, but too slow to surf. The faster way is to put weight on the back of the board and stroke with the paddle to pivot the board. Once you are in a fore and aft position you can start practicing this by just putting weight on your back leg. This works even better if you take a step backwards. You need to lean on the paddle a bit to optimize these moves. Once you can spin the board 360 you’re ready to surf.