Don’t Panic: 8 tips for a Stand-Up Paddleboard Newbie (like me)

PV Mex Days 3-4-5 041

To say I was born a water-baby would be an understatement. Just days after I was born, my mom and dad took me to the beach (smothered in sunscreen of course) and I’ve been in love with the ocean, beach and marine life ever since. Also, my parents are surfers, so the second I could swim I was thrown on a surf board and pushed into waves. Needless to say, when Bob first met my parents, one true test of how well he was going to get along with our family was whether or not he could hack it in the water. If he was scared, he didn’t show it as he strapped on the leash to his first surfboard and paddled into the waves. Of course he passed with flying colors- he was brave and somehow, even after being feed to the sharks, he loved it! Ten years later, multiple surf trips to Florida, San Diego and Mexico under his belt and he’s truly part of our family.

So when my parents fell in love with Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) last year (that’s a photo of my Dad from this last trip), we were excited to try this new sport. SUP is a cool combination of kayaking, canoeing and surfing, and, if you’re really balanced and don’t fall off, you might not even get wet! No more surf hair- awesome! We had practiced one afternoon in Mission Bay in San Diego but that was the extent of our introduction to SUP before Mexico.

When we arrived in Mexico last week, my parents rented 5 boards from a surf shop in town and we had the whole week to practice, paddle around and play. Again, Bob had beginners luck and really got the hang of it; he was whipping around, catching waves and had amazing balance.  I, on the other hand, was really good with balance but let my own fears about the waves get in the way of really going for it. I’M A WIMP! (There- I said it!) However scared I was of the crashing waves, I loved paddling around on the open water and searching for a peek of one of the sea turtle that was swimming around us.

If you like water sports, I’d highly suggest giving SUP a try. It’s really fun, even while learning.  Just in case you don’t happen to have a father with equally mad skillz (yes, that is with a z) like me, I’ve had mine put together a beginner’s guide to SUP to help you conquer the first steps and get you on the water. Here are 8 tips from a surf pro- my Dad:

8 Tips to get started Stand-Up Paddleboarding:

1.) Pick the right size board for you. Get a wide board that is at least 30″ wide.  The width will help make it more stable.

2.) Practice in flat water. Find some flat water, like a lake or marina, to practice and test out your balance.  From knee deep water, put the board in and get on the board, sitting on your knees first. Push off into deeper water with the paddle across and in front of your knees. (Don’t try to stand up too quickly!)

3.) Break out your best yoga mediation pose! Getting the feel of balancing the board might be the trickiest thing to do- it will use every muscle in your body- but once you get the hang of it, it’s really fun. When you feel like you are balanced on your knees, quickly stand up and put the paddle blade in the water. With the blade in the water, you should immediately have more balance and stability.

4.) Hold the paddle just right. Hold the paddle with your top hand on the handle and your bottom hand comfortablly down the shaft.

5.) Use all your strength. When you are paddling, push out with your top hand and pull with your lower hand. Using both your arms will help you push through the water faster.

6.) Don’t go in circles. Change sides while paddling to keep the board moving in a straight line. (Just like with kayaking or canoeing, if you paddle just on one side, you will go in a circle!)

7.) Keep your head up looking at the horizon. This helps with your balance.

8.) Get ready to fall off! When you fall off (and you will fall off), fall away from the board- they are big and hard! You should have a leash attached to your ankle or thigh that will keep the board close enough to you that you can just swim and get back on.

Once you feel confident and balanced, try paddling into some small waves. If you have ever surfed before, you’ll immediately notice how much easier it is to catch a wave and how much faster you are than the surfers! When we first started, we practiced far away from the big group of surfers and SUPer’s. Bob felt like SUP was way easier and he didn’t tire out as quickly as he does surfing. He felt like he could spin around and catch the waves better because he was higher in the air and could see when a set was coming in.

I really enjoyed the awesome workout I got just from paddling around on board. The whole catching waves thing kind of freaked me out- but the thrill of riding a wave is unlike anything I can describe. Whether it’s on a boogie board or paddleboard, when you feel the wave pick you up and start pushing you, it’s exhilarating.  If all else fails- smile, because you know I’m taking a picture of you!

Have you ever tried SUP? Are you brave in the water like Bob or a total wimp like me?!


Jade Broadus is a spunky girl hailing from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. She’s addicted to traveling and has a strange obsession with maps and globes. A lover of dogs, fashion, fish tacos, marine biology, and college football, she has a broad range of interests. Jade has a strong passion for the film “Love, Actually” and has watched it 176 times. Her interests include singing really loud, impromptu dances, shopping, and dressing up in cute dresses and extravagant hats. She has written for Gadling, AOL Travel, Discover Los Angeles, LACOT, LandLopers, Wedding Nouveau, and The Vacation Gals. She is currently the social media and marketing director for Inside Out Media, a media company that owns TravelMindset.com and iExplore.com.

36 Comments

  • Reply May 23, 2011

    micki broadus

    awesome post, you described it perfectly
    it makes me want to go back now

    • Reply May 23, 2011

      jade

      Thanks, Mom! I want to go back to Mexico too!

  • Reply May 23, 2011

    Spencer Spellman

    I’ve had two appts in the last couple months to learn SUP, but both times the wind was too much. Excited to learn this summer!

    • Reply May 23, 2011

      jade

      Yeah, if the wind is really blowin’, you could end up WAY far away from where you want to go and it’ll be really hard to paddle your way back. Maybe we can do it together this summer!

  • Reply May 23, 2011

    Rebecca

    I loved! boogie boarding when I was a kid. This “sport” seems to have picked up popularity in the last few years. Maybe I’ll keep an eye out if there is a Groupon or something local! (Or when I am in Hawaii!!)

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      they have groupons for it all the time! Hawaii would be a great place- just don’t go near the waves!!

  • Reply May 23, 2011

    Katherina

    This looks like so much fun – I want to try it!

  • Reply May 23, 2011

    Kirsten

    This sounds right up my alley! My mom is a surfer but has never taken me on a trip where we could do it together. So I need to try that and this now :)

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      Your mom is a surfer?! You should try it together!!

  • Reply May 23, 2011

    Seattle Dredge

    Great tips! I really want to try this!
    Perhaps next time I’m near an ocean :D

  • Reply May 24, 2011

    Michael Figueiredo

    That looks like fun! I can’t believe you weren’t wearing a full wetsuit though…the Pacific is SO cold still ;)

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      It was actually pretty warm in Mexico- and since it was so hot and the sun blazing- it felt pretty great to be in the cool water!

  • Reply May 24, 2011

    Jan Ross

    I and never even heard of paddle surfing until we went to Hawaii last hear and they were everywhere. I can’t imagine doing it, but it’s fun to watch.

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      I would say try it in a lake first- it’s easier when the tide isn’t moving you about.

  • Reply May 24, 2011

    Ted Nelson

    I can ski pretty well, so I bet my balance on skis would help in this sport. Looks like fun.

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      If you are already an athlete then you should have an easier time getting used to it!

  • Reply May 24, 2011

    Ayngelina

    I’ve seen people do this, it looks so hard!

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      It takes some getting use to- the balance is really the hardest part. But once you get that, you are good to go!

  • I think anything that involves standing up on a board in the ocean would be hard. But I’d give it a shot.

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      You could do it! And falling off is half the fun!

  • this craze has really taken off the past few years ha. if im honest, ill say i dont really get it. mainly because when you are actually on the wave, the thickness of the board would really inhibite your turning and what-not. still, anything to get you out in the water is fine by me i guess!

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      Jaime! Have you tried it?! It’s actually quite addicting! It definitely doesn’t allow you to turn and move as easily, but while we were watching some of the more experienced riders, they were pumping it pretty hard. I think it’s grown in popularity because it’s just something new for the surfing culture to try out.

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Tijmen

    I have never tried surfing at all, but this definitely looks like a cool thing to try :)

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      It’s really fun!

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Dan Collins

    This looks AWESOME! I want to give it a go one day (as well as normal surfing) but i just know I’ll be terrible!

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      Ha- don’t worry about being good at first, just try to stand up! The great thing is even while learning you are having a lot of fun… and if you get hot just jump into the water (or fall off, like me) to cool yourself off!

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Mark Wiens

    I’ve never tried stand up paddleboarding, but it looks like a lot of fun and a great workout in the process. I know my Uncle was given one as a gift a few years back, so I know I will have an opportunity to try it out when I visit!

    • Reply May 25, 2011

      Jade

      Definitely try it, Mark. It is a great workout and super fun!

  • Reply May 29, 2011

    Sebastian

    I just got back from Nicaragua 3 weeks ago and tried SUP and loved it. Went out nearly every second day. It’s a great alternative to surfing when you are still fighting with the hangover from to much toñas the night before ;)

  • Reply June 2, 2011

    Nicole

    I’d love to try paddleboarding. I’ve never surfed either. Which do you think is easier to learn?

  • Reply June 6, 2011

    Sherry

    Looks like you were having fun. Had no idea you could surf with the paddleboard. I’ve seen and done this only on relatively still waters. What happens if you lose the paddle?

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    PaddleFan

    Great tips! I started paddleboarding only a few years ago, I always thought it seemed much harder than it really is. I love being out on the water, it’s such a good way to be outside and get some great exercise. I haven’t tried paddle surfing yet, but am going to ask some friends and give it a shot this summer.

    • Reply January 23, 2013

      biakku

      hi my name is biak i like to go vegation very much i hope that a ny time thans

  • Reply May 1, 2013

    Rebecca Huntsmith

    I love stand up paddle boarding, it’s honestly made my life so much more fun. Instead of the drudgery and mundane routine of going to the gym now I have something I love to do that not only makes me feel good but makes me look good and actually be healthier, too. Way easier than surfing but fundamentally that same epic feeling! Thanks for the great article and all the positive encouragement here :)

  • Reply July 17, 2013

    Jana

    Check out XSUP if you are ever in Laguna Beach. Great place to paddle. Beautiful views.

    • Reply July 19, 2013

      Jade Broadus

      Thanks, Jana! Will do, we are always looking for more SUP options in Southern California.

Leave a Reply