With the summer in full swing and the lakes being as inviting as they are it might be time to try out stand up paddle boarding! Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a fun and relaxing activity that allows you to explore the water without actually being in the water. It is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world and has been adapted to incorporate other enjoyable activities.
Choose the right gear
Having the right gear is essential to you overall enjoyment and safety while stand up paddle boarding. Make sure you choose the correct board for the type of paddle boarding you intend to do as there are many types of SUP for different activities. The most common type of SUP is a traditional epoxy paddle board aka hard paddleboard. Throughout the years new paddle board construction has been established leading to inflatable SUP’s. Beginners should choose a wider, longer, and thicker board, as this type provides maximum stability. As you gain experience a smaller board might be what you evolve into. Along with the size of the board there are also boards designed for specific tasks.
All around SUP
- Perfect for beginners
- Can be used in all conditions
- The most versatile of SUP’s, can be used for a litany of activities
- Easiest board to store, due to the fact it can be deflated and rolled up
- Best for travelling with
- Extremely durable and great option for beginners
- Features a wider deck which increases deck space for fishing gear
- Some include accessories to hold fishing rods or bait trays
- Great for beginner paddle boarders
- An expansive deck pad to facilitate yoga
- Can also be used as a beginner board
- Ideal for long distance paddling adventures
- Longer SUP with a pointed nose
- Usually found with a displacement hull for better tracking
- Designed as a race board
- Longest type of SUP which generates speed and glide efficiency
- A challenge for beginners
- As the name says, it is designed for surfing waves in the ocean
- Maneuverable and responsive in surf
- Least stable
- A challenge for beginner
One of the main things you need to be aware of when engaging in any water sport is safety. When it comes to paddle boarding, in particular, one should not forget to tether themselves to the board with a leash. The board becomes your life saving device when you get tired, lost, or when you are a little too far from shore. It is also incredibly easy to lose in windy or stormy conditions if you are not attached to it.
A SUP leash keeps you attached to your board with a Velcro strap around your ankle or calf. The general rule on leashes is to use one that is the same size or slightly smaller than the board you are using. Whatever type of leash you divide on or where you plan to attach it the important thing to remember is that you need a high – quality board leash that won’t break off but can quickly be detached. This is in case you become entangled on any underwater obstructions or if a powerful current grabs your board.
If you are paddling across a body of water, or getting from Point A to Point B, you are navigating. Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) used for navigation fall into the same category as canoes, kayaks, rowboats, rowing shells, and other human powered boats less than 6m and you are required to carry mandatory safety equipment under the Small Vessel Regulations.
- Option 1: WEAR a lifejacket with a whistle (no buoyant heaving line required).
- Option 2: CARRY a lifejacket on board with whistle and a buoyant heaving line.
- Option 3: NONE then could receive a $200 – $500 fine for non-compliance.
*watertight flashlight is required for lowlight or nighttime conditions.
If you are NOT navigating (park and play at the waterfront, dock, or surf wave, surf beach), then Transport Canada does not consider the SUP use as a regulated vessel for mandatory equipment requirements.
With board selection and all of the safety out of the way now we can move on to sizing your SUP paddle! There are several ways to correctly size your SUP paddle, and these will vary from person to person and the type of paddling wanting to be accomplished. The paddle should be customized to at least 4 unique characteristics of the user
- How tall the user is
- Arm length of the user
- The paddleboards height above the water
- The type of paddle boarding intended (touring, fishing, surfing)
The general rule of thumb is that the paddle length may vary depending on the activity you want to engage in but generally it is recommended that you buy a paddle that is 9 to 10 inches taller than your height.
With the equipment and safety requirements out of the way let’s look at how to get upright on a SUP!
- Always start in calm, flat water with a nice wide board. Most commonly recommended is a 30 inch board that is about 11 feet long
- The board should feel comfortable and stable when standing up. If it still feels too unstable after several attempts, try a larger and wider board
- Get the board out into the water so that the fin is free from hitting the bottom
- Start kneeling and take a few paddle strokes on either side of the board
- Slowly stand up with one foot at a time and stay in the middle of the board with your feet parallel to the stringer (approx. shoulder width)
- Keep a slight bend in your knees and your core centered over the board. Be aware that you may fall off, when you do, hop back up and try again
Now that we are upright on our board how do we paddle ourselves around? One of the most common mistakes is that beginners tend to hold the paddle incorrectly. They also tend to hold the paddle so that the bent part of the blade is facing them causing unwanted splashing and balance loss. Here are some other tips:
- Stand-up straight and grip the non – blade end of the paddle
- Hold the paddle horizontally over your head with both hands, then rest the shaft on the top of your head
- Make sure the shaft is parallel to your shoulders and that the arm that’s holding the grip creates a perfect 90 degree angle
- Move the other hand (the one that’s not holding the grip) along the shaft until you create a perfect 90 degree angle with that arm as well
Engage your core! The majority of the paddling should be done with your core as opposed to your arms. Arm muscles tend to provide much less power and tire much more easily to the large muscles of your core.
Another common mistake when beginning is not facing the correct direction on the board. This is common because the front end of the board is not usually obvious to beginners especially when using an all-around board with a large nose. The easiest way to ensure you are standing correctly is to look for the fins on the board and make sure they are in the back and not up front. If the board stays straight as you paddle then it is oriented in the correct direction. If the board is increasingly ‘twitchy’ and will not stay straight requiring the user to constantly switch paddle sides then it is probably facing the wrong direction.
One tip that helps in stabilization and learning to SUP is keeping your head up! As someone who is just starting it can sometimes be difficult to keep you head up and look straight in front of you as its more natural to look downwards. Stability is key, so avoid looking down as this can ruin your balance. Try your best to keep you head up and maintain good body posture by keeping your back straight, legs slightly bent, shoulders pulled back and by bearing your body weight on the balls of your feet.
Now that we have covered so many different aspects of SUP from paddling to getting up how do we fall correctly because we will fall off the board. It’s completely natural for any paddler to fall off their SUPs. Falling is inevitable, and aside from making you even more determined to stay on the board it serves as a good learning experience as it can teach you how you’re supposed to fall so as to minimize injuries. As standard practice, it’s important to make sure that you fall away from you big and heavy board so that you don’t end up smacking your face on it or getting hit by it. Don’t worry about the board, as long as you have a leash, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing it in the water.
We at HRC Insurance hope that this blog has been informative and given you the impetus to go out and try stand up paddle boarding on your own. As always it is best to access any and all information that you can before embarking on an adventure! Have fun out there this summer and stay safe!