The Beginner’s Guide to Paddleboarding

Few things seem to offer the same kind of instant gratification that comes with learning to paddleboard. For those who have never tried the watersport or those who usually stay closer to the water in another kind of vessel like a kayak or canoe, standing up on a paddleboard is a completely different feeling and a very unstable one at that. With a bit of reading before you hit the water, though, you can easily feel like you are equipped to handle almost anything. With a paddle in hand and a board tucked under your arm, you’ll be heading out on your own in no time, having a blast while getting a full-body workout.

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Pick The Right Board

two kinds of paddle boards
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There are a lot of different kinds of paddleboards to choose from. Some are built to be like surfboards so you can catch some waves while others are made for racing. The two kinds of paddle boards most beginners typically start out with are either the all-around paddleboard or the flat water paddleboard. The all-around paddleboard can handle mild waves and is better suited to the ocean. It is also easily recognizable thanks to its rounded nose. Flatwater paddleboards only work well on very still and calm water and have a sharper nose.

It’s also important to ask a salesperson if you are buying, or staff at a rental company if you are just trying the sport out, to help you find the right length of the board. Typically a nine- to 10-foot board will suit most people. However, those who are very tall or weigh more might want to pick up a longer board to make balancing easier. It is also important to make sure your paddle is eight to 10 inches taller than your height so you can paddle properly while standing.

Required Dress

man in rash guard and board shorts paddleboarding
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One very important thing about paddleboarding that many beginners might not know is that paddleboards are actually considered vessels just like boats. That means you are legally required in the United States to have a personal floatation device somewhere on the paddleboard while you are out. You don’t necessarily have to wear it, but you must be prepared and keep one nearby. Children, on the other hand, are required to wear one while paddleboarding.

Other items you might want to consider wearing while paddleboarding include some kind of rash guard or quick-drying shirt to prevent sunburn, as well as the paddle board’s leash around your ankle. This will help keep the board close to you should you take a fall. Depending on where you are getting out on the water, you might also consider water shoes. A rocky shoreline or ocean floor covered in sharp beds would be prime places to wear protective footwear.

Launch and Stand Up

man on paddle board after launching
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One major area for mistakes is carrying and launching the paddleboard from the shore. When you carry it out to the shoreline, be sure to set the paddleboard down on the soft ground and be careful not to drag it if the fins are already attached. From here you can attach the leash or get your other gear ready or strapped onto the paddleboard. Next, to launch the paddleboard, walk it into the water until you are about calf- or knee-deep before you place the paddleboard on top of the water.

From this point, you can get on the paddleboard on your knees and use your paddle to move farther out from the shore. Once you are far enough out, the water should be deep enough that you can safely stand with enough space below you to fall in should you lose your balance. At this point, hold the paddle in one hand or across the front of the board and place your hands flat on the board. They should be planted in a wide stance to help you keep your balance as you stand up. From here, stay at the center of the board and work your way onto the balls of your feet. Slowly stand up and make sure your feet are also in a wide stance to help maintain your balance. Once you are comfortable standing up, you can easily maneuver between standing, kneeling, and sitting on the board.

Use Good Form to Stay Aboard

man with wide paddleboarding stance
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Once you are standing, you should hold the proper form to minimize the risk of falling off. It is very important to keep your knees bent and your legs loose enough to move with the water’s flow. This will help you move with the water as well as keep your knees from locking which can cause people to pass out. Try to stay relaxed and fluid as you paddleboard, and remember to breathe.

Keeping your balance will work your legs and core while paddling will also work your arms and core. It’s a challenging sport but one that’s incredibly fun. If you do fall off during your time on the water, it’s totally okay and a great way to cool off. Just be sure to fall away from your board to avoid injury and try to hold onto your paddle.

How to Climb Back Up

man with incorrect stance who might have fallen in
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Should you fall from your paddleboard and need to climb back on, there is an easier way to get back up than you might suspect. Instead of approaching the board perpendicular and kicking your way up like you would get out on the side of a pool, lay parallel to your board with your head to the front and your legs floating behind you toward the back of the board.

Next, grip the handle in the center of the board. Pull yourself up as you kick to get up onto the board from the side so you will have better balance once you are laying back on the board. Once you are laying on the board, you can easily maneuver to your knees and work your way up. Once you feel comfortable moving up and down on the board and are confident in getting back up after a fall, paddleboarding becomes an exciting and fun way to exercise while taking in a beautiful day on the water.

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