In this article we discuss the best ways to improve your balance while standing on your SUP. Use these balance tips to become a better paddler — today!
Without proper balance on your Atoll iSUP your time on the water will be frustrating. Instead of enjoying the views, laughter with your friends, and an unforgettable adventure, you can be left battling with your board as you fall in more than you paddle.
Of course, most new paddlers are able to overcome their balance issues in a relatively short time with a little practice. But maybe you want a quicker way to learn so that you can start enjoying your paddle board as fast as possible.
Well, we’re here to help! Check out these quick tips you can try your first time on the water that will get you standing and paddling with ease!
Body Size and Board Size
Our first balance tip has to do with your SUP.
Make sure your board fits your body type.
The biggest balance obstacle most new paddlers face can be fixed simply by matching their body size to the appropriate board size.
For smaller paddlers (160 lbs and below) most boards will accommodate your size. But for the bigger paddlers out there you are going to need a board that is wide and has more volume.
The wider the board is the easier it is to stand and balance as it provides more surface area. The thicker a board is the more weight it can float in the water which will also make balancing much easier.
If you don’t have an Atoll board then be sure to check the width and thickness before purchase. For those lucky enough to own an Atoll iSUP, you should be covered no matter your size.
Our universal shape and size of 11’x32”x6” with a pointed touring nose make it the best board option for every paddler out there. This is truly the only board you and your family will ever need.
This is an important balance tip…
We’ve seen it before. A brand new paddler is all excited to get onto the water and they choose to go in the ocean for their first try. Or they wait until the wind is at its peak. Often they can’t get past the breaking waves or the wind keeps pushes them back to shore or off of their board.
This leads to frustration. And a chance they will never take up paddling again.
Let’s avoid all that. At least for your first few times on the water.
What you want to do is make sure you are paddling in a bay or lake. Make sure the body of water does not have a strong current and either paddle early in the morning when the wind is low or late in the afternoon for the same reason.
With a calm body of water underneath your feet, it is much easier to learn how to balance on your iSUP.
Make sure you are standing in the center of the board when paddling.
How do you know where the center of the board is? Look for the handle.
All major SUP boards now come standard with a handle to carry your board to and from launch locations. This handle is placed at the absolute center of the board so that the front or back does not tilt when carrying. Conveniently, this is also the location where you should place your feet when paddling.
If you are not in the center of the board you can lean too far forward on the nose or the tail, decreasing the surface area on which to stand, and greatly enhancing your chances of falling in the water.
Always make sure that the handle is in-between your feet when on the water.
How to Start
Always begin on your knees.
Now that you know what size board you need, where you should begin practicing how to paddle, and where the center of the board is located, it’s time to get out there.
Often, the best way to begin paddling is on your knees. This will give you a lower center of gravity and a much easier time to balance. It will also allow you to feel the water underneath the board, how the paddle feels when you’re pushing water, and if there are any ripples in the water, what they do to your balance.
Stay here as long as you need until you begin to feel comfortable on the water.
Start Moving and Remain Moving
Now it’s time to stand up.
Just like when you learned how to ride a bicycle, beginning to stand and balance on a SUP is easier when you are moving.
It seems counterintuitive but when the board is at a standstill there is no momentum in the water and often all you feel is the instability in your feet. On a moving board, you have momentum guiding your actions and it will help you stand upright.
To stand up correctly, place the paddle horizontally across the board in front of you. On all fours with the paddle still in hand, make a tabletop position with your body. From here, bring one foot forward, then the other, and slowly come to a full standing position with your eyes on the horizon – never down at your board.
On a paddle board, you often go where you look. And you don’t want to be looking down! Use this balance tip to stay afloat while paddling your SUP.
Use Your Paddle
Once standing, start paddling.
A paddle is a great tool. It helps you move forward, stop, increase speed, and it helps you maintain your balance.
With the paddle in hand, use it as a lever to save your balance if you feel unstable. Just by sticking it in the water, you can save yourself from falling in.
Now, paddle, paddle, paddle. With some momentum behind you, your legs will become comfortable standing on the water.
Move those feet and remove the numbness.
Most beginners are concentrating solely on standing when they being their first paddle. This is totally normal. You can’t have a good time if you’re constantly falling in.
But what newbies also do is clench their toes onto the paddle board to the point where their feet can become numb.
This is not good.
Be sure to relax your feet once you feel comfortable. Wiggle your toes. Get the circulation back into them. If you have numb feet it’s much more difficult to balance!
And if you need to move backward or forward on the board, short quick hops are usually best to begin with.
In Case of Ripples
Even on the calmest of waters, you can find wakes from other paddlers, slight breezes, or a passing boat that can jostle you off your board.
Besides falling off, or back down to your knees, what is the best way to conquer them?
Head straight into the wakes like the fearless adventurer that you are.
There is a reason for this. It is much easier to balance front to back than it is side to side.
If that doesn’t make sense, let us explain.
When a boat shoots off a wake, if it hits your board on the side it can imbalance your board and cause you to place more pressure on the opposite foot. This will often make the paddler overcompensate on the lead foot and will cause a rebounding action that will lead to them falling in.
When a wake is faced head-on, the board is more stable as the action of the wake is taken on by the entirety of the board instead of just the rails. Plus your feet take on the energy of the wave much easier head-on than side to side as you no longer have to compensate for the rails and instead can rely on balancing on the entire board.
So, to make it easier…
When you see a wake, wave, or ripple, head straight into it and you will be able to balance much easier.
One last balance tip to keep in mind — practice! The more time you spend on the water, the easier every motion on a paddle board will become. Plus, you’ll be able to have a ton of fun while doing it! Questions? Comments? Drop us a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible! We hope these balance tips will help you improve your paddling on the water.