Table of Contents
- What is SUP?
- Is it Difficult?
- Top 5 Reasons to Give Paddle Boarding a Try
- Types of Paddle Boards
- General Knowledge on Paddle Board Size and Shape
- How to Choose Your First SUP
- Different Paddle Types
- How to Choose the Correct Fin for Your Paddle Board
- Additional Essential Paddle Board Gear
- Steps to Get Your Paddle Board on the Water
- The Paddle Stroke
- Quick Balance Tips on Your Paddle Board
- Common Paddle Boarding Beginner Mistakes to Avoid
- Travel Tips With Your Paddle Board
- Paddle Board Storage Tips
- How to Paddle Board With Your Dog
- Additional Tips/Reminders to Guarantee Your Success
Welcome to Atoll Board’s Beginner’s Guide to SUP. In this article we explain how to stand up paddle board – everything you need to know in order to get on your SUP and start having fun!
Beginner’s Guide to SUP
Over the past decade, the sport of SUP (stand up paddle boarding) has exploded on the scene of water sports activities. If you recently have been near the ocean, the bay, a lake, or even a river, you’ve probably seen someone on a board.
At first glance, it looks like a difficult activity to conquer, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Paddle boarding welcomes people of all ages and athletic abilities. That is why it has been dubbed ‘the fastest growing recreational activity in the US.’
If you are ready to be the next stand up paddle boarding fanatic, you might have a few questions before you dive in.
In order to provide the answers, the team at Atoll Boards has decided to put together this comprehensive beginner’s guide.
In it, you will learn the basics, such as the different types of boards, to the more advanced, like proper paddling technique. This way you will know the ins and outs of paddle boarding before you give it a try and make your first purchase.
Let’s get into it our beginner’s guide to SUP!
What is SUP?
SUP stands for stand up paddle boarding.
Originally from Hawaii, SUP is a combination of surfing and kayaking.
Instead of paddling on your stomach as in surfing or sitting down like a kayaker, paddle boarders take a standing posture and use a single-blade paddle to propel themselves through the water.
In addition, a paddle board is shaped like a surfboard except it is much longer, wider, and thicker in order to accommodate paddlers of every size standing on the water.
Is it Difficult?
SUP is considered a beginner-friendly sport. It can be done by anyone regardless of age or experience. In addition, it is also a low-contact sport making it perfect for anyone who wants to remain fit but can no longer run or lift with any consistency.
Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Give Paddle Boarding a Try
Other sports, especially water sports like surfing and kite surfing, have high levels of entry. That means in order to be good enough just to make it worthwhile you need to spend a lot of time and money on lessons, rentals, and afternoon struggle sessions. If you have the determination to do so, we applaud you! Learning how to surf or kite surf is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Unique Standing Perspective
Compared to kayaking, SUP is a relative newcomer to the scene of water sports. Still, more and more people are switching to paddle boarding with each passing season. Why?The unique perspective. While we too are huge fans of kayaking (and really anything that gets you on the water) what sitting down in a canoe or kayak doesn’t provide is a great view.
Paddle boarding is a fantastic workout. Each paddle stroke on a stand up paddle board activates your core, biceps, triceps, traps, and enhances your balance on and off the water.
It’s Versatile – You Can Try Different Activities
SUP is perfect for flat water paddling – lakes, bays, marinas, even some calm rivers. But if you get tired of paddling in the same place and want to inject some adrenaline into your life, you can also take your stand up paddle board into different bodies of water or try different activities.
While you can SUP surf our Atoll 11’ boards, we recommend only doing so in empty waves no more than 1’-2’. That way you stay safe and anyone around you does as well.
Atoll boards are 11’ long and 32” wide. They’re perfect for flat water paddling, rivers, lakes, and bays, but can be difficult to control in the ocean.
However, there are plenty of SUP surfboards designed specifically to catch some gnarly waves offshore.
With the added benefit of already standing while in the lineup, SUP surfing allows the novice to learn how to surf and learn how to do it quickly.
SUP fishing is right up our alley. With Atoll’s legendary durability and added volume to hold the extra weight, you can pack a cooler, grab your rods, attach an anchor, and head out to your favorite fishing spot for a relaxing time casting your line under the sun.
Want to satisfy your competitive spirit, get into the best shape of your life, and push your limits? Then stand up paddle board racing is for you! Once you get past the beginning stages of SUP and hone your paddling skills, test them against some of the best! See how far and how fast you go all while shedding pounds and packing on muscle.
Besides surfing, paddling on a river might be the second-best adrenaline-inducing activity you can try on your stand up paddle board. But unlike surfing, Atoll 11’ boards are designed specifically for this one. Our inflatable boards are rugged enough to bounce off any obstacles and keep going. Just make sure you are outfitted with our 4.6” river flex fin. There is nothing worse than hitting your fin on a rock and tumbling forward off of your board.
SUP is about fitness, it’s about fun, but to us, it’s also about adventure. With a paddle board you have the ability to explore areas you only were able to see from the shore. This includes lakes in National Parks, rushing rivers full of whitewater, secret coves, hidden caves, or even the local bar situated on a body of water. Wherever the exploration leads, often the best way to get there (and the most exciting way) is by paddling your Atoll board and checking it out.
Types of Paddle Boards
Inflatable Paddle Boards (iSUP)
Inflatable boards are boards that must be inflated when ready for use and deflated when stored. They are more durable than hardboards and much easier to transport and store. And with extra volume, they float more weight and are perfect for activities like stand up paddle board yoga or stand up paddle board fishing where you need to bring a cooler and extra gear.
These boards are perfect for travel, whitewater river paddling, outdoor activities such as hiking, and for those who don’t have the luxury of space to store a hardboard for an extended period of time.
Hard Paddle Boards
Hard paddle boards are usually made out of epoxy, fiberglass, resin, and for the high-end models, carbon fiber. These boards are great for high-performance activities like stand up paddle board surfing and stand up paddle board racing.
The rigid structure of these boards lends more speed and turning capabilities for the experienced paddler. And they offer more convenience when showing up to the paddling spot as you don’t have to wait for them to inflate.
However, they do require space to store, racks on your car to transport, or a large truck bed, and can be much easier to damage, ding, and often require repairs after a few sessions in the water.
Within these two categories, specific models of boards ranging in size and shape have been created to increase performance or for the specific activity you wish to try.
General Knowledge on Paddle Board Size and Shape
Short paddle boards with less volume are better for surfing or children.
A stand up paddle board surfboard that is under 10’ would not track well in the flat water, meaning it would move side to side instead of straight due to its shorter length, nor is it likely to float you due to its decrease in volume/thickness.
In the ocean, a shorter board with less volume means an easier drop into a wave and a smoother bottom turn. In flat water, you would experience a slow, uncomfortable paddle.
Longer length, higher volume is better for flat water paddling and long-distance paddling.
Along these lines, most paddlers would be hesitant to take a race board into the ocean. That is unless you were a professional and were able to handle the difficulty that comes with paddling in this environment.
The reason why race boards are difficult to paddle in waves is because of their longer length and minimal rocker (curve of the board in the nose and tail). Longer length usually means a higher probability of burying the nose when dropping down into a wave. Instead, they’re designed specifically for flat water paddling.
The longer a board is in length the better it tracks and the longer it glides with each paddle stroke.
In addition, boards vary in thickness to accommodate different paddling styles and body types.
The thicker the board is, the more weight it can hold.
For anyone familiar with Atoll, you may have noticed our boards are shaped differently compared to most generic inflatable paddle board brands.
Most brands, especially those price point boards found at Costco, mimic each other to broaden their market reach. But the problem with them is – they’re not the best boards to paddle in any situation, whether it be flat water, rivers, or oceans.
What they gain in mass appeal, they lose in performance.
And on top of that, they aren’t the best for every paddler’s size either. Most are too thin and too short.
With an Atoll paddle board, you will get the proper length (11’) for an excellent glide on the water, and a thickness of 6” (can hold up to 400 lbs) to accommodate you, your dog, and even a cooler!
It’s truly a universal size and shape for paddling efficiency and weight.
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: How to Choose Your First Paddle Board
In order to make the correct choice when you are ready to purchase your first SUP, it’s important to know a few general guidelines.
These include the activity you want to do, if you plan to travel with your board, your body type, size, and athletic ability, and if there will be multiple riders for your board.
Most standard paddle boards will work great for every activity you can do on a SUP. However, if you are more performance oriented, and want to learn how to SUP surf or race then you will have to purchase a board specific to those activities.
For SUP surf, look for a board that is under 10’6’’ and has lighter volume. For SUP racing, boards measuring 12’6’’ to 14’ are the best in the industry. In addition to the length, they are much more narrow than a standard board. This allows the boards to track longer and straighter in the water.
For every other activity on a SUP, Atoll’s 11’ inflatable boards are the perfect fit. Activities that work great with an Atoll paddle board include cruising, SUP fishing, SUP yoga, river SUP, and paddling with your pup!
If you are travel-oriented and want to take a paddle board with you, then the only choice to make is an inflatable board.
Inflatable paddle boards are perfect for travel as you can roll them up and carry them on your back with a padded backpack.
As a general rule, the bigger you are the bigger the SUP must be to accommodate your weight and size.
If you are near 6’0’’ 185 lbs, you should be able to climb aboard a 10’6”x32”x5” board and be okay. If you are bigger, you will need to move up in size and thickness. Ultimately, it will depend on your ability to balance, and if you have any prior water sports experience.
In addition, for smaller paddlers, a bigger board will be much easier to stand on right away and begin paddling.
Our Atoll 11’ inflatable paddle board measures 32” wide and 6” thick. This provides the perfect platform for any paddler of any size to climb aboard and be successful right away.
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: Different Types of Paddles
Adjustable or Fixed?
Some newbies to SUP get caught up with this question.
Luckily, the answer is simple.
If you are the only one who is to use the paddle then get a fixed one cut at your local shop. If you plan on surfing or racing, then we suggest upgrading to a carbon fiber paddle that is fixed to your height as well.
If you plan on sharing your paddle with friends and family then adjustable is the way to go. This way you can modify the height to fit the paddler.
If you are an adventurer and want to use it for travel purposes grab an adjustable one as well. With a paddle such as our 3-piece model, you can break it down into smaller sections to store in your SUP backpack.
Both types paddle well, so it just depends on your purposes for paddling.
If you have ever taken a beginner lesson at an outfitter, chances are you’ve experienced the use of an aluminum paddle.
Why are they popular with places that teach paddling?
A typical aluminum paddle will come with a price range of around $40 to $60.
With this price tag, they can be the perfect paddle to purchase if you are just getting into the sport and are unsure if you want to continue.
Another reason why they’re popular?
After all, there is a reason most outfitters use them for their beginner lessons. They can take a beating and remain basically intact.
But with a bulkier construction and a larger blade, they’re also heavy.
Nor do they enter and exit the water with speed. This creates drag and can be tiring for your shoulders.
Much like every other piece of paddling equipment, you get what you pay for.
Think of the Aluminum paddle as that used Toyota you received as your first car. It’ll get you to where you need to go, but at a slower speed, and with much less style.
When people progress through the sport they naturally want to upgrade their gear to match their skill level.
Often, the first piece to be upgraded is the Aluminum paddle. Consider this before you buy!
If the aluminum paddle is the starter paddle, fiberglass is your next step up.
It will add a little more flair to your equipment set, it’s much lighter, has a more defined blade, and is smooth to paddle.
The price range typically is around $99 to $150 depending on the brand and the amount of carbon fiber potentially mixed into the fiberglass.
Most fiberglass paddles come in the adjustable variety which again, gives you flexibility for multiple riders to switch to their sizes as they take to the water.
And while it’s not the lightest paddle on the market, it will surely get the job done in an above satisfactory manner.
Carbon Fiber Paddles
Carbon fiber paddles are the top of the line. They are made out of the toughest, and lightest material available. Due to this upgraded construction, a carbon fiber paddle really is the only one you will ever need to purchase.
There is nowhere to go from here!
Typically, carbon fiber paddles come in adjustable and fixed models. The fixed models tend to be ounces lighter as they don’t have the 2-piece or extra adjustable knob affixed to them. But the difference is negligible.
As we mentioned earlier, we recommend only getting a fixed shaft if you are a SUP surfer or racer. Or if you are the only person who is going to use it.
For traveling purposes, a 2 or 3 piece paddle is the way to go as they can be easily stored along with your board.
With a lightweight carbon fiber paddle your arms don’t get as tired so you can paddle longer, the blades are shaped to enter and exit the water with ease, and the smile on your face stays on longer as you don’t have to lug around a heavy piece of aluminum.
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: How to Choose the Correct Fin for Your Paddle Board
Shapes and Styles
The shape of a fin can drastically alter the tracking, speed, stability, and how easy it is to turn your paddle board.
Starting with a touring or racing fin, these typically have more overall surface area, meaning it is more block-like in construction, as opposed to curved. In addition, they have a wider base and are usually longer and extend deeper into the water.
These basic characteristics will provide you with better stability when the water gets rough and tracking (the ability to stay straight in the water over a long period of time) especially when there is more surface area concentrated closer to the base of the fin.
On the other hand, this construction will also make it more difficult to turn as the more surface area there is in the fin, the more resistance will build up in the water when trying to move it side to side. And if you are new to the sport, using a touring fin might feel a bit more sluggish than your average fin due to the increase in surface area as well.
Typically, anyone looking to paddle long distances, race, tour, or do any ocean paddling will purchase this type of fin.
Standard Fin/Surf Style
The fin that comes with your 11’ Atoll iSUP is an industry-standard for a reason – it provides almost a perfect balance between stability, glide, and maneuverability.
These types of fins are still relatively wide at the base which is good for stability and tracking but don’t have the increase in surface area like your typical race/touring fin. This means they are still easy to turn and maneuver in the water.
Where they might fall short is in long-distance paddling, touring, and in choppy water compared to the wider touring/racing fin. Without the extra surface area, your board will not feel as stable in comparison.
These fins are great for entry-level paddlers, weekend cruisers, and surfers.
Typically, the average fin measures about 8” in length. Of course, depending on style and use, these lengths can vary from 4.6” up to 10”.
The longer the fin, the more it extends deeper into the water, the better tracking it provides for the paddler.
You may be wondering then, why would anyone want to have a shorter fin if longer provides better tracking?
Well, that depends on the environment you will be paddling in. We’ll get into more detail when we go over our River Flex Fin but there is an obvious clue in the name.
It’s important to remember the basics first – the longer the fin, the better the tracking.
Where you place your fin in the fin box is often underutilized and overlooked when it comes to performance in the water.
Placing your fin forward makes it easier to maneuver your board left and right when turning.
If you place it towards the back it will stiffen up your board, making it a bit more difficult to turn left or right, but will keep you tracking in a straight line over a longer distance.
Both of these positions are great for performance paddling situations such as surfing (turning your board quicker on the bottom of a wave) or racing (staying straighter and faster over a long distance), but for the average paddler just cruising around, placing the fin in the middle position is the best spot. Here, you will have a good balance between maneuverability and tracking.
Universal Fin Box
Not to be overlooked is the type of fin box your paddle board has. The Atoll iSUP comes standard with a Universal Fin Box or US Fin Box to allow for a wide array of different fins to be used in your board.
This is great if you want to upgrade to an aftermarket fin, or forget yours and need to borrow one from a friend.
The other fin boxes found on stand up paddle boards can include FCS Fin Boxes which are a staple for surf boards and Future’s Fin Boxes which are again very popular in the surf industry but hardly ever found on inflatable paddle boards.
Before you decide to purchase a board, always note what type of fin box it has so that you know what types of fins you will have to purchase for the future.
For a quick tutorial on how to install the standard Atoll fin check out this video below:
Additional Essential Paddle Board Gear
Personal flotation device. A PFD can come in the form of a standard vest or as an inflatable belt. Both of these models work great and are necessary to remain safe on the water. In addition, most areas mandate them by law, so make sure you are always wearing one while paddling!
A paddle board leash tethers you to your board. It is always a great idea to wear one every time you paddle. It will keep your board from drifting away from you in case you fall in.
Use when paddling in the dark. The flashlight will make it aware to other watercraft that you are on the water and a safety whistle is a useful tool in case you need to call for help.
If you are used to the sun and believe you don’t need to apply sunscreen, think again. The sun will reflect on the water and onto your face making you twice as vulnerable. Apply sunscreen before you go to avoid any downtime from a bad sunburn!
Cell Phone Dry Case:
Perfect to carry and protect your cell phone from drowning in water. A case can be a useful tool in the event you need to contact the authorities on the water. Or if you just want to snap some pictures!
Paddle Board Backpack:
Atoll inflatable paddle boards come standard with a traveling backpack perfect for airplane travel or to put into your trunk.
A waterproof bag that can be loaded with your additional gear – towels, sunglasses, keys, etc, that fits right underneath your board’s bungee and will keep everything dry and protected.
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: Steps You Need to Know to Get Your Paddle Board on the Water
Inflate Your Board:
There are two ways you can inflate your 11’ Atoll paddle board. The first is with the standard hand pump. Simply screw it onto the valve and pump. We recommend inflating anywhere from 12psi to 15 psi. In order for the pump to register, you must inflate until at least 10 psi. Even though it might seem like the board is rigid enough, keep going until you reach at least 12 psi.
Measure Your Paddle:
The easiest way to measure your paddle is to raise your dominant hand overhead. With the paddle standing straight up on flat ground, disengage the latch to allow the handle to be moved, and adjust until the top of the handle rests right underneath your palm.
Launch Your Paddle Board:
Grab the center handle of your paddle board with your dominant hand and your paddle in the other.
How to Stand Up:
Place your paddle across the front of your board and climb aboard starting on your knees. Then with small strokes work your way out away from the shore where you will be able to safely stand.
How to Fall and Get Back On:
If you feel yourself losing balance and are certain you are about to fall – always remember to fall away from your board and into the open water.
After you have mastered standing and paddling, it’s time to learn how to paddle efficiently.
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: How to Execute the Perfect Paddle Stroke
The Correct Way to Hold the Paddle
“Which way does the blade face when I paddle?”
As a paddle board company with fairly active social media, we tend to receive a message with this question often.
And for good reason – it can be confusing!
Typically there are two ways you can tell if you are holding your paddle correctly.
The first is with the blade.
Even though we have two different paddle models you can use the same way for both. The side with the word Atoll on it is the part of the paddle that is facing you when taking a stroke. On the standard paddle, the blank side is facing away from you. On the carbon fiber upgrade, the little buffalo (or bison) logo is facing away from you.
The second way you can tell if you don’t own an Atoll paddle is with the handle.
Typically, a SUP paddle handle will have a cuffed part where your fingers can curl in order to maintain a better grip and a flatter side where your palm is supposed to sit for comfort. If you are using it backward, you can usually notice how uncomfortable the handgrip is.
The Correct Stance
The proper stance involves three parts.
- Center Point
- Hip Width
- Knees Slightly Bent
First, when you transition from your knees to your feet, they should always be located in the center of the board for best balance. How do you know where the center is? Just look for the handle.
The handle marks the center point of the board. This is done on purpose so when you’re carrying and transporting your board it maintains balance in your hand and doesn’t lurch forward or backward.
Second, your feet should always be about hip-width apart. If your feet are too narrow you’ll have to reach farther to the side just to get your paddle in the water and you might lose balance. Too wide and you’ll be standing on the rails causing the board to tilt and rebound. Keep your feet hip-width apart and you’ll be good to go.
Last, use more of an athletic stance with your knees slightly bent. This will help you develop a better paddle stroke by putting you in the right position to hinge from your hips.
The Paddle Stroke
The perfect paddle stroke can be done in five movements.
When people first begin to paddle they tend to stand up straight and plop the paddle in the water in front of them and pull back. Not a big deal – it will get you where you want to go. But to really get an efficient stroke, it all begins with the reach. With your correct stance in place, gently hinge at the hips forward with your top hand above your head and your paddle blade going as far forward as is comfortable.This part of the stroke is called the reach. The longer the reach the more you will be able to pull back and propel your board in the water.
The catch is the point where the blade enters the water. The important thing to remember here is to fully submerge your paddle blade.Beginners have a tendency to only use half of their blade as it is sometimes easier to maintain balance if they are not moving a lot of water with their stroke. To paddle in the most efficient way, fully submerge your blade in order to move more water, and pull yourself farther with each stroke.
Once you’ve submerged the blade it’s time to pull your body forward to the blade. Keeping your arms straight and using your obliques and traps as your primary force, keep your lower arm straight as you pull your body towards the paddle, ending your stroke at your feet. If you leave your paddle in the water behind your feet you decrease efficiency over time.
The best way to release your blade from the water is to slightly turn the blade away from the board to release the built-up pressure. This will allow the paddle to exit the water and increase the sped with which you can continue your stroke.
The recovery is simple, this is the point between paddle strokes where you can reset yourself, and make any adjustments to the next stroke that you might have noticed on the previous one. Are your feet in the correct position? Hinged at the hips? Are your knees bent? Are you reaching as far forward as you can and putting your paddle blade fully submerged into the water?
It’s all a process of trial and error but luckily you will have plenty of repetitions to get it right!
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: Quick Balance Tips on Your Paddle Board
Always start in a calm body of water.
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 pushing them back to shore or off of their board.
This leads to frustration. And a chance they will never take up paddling again.
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 inflatable stand up paddle board.
When you decide to paddle, make sure you are in the center of the board.
How do you know where the center of the board is? Look for the handle.
All major stand up paddle 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.
How to Start Paddling
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 stand up paddle board is easier when you are moving.
It seems counter intuitive but when the board is at a standstill there is no momentum in the water and all you will 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 Your Paddle
Once you stand, start to paddle.
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 begin 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 paddleboard to the point where their feet can become numb.
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.
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 produces 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 result in a rebounding action that will cause them to fall 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.
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.
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: Common Paddle Boarding Beginner Mistakes to Avoid
When you first start out – find a paddle buddy.
With someone else with you on the water, you are able to keep in close contact with an additional person in case an emergency should arise. This can include inclement weather conditions, a paddle malfunction, maybe you get separated from your board, or you run into boat traffic.
Whatever you come across, there is always a better chance of surviving unscathed when you have an extra set of eyes and a helping hand next to you on the water.
Using the Wrong Gear
The wrong gear refers to a paddle that may not be for your size or a board that does not adequately float you.
When new paddlers are using paddles that are either too long or too short, their stroke is incorrect leading to an uncomfortable feeling in the rest of their body.
When it comes to boards – make sure the length, width, and especially thickness of it is enough to adequately float your body weight. An undersized board will give even the best paddler problems in the water.
Picking the Incorrect Conditions
The weather is a huge factor when spending time on the water. It’s always a good idea to check the local weather forecast before heading out. But, even sunny days can be misleading.
On those perfectly clear sunny days during the summertime, what you want to look for is the strength of the wind and the direction it is traveling.
If it’s a strong wind, your best bet is to sit out for the day. If you are new to SUP and haven’t developed the strength to take on adverse conditions, then waiting is the best tactic.
But if you feel confident you can make it, we suggest paddling upwind (facing into the wind) on the way out and downwind (with the wind) on the way back.
This way, by the time you want to head back home, you will have plenty of energy.
Holding the Paddle Incorrectly
This is a big one. And a mistake that almost every beginner has made.
Most beginners believe the paddle is held with the angle towards them as in a scooping motion in the water. This can work to some degree but what typically happens is the blade will shift from side to side. The motion will be awkward and your paddling efficiency will be reduced.
To hold it correctly, you should have the angle of the paddle facing away from you towards the front of your board, paddling instead with the flat side of the blade.
This will push the water during your stroke and put less pressure on your wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
If it’s still unclear which way to hold the paddle – pay attention to the handle at the top. There should be a space where your fingers can cup inwards into the handle and a flat side on the opposite.
If all else fails, there are plenty of YouTube videos out there explaining this in detail with visuals!
When you’re beginning your stand up paddle board journey it’s constantly on your mind…
“What if I fall in?”
“I don’t want to look like a fool.”
“How do I get back on if I do fall in?”
“Does everyone fall in or will I be the only one?”
First, most everyone falls in on occasion so don’t feel bad if that person is you! If you do fall, you want to do it correctly to help mitigate any injury.
The major factor when falling is where your board is. The best tip we can give you is to fall away from your board – especially if you have a hardboard.
If you fall on your board your chances of hurting yourself or cracking your board are greatly enhanced. And if you feel like you’re losing your balance jump off your board and try again. When you’re wearing a leash (as you should!) then you won’t lose your board and you won’t injure yourself.
Falling is a part of life, it’s your job to know how to fall correctly, and even more importantly – to get back up!
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: Travel Tips With Your Paddle Board
First, make sure you are bringing everything you need in order to paddle. Here is a short checklist:
Make sure your Atoll board is folded correctly so as to not damage the side fins or the foam top. If you need a reminder, check out our video HERE.
Remove your plastic fin and pack it into the appropriate section of your Atoll carrying bag
Take apart your multi-piece paddle and pack it alongside your board in the bag. Pro Tip: Wrap your paddle with bubble wrap to avoid any cracking or bending that may happen with rough care during transport
Always carry and wear a strong leash when paddling
You may be able to rent one at your destination but if you have a waist-belt PFD it will fit into your bag
Most vacation areas on our globe are along the equator. Being in these regions means being exposed to strong UV rays. Wear sunscreen and avoid bad burns.
In case you run into any sharp objects or if something were to happen during transport you are covered.
Unfortunately you may not be able to fit your electric pump in your carrying case. No worries, your hand pump included with your Atoll inflatable stand up paddle board fits perfectly in the carrying backpack. You’re just going to have to use those arm muscles to pump it up!
Once these items are loaded do a dry run – make sure you can easily carry the weight and no pointy pieces of equipment are protruding from the bag or harming any of your equipment – with special interest on your fin, paddle, and pump.
Keep trying it out until you are confident in your packing ability. Once set, you can move onto tip #2!
Airline Baggage Limits
Here comes the most important step in the process – airline baggage limits.
As a general rule, most airlines have a 50-pound weight limit per checked bag with variations among the major carriers. In addition, it is also a good idea to check the applicable height and length dimensions that the airline uses.
To avoid any problems once you arrive, bust out the old tape measure after you’ve packed your bag at home and found out your airline’s limits. If you exceed their limits, you may need to re-roll your inflatable stand up paddle board to avoid any over sized bag fees or denials.
Of course, the limits will depend on the airline you plan on flying with. The best tactic to take is to personally call the airline and ask about their baggage size and weight limits.
Research Your Destination
As we’ve already stated, we’re all about adventure. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take any precautions or conduct research before heading out into the wild world.
Wherever you plan on heading – have a plan before you head there.
That doesn’t mean sticking to a strict schedule and only experiencing what is on the itinerary. Rather, find out a general idea of launch spots for your stand up paddle board, what precautions you should take in terms of the weather, wind, and forecasts, as well as what sea creatures you may encounter while you are there. And of course, what type of boat traffic you may face when in the open water.
These are all important factors for your safety and should always be researched before heading out.
Other than that, stick to your usual practices of cleaning your board, not leaving it inflated under the sun for too long, and packing it dry after each use. Do these things and you’ll be good to go!
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: Paddle Board Storage Tips
How to Properly Clean Your Board After the Season
Once you are 100% certain you won’t be paddling your inflatable paddle board any longer, the first action you must take is to give it a thorough cleaning.
Now usually, a once-over with the hose will work to remove any salt water from the ocean or grime from freshwater bodies. But for storage, your board will be sitting for months at a time and this requires a few extra steps.
First, we will need some soap, a bucket of water or hose, and a sponge or cloth, whichever you prefer. We suggest a non-abrasive soap like Dawn dish cleaner. This has been our go-to when it comes to removing any sort of grime, grease, salt, sand, or algae.
How to Start
Once you have all the tools, give your inflatable paddle board a good soak with fresh water. Then, grab your sponge and go to town! Make sure to clean in the fin boxes, on the deck pad, and the valve stem removing any extra debris. Give it a really good cleaning and remove any excess soap after you are done.
If you happen to have any obvious scuffs or marks, we suggest using a Magic Eraser sponge. These usually do the trick when it comes to black streaks or even paddle scuffs on the rails of your inflatable paddle board.
Then, top it off with a vinyl cleaner and protector. Something like 303 Marine Clear Vinyl Protective Cleaner will do. This will keep the vinyl surfaces pliable and preserved for an extended period of time.
Once you have completed these steps, make sure your board is 100% dry. This is a very important step so when we say 100%…we mean it.
If there is moisture trapped for the duration of storage you run the risk of developing mold and mildew which can stain the foam deck pad. It won’t ruin your board completely but trying to remove mold and mildew will be a whole new chore in itself. And one that can be easily avoided.
Once it’s spotless and dry, it’s time for storage.
How to Properly Store Your Paddle Board
Luckily, when it comes to owning an iSUP you have the added advantage of easy storage. In fact, Atoll inflatable paddle boards come with their own storage case in the form of a handy backpack.
But, if not done properly, even storage runs the risk of damaging your board.
Obviously, you need to deflate and roll your board tightly before it can fit in the backpack. But make sure you are rolling it up correctly to avoid damage to the center fin box or side fins.
Our goal here is to not put any pressure on the center fix box and to not put any weight on the side fins. This is to negate the chance of bending the fin box or the side fins when they are in storage for an extended period of time.
Once you have completed the roll, what you should be left with is your small side fins on the outside of the roll and your fin box flush with the fold on the inside.
For a quick tutorial on deflating your Atoll iSUP check out this video:
Deflating Your Atoll iSUP
Once you have it properly rolled, place it in the backpack and keep it anywhere convenient! An extra tip though, do not lay your backpack with the rolled board horizontal to the floor, and especially not on the side fins. Again, this will result in bending and we want to avoid that at all costs!
Also, if you find the time, take your inflatable paddle board out once in a while to make sure there are no creases in the deck pad and that it is sitting fine in the backpack.
Other than that, you are all set for storage.
Of course, one last option can be keeping your Atoll inflated during the offseason. Our military-grade materials will keep the air inside your board for the duration of the winter season. The best thing to do if you want to keep the air in your inflatable paddle board, is to deflate it halfway. This will relieve any stress the inflation will put on the seams.
One word of warning – do not store an inflated board in the sun. The heat from the sun can cause the inflatable paddle board to over-inflate and damage the seams. This is a unique happenstance and one not covered under warranty. If you wish to keep it inflated, you’re better off somewhere dark like your garage or basement. And like we said, halfway inflated.
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: How to Paddle Board With Your Dog
Do You Have a Water Dog?
The first thing you need to consider is, does your dog enjoy the water? Do they often find themselves playing in it? Do they jump into rivers, lakes, or the ocean?
If so, then you’re in a great place to begin.
If not, you will have to start with getting your dog used to being in and around the water. Take them to the beach if it’s convenient and let them get close to the water. Or if a lake is closer, that’s a great way to get your dog used to water that is relatively calm and quiet.
The thing to look for is whether or not they tend to panic if they’re around the water. Any shaking, shivering, or nervousness and you either have to start really slow or maybe give up on the idea of paddling with your pup for the time being.
Like all things to do with your best friend, you most likely know the answer to the question – do you have a water dog?
Start Slow and Keep It in the Shallows
As we’ve already stated, often the best place to be paddling with your pup is on a lake. The calm waters and quiet surroundings are easier to get used to as opposed to a rushing river or a wave-breaking ocean.
Ideally what you’re looking for is an open beach area with a shallow spot that is easy to hop on and off your board. This type of launch point will be much easier for your pup to climb aboard your stand up paddle board and get moving.
You should already be used to checking local weather and wind reports before heading onto the water and in this case, we highly recommend that you do. If there is any chance of inclement weather or high winds, reschedule! It’s going to be difficult enough on your first try with your pup, no need to complicate things with bad weather.
Got That Traction? What About Nails?
With an Atoll iSUP, you already have the perfect platform for your pup to climb aboard and be comfortable. The highly durable construction of our boards is resistant to any scratch marks or tears. And the foam pad/rubber material is perfect for your dog to be able to balance and grip even if your board gets wet.
One small word of advice – to ensure the safety of your board, make sure your dog’s nails are at least trimmed before climbing aboard. While we are certain their nails won’t be able to puncture the body of the board, they can cause tears in the foam pad if they are left long and sharp. A quick trim will cure this issue!
Let’s Talk About Balance
Not your pup’s. Let’s talk about your balance. And your paddling experience. Sure, you may be an ace by yourself on your Atoll iSUP. You can hop on and off with ease, buoy turn, even paddle in the ocean with no problems! You’re a regular pro.
But what about when you add another moving body aboard? How are you going to fare then? Some pups tend to be a little restless when they climb aboard a stand up paddle board. They can move around, in between your legs, to the edge of the nose or rail, and everywhere in between. This can cause the board to bounce around, messing up your balance, and result in you ending up splashing in the water.
Ask yourself honestly then – how is your balance? Will you be okay with another moving body aboard your stand up paddle board? If so, give it a go! If not, maybe practice moving around the board yourself – walk to the back, the nose, and the sides. Test yourself. Practice. With a little time, you’ll be an ace, even with your pup aboard.
What Not to Bring
This tip might seem counter intuitive. But we must stress it – do not bring your leash with you. And definitely don’t have it attached to your dog’s collar when they are on the water.
A leash can get caught or tangled in your dog’s legs or on your arm if they happen to fall in. This can result in a dangerous situation where your dog might not be able to properly swim or with you being pulled into the water with your dog.
What to Bring
This last tip is a short one – grab a PFD vest for your pup when they go with you. It’s not exactly a law you need to adhere to like it is for you to wear one in flat water.
With a doggie PFD, your pup has a better chance of staying afloat while pumping their doggie paddle until you can get them back aboard. And for those smaller pups out there, a doggie PFD has the perfect handle on the top to snatch them up and place them back on your stand up paddle board when they fall in.
Basically, it’s just another added layer of safety for you and your pup while you’re both enjoying time on the water.
Beginner’s Guide to SUP: Additional Tips/Reminders to Guarantee Success on Your SUP
- Always check the weather! With special attention to the wind. Even though the day might look sunny and warm, if the wind is blowing 10-15+ mph you might be in for a miserable time. If you are a beginner, always go on calm days and make sure to go against the wind on the way out, with the wind on the way back.
- Use your core to paddle. When you first start out you might think paddling happens in the arms only. Really, you should be using your entire body with emphasis on your core. With your core engaged, you’ll go much further, and much faster.
- Consider lessons or a rental. If after reading this comprehensive guide, you are still unsure if paddle boarding is right for you – give it a try! There are plenty of outfitters around the world ready and willing to give you a lesson or send you out on a rental.
With a little experience, you’ll know for sure whether paddle boarding is right for you!
We hope you enjoyed our comprehensive beginner’s guide to SUP. This is everything you need to know about paddle boarding to get you on the water and successfully standing up. If you have any questions or comments for us, please send us a message at any time. The team at Atoll Boards is always ready and willing to provide you with the information you need to get on the water and start having fun!