Active Lifestyle Series: SUP with Confidence

Pounamu staffer Naomi SUPing near Auckland, New Zealand

Image: Pounamu staffer Naomi, SUPing near Auckland, New Zealand! 

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a perfect all-around activity - a great way to explore new rivers, ponds, or lakes, and enjoy the outdoors while getting a full body workout in! It’s a fun, challenging hobby that is accessible to many skills and ages.

Like any water sport, no matter how experienced you are, it is important to be prepared before heading out on your paddle board. Here are a few quick tips to consider before your water adventure!

Things you will need:

Nothing is worse than forgetting something at home that will ruin your day or jeopardize your safety on the water. Make sure you leave the house prepared!

  • Paddle board - whether you own one, borrow or rent one, you’ll need one of these for your SUP outing!
  • Paddle - you won’t get far (or maybe you will, in the wrong direction!) without a paddle.
  • Leash - a leash is attached to your paddle board and secured around your ankle.
  • Life jacket - always have a life jacket with you when you are out on the water, even if you are experienced or feel comfortable in the water.
  • Sun protection - sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, and UV protective clothes are all essential when you plan to spend a day outside.
  • Hydration - proper hydration is critical when you are active and in the warm sun. Clip your Pounamu Protein water bottle onto your paddle board, so it is there when you need it.
  • Whistle, light or phone in a waterproof bag - if you are going paddle boarding alone, it’s smart to have one of these with you in case of emergencies.
  • Proper clothing - paddle boarding is a water sport with a guarantee of getting wet. Leave the cotton and jeans at home and wear quick dry clothing. Pack an extra set of clothes in your bag to change into back onshore!
  • Snacks - don’t let hanger strike while on a lovely SUP adventure! Pack Pounamu Protein Bars (arriving soon, watch this space) in your bag for quick nutrition to keep you moving!

 What to bring SUP: Life jacket, paddle, waterbottle, visor, sunscreen, sun protection clothing, waterproof mobile phone case

Paddle board with Confidence

Now that you have everything you need for the day - it’s time to paddle board confidently! If it is your first time paddle boarding, make sure you go on a day when the wind is calm, there are minimal waves, and, if possible, a shallow sandy spot.

It can be hard to balance and step onto a paddle board for the first time. Here are some tips:

  • Knee deep water - walk your paddle board into the water about knee deep or where the fins under the board will not hit bottom when you get on.
  • Find the center handle - the handle you used to carry your paddle board down to the water is the center of the board.
  • Grab both sides of the board - with your hands on either side of the board just behind the center handle, work your way onto the board one leg at a time, ending in a kneeling position. You can balance the board with your hands still on the edges until you are comfortable.
  • Standing up - once you feel balanced, stand up on the board one leg at a time with your feet in line with your hips. Take a moment to balance yourself on your board.

Alternatively, paddling on your knees before standing up is an effective way to get comfortable with balancing and paddling simultaneously. When you’re ready, you can try to stand up!

The hard part is complete! When standing and paddling, make sure to look ahead. It is easy to look down at your feet, but that will make it harder to balance! Keep your shoulders and eyes looking forward.

If you weren’t so lucky to get standing up on your first try, or after a few paddles, you lost your balance and fell, don’t stress! It happens to everyone, even the experts. Getting back on the board is simple with a bit of practice.

  • Find the center handle - the center handle is your friend yet again! Find it and hold on.
  • Let your body float to the surface - while holding onto the handle, relax your body and let your legs float to the surface of the water.
  • Kick - kick your legs while you pull your body back onto the board.
  • Stand up - either try again or use the same technique you used to stand up. You’re off again on your SUP adventure!

What is happening with your paddle during all of this? When you are getting onto your paddle board, place your paddle on the board before getting on. If you lose your paddle while getting on or in a fall, get back onto the board first, and while kneeling on the board, use your hands to get yourself back onto your paddle.

Holding the paddle correctly will make your SUP experience more enjoyable. When using the paddle on the right side of your board, your left hand should be on the top of the paddle handle, with your right hand a few feet below that. When paddling on the other side, use the same hand positions but swap hands. Most paddles will have a t-shaped handle at the end for gripping.

Before you paddle, make sure the blade on your paddle is facing the correct direction. The blade should angle forward from the shaft and toward the front of your paddle board. It is common to see new paddle boarders misuse the paddle with the blade facing down, but you shouldn’t be using your paddle that way unless you are doing a particular technique.

Start with gentle paddles until you feel comfortable with your strokes, balance, and maneuverability. Spend at least 25 - 45 minutes on the water for the first few sessions to get your muscles comfortable with the new activity. You may find your muscles sore after a SUP adventure! That is the beauty of the sport - getting lost in the moment, enjoying your surroundings, and staying active!

Bring a friend along! Not only to share the activity but so both of you have someone with you and watching. If you are going alone, always tell someone your plans and check back in when you are finished.

Here at Pounamu, we love spending time on the water when the weather is nice, and paddle boarding is one of the activities we lean toward to stay active!

Have fun, and we’ll see you on the water!

Pounamu staffer Naomi out for a sunset SUP in British Columbia, Canada

Image: Pounamu staffer Naomi SUPing at sunset in British Columbia, Canada. See the dot in the water behind here? It's a seal following her!