When you are trying new activities it helps to be well prepared. It relieves a bit of anxiety and builds a sense of anticipation. Remember, stand up paddling isn't hard to learn.
When and Where to get started?
Anytime from spring onwards is a good time to get started. Choose a flat body of water with no waves or current and a time with little or no wind. For your first paddling experiences, the wind can be quite confusing while you're working out what to do. If you are paddling with a coach or school, ask them if the conditions are suitable if you're unsure.
What you'll need?
The essentials are:
You can rent this equipment from a retailer/SUP school, attend a demo session, take a lesson or borrow these from a friend if you have not yet bought your own gear.
The board you use should be a good, stable one that's suited to your build. Generally speaking wider longer boards are more stable and narrower ones are less stable. So use a board that will help you stand up and paddle so you get a good experience of what it's like. Your paddle should be adjusted to roughly a hand span taller than your head. Pop your PFD on (its a legal requirement in NZ to have it on or with you), secure the leg leash around your ankle and you're good to go.
Wear light exercise clothing like a T-shirt/top and shorts or leggings. Its best to avoid cotton which doesn't dry quickly. If you want to be warm, wear layers of light clothing like merino wool when its cool and if theres the chance of a rain shower, a light weight jacket. A wetsuit or neoprene clothing and booties are also options if you prefer. And always have a towel and a change of clothes to hand so you can get warm and dry quickly if you need to.
Remember your PFD or Life Jacket - you can pick one up here
Go on your knees to start with and get a feel for the board and the water. When you first stand on the board make sure your feet are both facing forwards and about hip width apart. The best place to stand on the board is feet either side of the carry handle. This will help you pull efficiently against the paddle and balance the board. If this feels really unstable then shift one foot just ahead of the other, but not so much that you are in a surfing stance.
Hold the paddle with one hand. about halfway down the shaft and the other hand on the handle at the top of the paddle. With a straight back and soft knees, hinge from the hips to reach forward and place the whole blade into the water. Your aim should be to pull yourself towards the paddle rather than pull the paddle towards you with the paddle going into the water nice and far forward and out at your feet.
As the paddle moves to your hip and feet you should pull it out of the water and rotate the blade and bring it through the air and back to the starting position. Then, repeat the stroke. If you are moving off course, swap your hands around and put in a stroke on the other side of the board. (When paddling on your left hand side your right hand should be on the paddle handle. When you are paddling on your right hand side your left hand should be on the paddle handle).
Steering and Turning
The more strokes you take on one side of the board will keep moving you in one direction. It's a good idea to have a land mark to move towards and then you can see when your course changes and when to swap and paddle on the other side of your board. Experiment with weighting your feet in order to speed up the turn. This is a key manoeuvre as its how you turn the board around to get around people, buoys or to catch waves. There are various ways of doing this :
- Stationary turn - This is the easiest and most stable of turns. You need to put in long backward strokes on one side of the board. This will stop you start the board to turn. Then swap your paddle hands and make a big wide stroke like a rain bow from the front to the back of the board to complete your turn. This is the first turn to master.
- Cross Bow Turn - This turn you can do while you are in motion. Get into a nice low 'squat' position. Don't change your drip on the paddle and take it across the 'bow' of your board towards the side you want to turn towards. Put the blade in the water and pull the blade towards the front of your board. Like the stationary turn, this starts your board turning. Lift your paddle out of the water, over the nose of your board and back into the water and make that big wide sweeping stroke again to finish the turn.
- Pivot Turn - If you have some forward paddle speed you can turn the board a lot quicker. Plus its fun to learn. You have to be mobile on your feet and don't be surprised if you fall in a few times! When you are ready to turn take a couple of steps backwards on the board so the tail sinks. At the same time put in a strong backward paddle stroke on one side. As the board spins around, put in a strong forward paddle stroke in on the other side and step swiftly forward to stop the board from spinning. You may find it useful after this to rest your paddle blade flat on the water to give you some stability before stroking forward again and dropping into that glassy wave!
The Safety Position
If at any time when you're paddling you are close to objects like rocks or marker poles, or find yourself in a boat wake, the safest place to be is on your knees on the board. This lowers your centre of gravity and means you are less likely to fall off. It's also the best position to start and finish your paddle in so you enter and exit the water in an elegant fashion.
They key to getting going is to play and have fun. So choose a nice day and flat water and enjoy.
We also offer classes where we can teach you the basics so you can feel confident on the water and try out some of our amazing gear!
Ready for the next step? read our guide on getting started on waves.Book a Class