1. KNOW YOUR GEAR
SUP boards come in all shapes and sizes. Selecting a board that fits your height, weight, and purpose for getting out on the water will guarantee your time on the water to be more comfortable and enjoying. If leisure is your goal, find a recreational board that’s right for you. If speed and efficiency is what you seek, try a displacement or race board. Next grab your paddle. The paddle should be adjusted to your height. While one hand grasps the top of the paddle, or the t-grip, the other hand should find its place lower on the shaft of the paddle. A good rule of thumb is to place one hand around the t-grip and the other hand where both of your elbows make a 90 degree angle when the paddle is held out in front of you. Your bottom hand will not hit the same spot every time but having a general idea of how wide your hands should be placed is beneficial. Before climbing aboard, double check that your board has a fin. Fins are crucial for stability and tracking of the board. A PFD is required in most waterways, so make sure you have one onboard at all times. Finally, the leash. Quite possibly the most important part of the SUP gear list. The leash attaches to the rear of the board and then straps around your ankle. The leash’s number one job is to keep your board attached to you should you decide to get a little wet.
2. HOW TO STAND UP
Standing up is the moment. To begin, mount the center of the board on your knees from the dock, never from a standing position. Paddle out to a clear area staying on your knees until all traffic is clear. Most boards are designed with movement in mind, and therefore, much more stable when they are in motion. While still on your knees, take a couple paddle strokes on each side before standing up. Next, place both hands on the board so that you are in a tabletop position. Set up your stance by placing one foot down on the board and then the other. Keep equal amounts of pressure on both sides of the board for stability while you stand up, and remember that the wider your stance the more stable you will feel. If you do not get it the first time, do not worry. Practice makes perfect!
3. RELAX…it’s only water
There is nothing more cringe-worthy than seeing a new paddler standing as stiff as a board on a board! Water is fluid, so it only makes sense to stay flexible as you paddle. You will guarantee a trip into the water by trying to fight the natural sway of the board while you paddle. The best piece of advice an experienced paddler can give a beginner is to relax. Do not tense up, and especially do not forget to breathe. If rough water should come your way, jump down to your knees or belly for more support.
4. THE SUP STANCE
There is a handful of ways to stand on a board, however, when it is your first time, go with the stance that provides you with the most stability and comfort. Be sure you are standing in the center of the board, or directly underneath the hand hold. Stand tall, knees slightly bent, back engaged and flat, core engaged, chest open and feet parallel, shoulder width apart. Look forward and not at your feet. The SUP stance is a strong stance, not a lazy one.
5. THE SUP STROKE
The SUP stroke can be difficult when you’re first starting out. Repetition, good feedback from a friend, and simple strokes can really help improve the paddle forward motion. A good stroke decreases the chance of injury, provides efficiency, and allows you to reap all the health and fitness benefits that SUP has to offer. First, find your SUP stance with your paddle in position. Form the letter ‘A’ with your body and the paddle, with your arms straight out in front of you. Next set up your stroke by catching the water. Your paddle should scoop or pull the water toward you. Bend over, rotate your hips to increase your reach distance and reach your paddle blade towards the nose of your board. Plant the paddle fully under the water- no lilydipping! Next pull your body and board through the water. Engage your core muscles. This is where that awesome core workout comes into play. This is your power stage. Finally, release your stroke and bring it back to the beginning to catch again. The power stage ends and the release begins when your paddle blade is in line with your feet. When you change sides, make sure you switch your top arm and bottom arm position on the paddle. If you can get these three steps down, you will be a pro in no time.
6. LEARN TECHNIQUES TO STOP AND TURN
Before you race off into the sunset, make sure you have a good idea of how to slow yourself down, turn around, change directions, and stop. Backward strokes are good for turning and stopping, while forward sweeping strokes are good for turning, maneuvering, and maintaining momentum when changing direction.
7. FALLING OFF THE BOARD SAFELY
Falling off the board will happen whether it is intentional or accidental. Always push the board away from you and fall in the water. The water hurts you (and the board) a whole lot less. To get back on the board, swim to the side and center of the board, kick to lift your torso on the board, and follow with your legs. The most important part is to accept the fall, do not fight it, and stay calm.
8. HAVE FUN
SUP can offer a fun and relaxing way to be outdoors on the water that anyone can participate in. It can also be one of the best total body workouts that targets a full range of large and small muscle groups as well as increasing balance and strength with proper stroke technique. Lastly, SUP will always take you somewhere beautiful and worth enjoying. When in Nashville, SUP is a great way to escape the buzz of the city and get outside. Respect the waterways by practicing Leave No Trace, and you will always be welcomed on the water!