Paddleboarding is an incredible mix of physical and emotional prowess.
Strength, balance, and presence of mind are all needed to cruise the ocean’s curve.
The ability to maintain this behemoth of a board is a skill that takes time to develop.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, these tips and tricks will allow you to improve quickly and feel safe while you do it.
Top 9 Tips for Paddle Boarders
1) Learn in calm waters
Going straight into the ocean is like learning with no training wheels. Maybe you’re the kind of person who thrives on achieving in difficult circumstances. In that case, go straight for the ocean where the constant ripples and waves will send you crashing into the ocean. But for those of you who’d like to enjoy the process of learning, perhaps it’s better if you take the board out to a lake where the water is still and all you have to focus on mastering is you and your board. Maybe even ask your local community pool if you can test out your gear when nobody is around, you never know. However, if you do try it in a pool, be sure to stay far from the side rails as you will be falling off eventually.
2) Wear a leash
Always, always, always wear a leash. (You’ll thank us later.) You’d be surprised at how far a board can travel on its own while you’re off flailing around trying to regain your center of gravity. This is especially true if you want to surf some of these waves. One slip up and you’re swimming your grumpy self all the way back to shore.
This is an extra important tip because it not only prevents you a lot of work, but it keeps the surfers and swimmers around you safer too. Everybody, even Kelly Slater, falls off a wave now and again. If there’s somebody between you and the shore (which oftentimes there is) then they have a 35 lb, blunt weapon with three razor blades on the bottom coming straight for them. And they might not even know it! So again. Always, always, always wear a leash.
3) Get the right sized paddle
Don’t be the Quasimodo of surfing. Have the right sized equipment for your body so you’re not arched over every time you want to move anywhere. It not only looks awkward and uncomfortable but you can seriously tweak your muscles paddling incorrectly. Remember that paddle boarding is a full body workout. It hits everything from shoulders and arms to core muscles to your lower half. This means without the right sized equipment you have plenty of places to get sore and injure something.
4) And use the paddle correctly
Okay, I admit, we’ve ALL been there. We’re paddling along, having an enjoyable day, but something just seems off. That’s when we realize we had the paddle backwards the whole time. It’s a little embarrassing, luckily you’re probably the only one who noticed. But it is something that as you practice you want it to become a natural feeling. So be sure to take a moment to recognize and learn about your equipment so you’re not looked at as Sammy Scrub the backwards paddler.
5) 1 foot, 2 foot, 3 foot, 4!
Understanding your limits is one thing. Understanding your ability on a stand up paddleboard is another. Look, we get it, on your shortboard you can handle anything. But a paddleboard is a completely different beast. Turning requires a different stance from paddling, cruising requires a different stance from turning. The ability to walk the board is definitely on a learning curve and it’s a something best learned on a 1-foot wave, then on a 2-foot wave, and so on.
Don’t be Macho Mark and think you can handle 8-foot waves because you did it once on a boogie board, all you’re doing is endangering yourself and the other swimmers around you. Also, don’t be afraid to ride the whitewash for practice. (Whitewash, for those who don’t know, is what the wave becomes after it crashes. When all you can see is a big thick washing machine of white.) Every surfer started there, and if anybody’s judging you, it’s because they’re too afraid to even start!
6) Learn about surf conditions
Before taking your board out to sea, try to get a good grasp of what “4-foot SW wind 10kts” means. Chat up your local lifeguards and ask them about the surf conditions and if there’s any currents you need to be aware of. Start researching the cams and reports section for your local surf spot to gain an intuition. Ultimately, this could mean the difference between having an enjoyable time or wondering whether this is finally the day where you meet your maker.
7) Practice at home
There are a number of ways you can improve your skills from the comfort of your home. One key ingredient to paddleboarding is your balance. Exercising your balance muscles at home will do wonders for when you’re out in the water. Something like the indo board can really improve the balancing skills needed on a surfboard in a lifelike manner.
8) Be mindful
We talked already how not having a leash can turn any surfboard into a rocketing weapon. It’s important to understand that a paddleboard is heavy and has serious potential to harm yourself and others. For example, when riding a wave and knowing you’re going to fall, try to fall backwards or to the side. Don’t fall forward as you’ll be put in the board’s bonk zone. If you’re just starting out and are still getting down the basics of balance and motion, don’t go out where a large crowd of people are. While sometimes it’s nice to be near others when you’re learning, with a paddleboard this can be dangerous. Being mindful just means being aware of both yourself and your surroundings.
9) Fall and get back up
Improving at surfing means falling a lot. This is double for paddleboarding where the threat of falling is constant. Don’t worry about the number of times you fall, just make sure the number of times you get back up on the board is the same number. And if you’re feeling a little down about falling just remember… it’s falling with style.
Now get out there and have fun!
After mastering these tips and tricks, your paddleboarding experience will be a wholly improved one. When learning these, try to boil them down to a few key factors. There’s your equipment, your physicality, and your awareness. Improving in small ways on these key aspects will allow you tremendous gain in your skill in no time.
Make sure to visit our paddle board homepage to get some reviews of our favorite paddle boards on the market!