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The ABCs of Stand-Up Paddleboarding: What You Need to Know

Laurie Bartek
October 2, 2016
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From the mouth of a Baby Boomer who has taught stand-up paddle boarding, owned more boards than I care to count, worked in paddle board shops and kibitzed with the best around, there are a few simples steps you need to take before “walking on water.” Well, maybe more of a Zen float that’s great exercise for us water-loving athletes.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • A paddle board
  • A safety leash (non-negotiable)
  • A life vest or life belt (non-negotiable)
  • A paddle.

QUESTIONS TO ASK

SUPTwo primary questions will drive a lot of your decision-making around paddle boarding. How often will I paddle? Where will I paddle? Your answers will help the individual you are purchasing from narrow down your choices.

ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH AND TALK TO AN EXPERT

A knowledgeable instructor or savvy paddleboard shop owner in your town or city will be your best bet. Make a list of what you think you like. You will learn a lot as you start speaking the lingo, especially with friends and family who are already addicted.

TAKE A CLASS

This is SUPer important. You will learn the basics and get to try a number of boards before you commit to buying. There are so many options, ranging from inflatables to fiberglass/epoxy, all in varying lengths and widths that it’s best to try before you buy. Larger cities have a plethora of board owners and well-seasoned paddlers. Everyone wants to share their information. Just ask.

paddle board chickFIND A PADDLE BOARDING MEET-UP GROUP

Do an internet search on paddle boarding groups in your area. Watch YouTube videos of those who have pioneered the sport. Laird Hamilton, Suzie Cooney, Dave Kalama, Larry Cain, and Nikki Gregg, just to name a few.

START ANY CONVERSATION WITH: DO YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO IS PADDLE BOARDING? 

How can I get in touch with that person? The community is open, friendly and quick to point you in the right direction.

SUPing is great exercise, too, for both novice and experience paddlers. Two recent studies published by the American Council on Exercise concluded, “A key takeaway from these studies is that stand-up paddle boarding is a unique way to incorporate healthy activity in your life, and the better you get at it, the more health benefits you see,” according to Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, PhD.

No matter what your goals, stand-up paddle boarding offers a fun, relaxing way to play on water ranging from lakes to rivers to the ocean. The culture is hip, friendly and adventurous. And before too long, I promise the feeling of ”loco” will turn to “Ah yes, I can see and think clearly now.”

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