A beginner’s guide to sup

I’ve well and truly caught the SUP bug lately and I’m loving every minute of it. SUP – or Stand Up Paddle-boarding – is one of the fastest growing water sports, and there are lots of good reasons why SUP is so popular now!

Why SUP?

So, why are so many people taking up paddle-boarding? If you haven’t already considered trying it, here are just a few reasons why you should:

  • It’s suitable for all ages and athletic abilities – it’s family (and dog) friendly!
  • SUP is easy to learn – the basics are really simple and you can enjoy it sat down if you haven’t mastered standing
  • It’s fun and sociable – a great way to meet people and enjoy your weekends
  • SUPing keeps you fit and gives you an all-over work out, especially on a windy day paddling upstream
  • It improves your balance, especially if you try your hand at SUP-yoga
  • There’s plenty of variety paddling on lakes, rivers and the sea
  • You can go touring and go on SUP adventures to explore the great outdoors
  • Inflatable SUPs are easier to transport than surf boards and SUP-surfing is a thing too!
  • It’s a relaxing activity that helps you unwind – there’s something so nice about chilling on the water.

But where do you start?

I’ve had lots of people asking me for tips and advice on paddle-boarding since I started. So, here are ten top tips for beginners:

  1. Take a lesson so you can learn the basics of SUP and see if you like it before you take the plunge and buy your own board
  2. Start on your knees to get a feel for the board – don’t attempt to stand straight away
  3. Learn how to paddle efficiently and how to turn your board – it saves you a lot of apologising for crashing into people on the water
  4. When you’re ready to try standing up, have a go when the board is moving – it’s more stable than a stationary SUP
  5. Learn to fall off a SUP safely and how to climb back on without help – it isn’t graceful and you’ll feel like a seal flopping back onto your board, but you need to master this skill
  6. Be prepared to get wet and fall in – SUP is a water sport, so you need to be able to swim and always wear a buoyancy aid to stay safe. Although you might be surprised at how little you actually fall in!
  7. Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature – cold water shock is a danger even on hot days, so you need to be wearing the right gear, like a wetsuit, if you’re SUPing in cold water
  8. Always attach your leash – if you fall off, you don’t want your board to float far away from you
  9. Take your phone in a waterproof pouch and keep it on you, not your board, just in case you ever need help in an emergency
  10. Have fun – you don’t have to be good at it. The most important thing is that you enjoy trying!

Ready to take it up a level?

If you’ve already tried SUPing and loved it as much as me, you might be thinking about getting your own gear. But don’t rush into it and buy the first SUP you see. Do your research and hire different SUP brands and sizes to see what you like most. There are so many different boards and bits of equipment out there for all needs and budgets. So, here are a few key considerations:

  • What is your main SUP goal? – If you just want to have fun paddling on all different bodies of water, a 10ft 6 all-round board might be best for you. But if you want to go exploring, a longer 13ft touring board is better
  • Get the right size – ask for advice from a SUP specialist. Depending on your height and weight, you might be better suited to a particular length and width board – a 32 inch wide SUP is more stable and easier to stand on than a 28 inch wide SUP too
  • The volume also makes a difference – a 4 inch deep SUP has less air volume and sits lower in the water than a 6 inch one which is more buoyant
  • Look for a SUP with drop stitch construction and heat-sealed seams – these boards are built with a special structure inside that helps keep them strong and stable when inflated and you’re less likely to get air leaks on the seams than a board that’s been glued instead
  • Get a SUP with a double-wall – 2 layers are stronger and less likely to be punctured than a single skinned board
  • Consider getting an electric SUP pump – the first time I pumped my board up by hand, I thought I was going to pass out. It was hard work and I had to put my full body weight on the pump, leaving me too worn out to paddle. An electric pump makes life so much easier.
  • Get a decent paddle – my board came with a paddle, but I already knew I would want to upgrade it when I can. Some paddles are heavier than others and sink, whereas a good carbon paddle is feather light, easier to paddle with, and will float if you fall in and drop it.
  • Don’t skip the buoyancy aid – think of it like a helmet when you’re riding a bike. It’s a safety essential!
  • Get a dry bag to store things in when SUPing – car keys, water bottle, sun cream etc
  • Invest in a wetsuit (or 2), so cold water won’t put you off SUPing. I got a full length 2/3mm wetsuit for spring and autumn, and a 2mm ‘shortie’ wetsuit for the summer too. Wetsuit shoes are also really helpful for launching your SUP on rocky shorelines.

Catch the SUP bug

When you’ve caught the SUP bug, you’ll want to get out on the water all the time. For safety, always try to go with someone else and if you’re ever unsure, ask the SUP community for help. There are lots of Facebook groups all about SUPing where you can get help and advice, or even find SUP socials to join in your local area to meet other SUPers.

Happy SUPing!! xx

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