Stand Up Paddling is the fastest growing watersport in the world for good reason. It is fun and accessible to a wide range of people on any body of water. In order to have the best possible experience during your paddle there are a number of factors you should keep in mind before your toes touch the shore.
How to Prepare for a Paddle
Prepare – Before you leave the shore always check your equipment and familiarize yourself with the layout of the area in which you plan to paddle. Make note of the weather – particularly the wind – and plan accordingly. Paddling upwind can be challenging even for experienced paddlers. If the water is cold or you are going on a longer paddle you may want to wear booties to keep your feet warm.
Safety First – Always paddle with a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), leash and whistle. The board is your largest flotation device and wearing a leash will ensure you do not become separated. Never underestimate a body of water. Even the strongest swimmers will be unable to catch their board if they become separated in open water or high winds. When paddling in low light conditions carry a light to remain visible to others on the water. Carry a cell phone or marine radio so you can call for help, if needed, and paddle with a buddy whenever possible – especially on a downwinder or open water paddle.
Protection – Ensure you are properly hydrated and protected from the sun. If you plan to be on the water for longer than 1.5 hours we recommend taking water. Many boards have bungees for securing a water bottle and small items. There are also a range of hydration packs designed for paddling. See SUP Examiner’s Gear Reviews for insights on the functionality of popular models.
Familiarize yourself with the area – Paddlers need to maintain a 360 degree awareness of their surroundings and position on the water at all times. Steer clear of other vessels. If you are in a marina, be sure to stay a safe distance from obstacles such as buoys and docks and avoid floating debris. Paddle safely and courteously by avoiding the center of the channel. Keeping to the right is a good rule of thumb. Remember, stand up paddlers are required to yield to all other boat traffic.
Avoid marine wildlife – The ocean is home to an abundance of marine wildlife. To ensure your safety and that of the wildlife do not disturb the marine creatures. Seals and sea lions can be regularly found sunning themselves on boat docks and dolphins and whales are commonly seen in the ocean. Enjoy them from a distance and never attempt to touch marine wildlife.
Control your board – Practice how to turn and stop in protected water before venturing out into the marina or ocean. Maintaining your balance is key when stand up paddling. Concentrate on keeping your eyes on the horizon. If you look down at your feet or board, chances are you will fall down. Use your core muscles to maintain stability and swivel at the hips when looking from side to side.
Know your limitations – Wind and boat wakes can catch you off guard and disrupt your balance. When encountering a boat wake, it is best to point your board directly into the wake and paddle. Paddling into the wake gives your board forward momentum which increases your stability as you pass through the rough water. If you become fatigued or feel unsafe, kneel on your board and choke down on your paddle. This will lower your center of gravity and enable you to paddle through and away from difficult situations.
Maintaining awareness of the topics highlighted above will keep you on track when it comes to how to prepare for a paddle. When it comes to improving your skills there is no substitute for spending time on the water. If you are looking to sharpen up your technique or ensure you do not pick up any bad habits, we recommended to take a lesson from a professional SUP instructor.
A few offerings we recommend looking into include: how to prepare for a paddle
Performance Paddling – Led by Anthony Vela, Performance Paddling is a Dana Point-based program offering a full range of training services and is the home of the highly regarded Performance Paddling Adult Training Club.
Paddle with Riggs – If you are visiting Maui and interested in learning the art of downwind paddling, Jeremy Riggs is among the best. He will expertly guide you down the famous Maliko gulch on an SIC open ocean board and ensure you have the trip of a lifetime.
SIC Glide Centers – SIC has a network of Glide Centers around with locations around North America and will be expanding the program to select locations around the globe in 2016. The Glide Centers offer lessons tailored for each location’s environment and give paddlers the opportunity to choose from the entire range of SIC boards. If you are looking for the SUP equivalent of taking a Ferrari out for a test drive, visiting a Glide Center is a bucket list worthy stop.
The Paddle Academy – Known throughout the West Coast by its initials, TPA, The Paddle Academy is a first class training program tailored specifically for young paddlers under the age of 18. Based in Dana Point, the TPA is a fitness and race oriented program akin to the little league of SUP and has been responsible for developing a number of talented young paddlers.
Elite Paddle Training – Sometimes known informally as “The Paddle Academy – South”, Elite Paddle Training is a San Diego-based program for young paddlers ages 8 – 18. They offer competitive level programs and skills training for young paddlers and are regularly seen competing at events along the West Coast.
Keep paddling and see you on the water! how to prepare for a paddle