Stand up paddle boarding – SUP – has been around for centuries or longer, but it’s recently become one of the largest and fastest-growing outdoor activities in the U.S. In 2014 alone, Americans went out more than 13 million times for a paddle, according to the American Canoe Organization.
So what is it?
Think flat water canoeing, but you’re standing – hello, abs.
Throw in a little kayaking maneuverability and you’re really on board. Find a wave, be it on a river or ocean, and you’re riding the current of where the sport is heading, picking up fishing, yoga, and adventure travel along the way.
SUP is an amazing core exercise and an engaging way to enjoy being outside, but before you jump into the break at Waikiki or hop on a tour of icebergs off the coast of Alaska, you might want to take a leisurely float around that glassy calm lake or pond up the street.
We pulled pro SUP surfer and Badfish SUP ambassador Vanessa Taylor out of the water long enough get the low down on how to get started.
1) Flat out easy
“The first thing I would do is rent a board and find some flat water,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t have to be anything big. I actually learned on a pond behind my house.”
She suggests getting a longer, flat water specific board over shorter, surf or whitewater shapes. “They’re going to be more stable.”
2) Paddle, paddle, paddle
“Adjust the paddle length so it’s about eight to 12 inches above your head,” Taylor said. Most SUP paddles have a scoop shape to the blade, and you want that sloping away from you. Nestle your fingers into the T-grip handle. “You want your fingers to go in the indentation,” Taylor said. Try to paddle with your core, not your arms.
3) Board launch
“I would start off on my knees and make sure I’m balanced,” Taylor said. “Go out and take a couple of paddle strokes. You’re going to be paddling on both sides.”
4) Stand up and paddle board for your rights
Find a somewhat crawling position on all fours and prepare to stand up with your paddle secured by your hands and laid horizontally across the board. “When you feel comfortable, hop up,” Taylor said.
5) Smooth sailing
“Make sure you’re adjusted and you’re feeling balanced,” Taylor said. “Now you’re going to straighten your back, keeping your knees bent just a tiny bit for stability and balance.”
She suggests taking about five to eight paddle strokes on each side. “You can think of it as another contact,” she said. “You definitely have more stability when you’re paddle is in the water. It’s called a brace.”
Hot tip: How deep should you dig? Taylor says submerging about 80 percent of the blade in the water is ideal “And when you’re pulling back, something to remember is to not go past your feet.”