Fast-growing stand up paddleboarding (SUP) offers a fun, relaxing way to play on the water. With a minimum of equipment, you can paddle anything from ocean surf to lakes and rivers—no waves required.
SUP offers a full body workout and has become a favorite cross-training activity for outdoor enthusiasts. And since you're standing at your full height, you'll enjoy views of everything from sea creatures to what's on the horizon.
You need just a few key pieces of equipment to enjoy this sport:
Shop REI's selection of paddleboarding gear.
How do you transport a SUP board (or boards) on your vehicle? Our video gives you the basics:
If your SUP board has a built-in handle, carrying it is a breeze. Just lean the board on its rail (edge), reach for the handle and tuck the board under one arm. Carry your paddle with the other hand.
For longer distances—or if your board has no handle—you can more easily carry your paddleboard on your head. Here's how:
When you're learning the sport, it's best to start out in ideal conditions: flat, calm water that's free of obstacles like boats and buoys.
Some beginners find it easier to kneel on the board rather than to stand directly upright. Here are the steps to get you started:
Once you're ready, stand up on the board one foot at a time. Place your feet where your knees were. You might also bring a friend to wade out about knee-deep with your board. Have your friend stabilize the board as you get the hang of standing on it.
To maintain your balance as you stand upright on the board:
Once you've practiced balancing on the board in flat water, it's time to take off on a paddleboarding excursion—where the real fun begins. Here are some pointers for trying out the basic paddleboarding stroke.
There are several easy ways to turn a paddleboard.
Stand up paddleboarding is relatively easy to learn, but expect to take the occasional fall as you're gaining skills. For those inevitable times you lose your balance:
These mistakes are easy to make when you're starting out. Try to avoid them and you'll have a lot more fun on the water:
Once you've mastered the basics, there's almost no limit to the watery worlds you can explore on your stand up paddleboard. Play in the waves and ocean surf, carve turns or learn new strokes. You might find yourself wanting a narrower, more maneuverable board as you become more adept.
Meanwhile, get out there, enjoy the view and have a great time on your SUP!
Q: Do I need waves in order to paddleboard?
A: Even though paddleboards look like oversized surfboards, you don't need waves in order to enjoy this self-propelled sport. In fact, flat water is preferred for building your paddleboard skills.
Q: Where can I rent a board?
A: Most surf shops that sell paddleboards also rent them. It's a great way to test out the sport before you commit to buying.
Q: What size paddleboard is best for me?
A: The choice is determined by a combination of paddler weight and skill, your intended use and the local conditions. Talk to an REI store employee for help with choosing the right paddleboard for you.
Q: Why does the paddle have an angle?
A: The elbow in a paddle provides a more powerful, effective stroke. When you're paddling, the elbow causes the paddle blade to align straight up and down as it comes alongside the paddleboard.
Q: What should I wear for paddleboarding?
A: Wear clothing that lets you move and that can get wet: shorts and a T-shirt or a swimsuit work well in warm climates. In cold weather when hypothermia is a danger, consider a wetsuit or drysuit. Always wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device).
Q: Do I need to wax the top of the paddleboard?
A: Most paddleboards sold at REI have a traction pad attached to the top of the board. These provide reliable grip and should not be waxed. If you choose a paddleboard that doesn't have such a pad or soft-top, you'll need to use a base wax and a grip wax (such as Sticky Bumps) to provide traction.
Q: How do I transport the board on my car?
A: You can transport your paddleboard on the roof rack of a car. It's best to use a bar pad on the rack in order to protect the board. Be sure to stack the board on the roof with the fin up, towards the front. Use surf-specific straps that won't crush the foam on the board when you strap it down.
Watch the Expert Advice video for tips on transporting watercraft.
Q: Can the fins on a paddleboard be removed?
A: The fins on underside of the board help with navigating through the water. They can be removed for travel and storage, but you won't want to paddle without them.
Q: Where is the best place to stand on a paddleboard?
A: Stand just behind the center point of the board. The nose (front) of the board shouldn't pop out of the water, and the tail shouldn't dig in.
Q: Can I take a paddleboard in rivers?
A: Yes, you can paddleboard almost any navigable body of water.
Q: Can you surf with a paddleboard?
A: Yes, but learn to surf in an empty break before you enter the lineup. When you get good, remember to share the waves!
Q: What does a full paddleboarding setup cost?
A: Depending on which models you choose, the cost of a board and paddle ranges from about $1,100 to $2,100. Take a look at REI's online selection of paddleboard gear.
Contributors: Leland Ching, Lea DeJarlais, Dustin Kingman, Joel Oerter, Jason Sutherland.
By Kelly Huffman
Read Author Bio
Last updated: 11/07/2013
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