Are you a SUP noob?
Standup paddle boarding (SUP) is a fun relaxing and rewarding way to play on water. Relatively gear free, you can get out on the water, playing in river, or lakes or coastal waters. Stand up paddle boards (SUP) offer a fun, relaxing way to play on the water. With a minimum of gear, you can paddle ocean surf or placid lakes and rivers. And the advent of good quality inflatable paddle boards (inflatable SUP) means that you no longer need a garage to store your own SUP.
It’s well known that SUP is great for both physical and mental health. It delivers a full-body workout and has become a popular cross-training activity. In fact, that’s how modern SUP evolved: The great Laird Hamilton was looking for more fun ways to cross train when there was no surf or wind, and modern SUP was born. And compared to other paddlesports, it works the core muscles more rigorously because of the standing position, and you have the benefit of the views that come with a standing position.
So, what do you need to get on the water?
The good news is, you don’t actually need much gear to get on the water. You need just a few key pieces of equipment to enjoy SUP. It’s fair to say that although you don’t need much kit, the kit you do need costs several hundred pounds. Therefore, you might want to try hiring some kit from a local hire centre, or join one of the ever growing number of clubs before you buy. If you want to find a friendly SUP club or centre, to try a range of kit you’d do worse than looking at the new SUPhubUK maps to find your nearest school or club.
However, should you already know that SUP is your ideal sport and pastime, this is what you need.
There’s a bewildering array of boards available, and the type of board you need depends on the type of environment you’ll be paddling in, and your shape, size and skill. Simply put, the heavier you are, and the less competent you are, the bigger the board you need. See our other blogs for advice on whether you should go for an inflatable SUP or a hard paddle board, things you should know before buying a SUP and for advice on what size SUP board you need.
You can get a paddle for as little as £40 or even for free with some cheap SUP packages. But these are typically heavy, poor quality alloy paddles, which are hard work, tiring and in some cases simply plain dangerous. Make sure you buy fibre glass or carbon fibre paddles. You have a choice of adjustable or fixed length paddles. For beginners, we always recommend an adjustable paddle. It often takes several sessions to figure our how long you need your paddle (it’s quite a personal decision), and different paddling environments require different length paddles. A decent adjustable paddle will only weigh 100g more than a fixed paddle, and will give you much more flexibility as you develop.
PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
There is a very active debate as to whether you need a PFD in SUP. PFD are commonplace in paddlesports, and less commonplace in surfsports. We won’t get drawn further on this matter, but you should consider whether you need a PFD, and this will be driven by the environments you will be paddling in. Assume you do need a PFD, and not requiring a PFD is the exception!
In the middle of UK winter, you might need a dry suit or a winter Wetsuit. In the summer, you might only need a pair of boardshorts and a rashie or t-shirt. Be aware that it's often more exposed on the water than on shore, and windchill has a significant impact if you've had a dunking. The general rule is you need clothing that is flexible and moves with you, but keeps hypothermia at bay.
All good boards with throw in a leash with the board, but not all of the leashes are good. This is an essential piece of safety kit, and the type of leash you need depends on the paddling you’ll be doing. For most general SUP, a coiled 10ft leash is spot on. If you’re going to be trying surf SUP, a straight leash is better, and if you’re getting into river WW SUP, then you need a specialist quick release leash. People have drowned in rivers because they’ve had the wrong kind of leash. But this is only important at the performance end of the spectrum. Most general paddlers will not need anything other than a coiled 10ft leash.
Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. And maybe a hat. Especially if you’re fair. The water really reflects the sun!
SUP Techniques on the Water
Getting on the SUP
When you’re new to the sport, it’s best to start out in flat, calm water that’s free of obstacles (like other watersports users, boats and buoys!) It make sense to progress to your knees before trying to stand up! But, if you want to stand up paddle board, this is how you do it:
- Standing alongside the board in shallow water, place your paddle across the deck of the board and use it as an outrigger. The paddle grip is on the rail (edge) of the board; the blade rests on the water.
- Hold the board by the rails. One hand will also be holding the paddle grip.
- Climb onto the board in a kneeling position, just behind the center point of the board.
- From that kneeling position, get a feel for the balance point of the board. The nose shouldn’t pop up out of the water and the tail shouldn’t dig in.
- Keep your hands on either side of the board to stabilize it.
- 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 help stabilize the board as you get the hang of standing on it.
Staying on the SUP
To maintain your balance as you stand upright on the board:
- Your feet should be parallel, about hip-width distance apart, centred between the board rails (edges). Don’t stand on the rails.
- Keep toes pointed forward, knees bent and your back straight.
- Balance with your hips—not your upper body.
- Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright, and shift your weight by moving your hips.
- Your gaze should be level at the horizon. Avoid staring at your feet.
- Much like bicycling, when your forward momentum increases, your stability increases as well.
Once you’re comfortable balancing on the board in flat water, it's time to take off on a longer excursion—where the real fun begins.