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SUP tuition: level of stand up paddle boarder ability – level of SUP instructor.

Pics: Rapid Skills

This week, as you might know, is SUP Safety Week organised by the Above Water guys. The aim of SUP safety week is to raise awareness about all manner of stand up paddle boarding safety issues in light of unprecedented SUP kit sales in recent weeks.

With a cocktail of events – including people furloughed due to COVID19 having spare time, people having to stay closer to home as far as holidays/trips abroad go, and the recent good weather – people want to make the most of this summer. And many of them are keen to get outdoors on a SUP (particularly inflatables), meaning there are far more newbie paddlers than in recent years.

Many of these new paddlers have little prior knowledge of watersports and no memory bank of info relating to safety on the water. There are concerns that this could lead to issues such as increased numbers of riders needing rescue.

One way to avoid this is to get a lesson. Accredited stand up paddle board instructors will be able to show paddlers the ways and get them up and dipping blades efficiently, giving advice when and where it is safe to paddle as well as how to paddle safely.

There is one point to consider, however, if you’re in the mind of getting some coaching though. Much like stand up paddle boarding itself, SUP instructors have levels of experience themselves. Many instructors, possibly even the majority of instructors, are qualified to teach only the basics in a safe and controlled manner. Level 1 instructors, if we can call them that (different training bodies use different terms), are only qualified and insured to teach beginners in sheltered water environments, because of the limited experience they have. Should the elements conspire against you – which it often can in the UK, depending on Mother Nature’s moods – then chances are you could see postponement to your lesson and/or it cancelled altogether.

We’ve talked about wind, and paddling in it, with previous articles. But there are other elements – particularly if you’re coastal bound. Tide and wave/swell activity can also halt proceedings. Especially if you’re instructor in question isn’t qualified or experienced to coach within these environments.

Now don’t get us wrong. We’re not slating or criticising here – far from it – we’re not instructors ourselves so have no axe to grind. Anyone who’s taken the time to undergo training, get qualified and better themselves for the greater good of others should be commended – and most are on a training path to get more experience and be able to instruct in a wider range of conditions and environments. What we are saying is that if you want to stand the best chance of getting afloat and enjoying some coaching, whatever the conditions, then choose an instructor that has the right level of experience and qualifications for the type of paddling you want to do. This is especially the case if you’re wanting to develop your ability to get out and SUP in all weather post-series of lessons.

SUP is a versatile beast and much more than just flat, calm water. Paddling in wind, doing downwinders, SUPing on white water rivers and hucking drops, SUP surfing and so on are all paths you can follow. There’re are loads of avenues to branch off into with stand up paddle boarding. If taking things further than recreational paddling is in your mind then being able to develop skills under the watchful supervision of a more experienced instructor will see you make leaps and bounds. We’re not suggesting anybody go out and put themselves in harm’s way. But actually experiencing things like paddling into a headwind and knowing how to self rescue in waves, for instance, are things that can’t really be taught. You have to go through the process of it happening. Having someone close to hand who’s extremely familiar with what’s going on will only help you achieve this in as safe a manner as possible.

If you’re ambitious about your SUP future, there are instructors who are level 2 and level 3 who could take you out and give you important experience of all conditions. Do your research beforehand, and make sure you match your wants/needs with those coaches you’re considering and progress accordingly.

Happy and safe paddling!