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SUP Tips: Common Beginner Mistakes

Stand up paddleboarding is a highly rewarding activity that almost anyone can do. Learning the ropes is relatively easy compared to other boardsports and a bit more relaxed as well. But as with any sport, beginners need to acquire good habits and avoid bad ones. In this article, we list down some of the most common mistakes that beginner paddlers make. These mistakes must be avoided so that learners can start with good solid foundations. If you are ready, read on.

Before paddleboarding

Having the wrong equipment

With the number of choices out in the wild, it can be overwhelming for beginners to pick SUPs that fit their needs, skills, and budget. There are 2 general categories for SUPs, rigid boards are known for their better performance on the water and inflatable boards known for their portability and great general performance.

Different SUPing activities require different board sizes. Smaller boards are designed for paddle surfing and are thus more maneuverable. Longer boards are designed for long-distance paddling like touring. They are less maneuverable but are speedy. Finally, medium-sized boards are made to be great all-arounders which makes them perfect for beginners.

Not doing a thorough equipment check

Before you head out into the water and try out your board, it is important to inspect your equipment’s condition. First up, check that you have brought everything that you need with you. Check that you have a life jacket, leashes for the board and paddle, and an emergency whistle.

Next, check to see the condition of the board. If it’s a rigid board, look for cracks, or nicks all over. These can severely affect your performance on the water and may result in irreparable damage when left unchecked. If it is an inflatable one, check for leaks and tears. Also, check to see if the board maintains pressure and not deflating at an alarming rate.

Not scoping the area and checking the weather report

As the old saying goes “Know your enemy”. Make it a habit to always research the location you plan to SUP at. Know the specific features like water current, water temperature, depth, and how rocky the bottom can be. Search online forums and groups for more information. Chances are, people have been there before and therefore can give a fairly accurate assessment. As a beginner, never SUP in untested waters especially alone.

Knowing the weather condition is another vital step to do before heading out. The wind is one of your worst enemies out in the water. It will make balancing a tad more difficult if not outrightly impossible. Rain is another thing to watch out for. Make it a habit to check the weather on the days leading up to the trip, especially the night before. Ultimately weather forecasts aren’t foolproof so when in doubt, don’t head out.

While paddleboarding

Having incorrect paddle technique

Proper paddle handling and paddling technique is an important skill that a beginner must learn. To hold the paddle, position the paddle with the scoop facing forward. Then place your dominant hand slightly above the middle of the paddle shaft. Place the other hand at the opposite tip of the paddle (that forms a ‘T’).

To paddle correctly, always position the paddle perpendicularly with your board. Paddling at an angle is inefficient and will lose speed. Remember to engage your core when paddling. Your arms are merely to support and stabilize the paddle while it’s the core that gives power behind every stroke.

Incorrect body posture

Speaking of proper positioning, posture also affects your overall performance on the SUP. Incorrect posture can lead to inefficient paddling, unstable balance, and faster exhaustion. First, stand in the middle of the board to even out the balance. Next position your feet at hip-width apart and with one foot slightly forward.

Keep your knees at a slight bend to both act as shock absorbers as well as keep pressure off of your back. Keep both feet facing forward keeping your feet parallel with each other. Lastly, look straight ahead, Avoid always looking down. This position maximizes stability as well as efficiency.

SUPing alone or in crowded areas

These two extremes should be avoided especially for beginners. Never head out alone even if you are confident with your skills. Emergencies are always a possibility so someone should be present to lend assistance. If you are just learning the ropes, always go with experienced SUPers. They can coach you on your technique as well as know exactly what to do in cases of emergencies.

Likewise, stand up paddleboarding in crowded areas is a bad idea. First of all, there is a likelihood of you hitting others or others hitting you. The risk of injuries is high in these situations. Secondly, too many people can be very distracting which is something you don’t want when you are still learning. Too many stimuli can be overwhelming.

After paddleboarding

Letting your board sit under the sun

Whether it’s a solid board or an inflatable one, keeping the board in direct sunlight. The heat causes materials to expand. This could lead to cracks in solid epoxy boards or seam tearing inflatable ones. UV light also damages the paint job making the colors fade over time. Avoid this by always stowing your boards under the shade away from sunlight even if you intend to return to the water immediately.

Not doing safety checks after every session

Paddleboards, like most things, suffer normal wear and tear especially after use. This is why doing a once over check on the board after use is a great habit to form. Just like the pre-session inspection, check the boards for scratches, nicks, or tears. Also check the paddle for abrasions, cracks, and scratches. Then check your lifejacket’s straps, seams, and buckles. Take note of any damages and have them dealt with as soon as possible.

Storing the gear incorrectly

How you store your gear can make or break their lifespan. Improper storage can damage otherwise good gear. Before stowing, make sure to dry your boards thoroughly. Moisture is a nasty thing, especially saltwater. For inflatables, make sure the board is deflated as much as possible. Small pockets of air can make storing the board difficult and can even damage it if squeezed. Before strapping solid boards to your car roof be sure to position them correctly, The board should be upside down with the curve pointing downwards. This is to prevent the board from flying off when transporting.

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