So you want to learn about stand up paddleboarding?
Updated: Jun 28
The activity of stand up paddleboarding (SUP) has increased in popularity huge amounts since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in Britain. Sales shot up and waiting lists for boards increased to months as people found themselves at home with much more free time on their hands and wanting to do the most socially distanced sport.
Myself included - I bought one last July after having a couple of lessons and now I'm hooked! It's a great activity that I can do with my friends and family. Paddling, such as kayaking, canoeing, and SUP, is good for you. The health benefits of paddling include releasing the stresses of the week, or working your heart a little without overdoing it. Since taking up the sport, I've had lots of friends ask me for advice about the sport. So read on for some advice if you're thinking about taking it up.
Have some lessons
Firstly I would definitely recommend having some lessons. Get training from a British Canoeing recommended provider. Now that lockdown is over, things are opening up again - including instruction. You might find it's not the sport for you. As my husband did. Bless him, he managed to stand for 3 seconds but his shape and his preference is more built for kayaking and he has now bought a kayak so we can go out together. A quick google will show you lessons nearby and it's a great idea to get expert advice from a professional. Things like getting back on the board if you fall off - more tricky than it looks (hint: you have to kind of 'swim' onto the board).
Join an online group
I joined a couple of groups on Facebook based near where I live in Suffolk; East of England Paddlesports, which has over 7,000 members and is a group for people to share all things watersports related in the East of England, such as trips, products, locations, questions, sales and so on. I also joined the River Deben Paddlers, as this is the closest river to me. See a blog post about paddling on the Deben. This is a fab group (not club) with a shared interest in paddling SUP/sit on tops/kayaks and canoes on the River Deben. This is where I find all my information about paddle launch sites and info. I would highly advise joining something like this so you can find out paddle spots, where to avoid angry swans and get inspired by other peoples' awesome sunrise paddle photos. (Sunrise and sunset are my favourite paddles!)
Join a club
As well as an online group you might want to join a proper club too. The club nearest me is the Deben Canoe Club. Paddling clubs can teach you new canoeing skills, kayaking skills, or SUP skills. They are a great way of learning about new places to explore, and meeting like-minded paddlers.
Kit and board
Regarding a board, you will need to do your own research on this, as it is a personal preference as well as cost factors. I went for an inflatable Two Bare Feet Entradia (Allround XL) 10'10" as it was extra wide and I felt I needed the stabililty! I also went for the SUP starter pack as it had everything I needed. But there are loads on the market. Once you have your SUP there's not a great deal you need. In fact, a lot of SUPs come in packages including a paddle, storage/transport bag, fins, leash, repair kit and hand pump. If you have these you will just need a personal floatation device (PFD) and dry bag. You may want to upgrade to an electric pump in the future.
What to wear
This is probably the question I get asked the most. I have a shorty wetsuit and a full length wetsuit, both 3mm. If you search on your local group you will probably find lots of advice on this subject. I wore a wetsuit to begin with to keep me warm when I fell in, but I don't really any more as (touch wood) I don't tend to fall in any more so in the autumn/early winter I wear leggings, a base layer, a top and a waterproof jacket. In proper winter I add in a fleece, a woolly hat, neoprene gloves, socks and boots. But in the summer I just wear a swimming costume with shorts and tshirt over the top. Always a buoyancy aid too. You don't need huge amounts of clothes. If you want a wetsuit you can get them for not too much money.
When paddling make sure you do your research and take sensible precautions. Paddle sport is a risk based activity. Here are some things you should research and ensure you do:
Wear a buoyancy aid and appropriate clothing. The water is usually cold and if you capsize/fall in, you may suffer cold water shock.
Make sure you can swim, this is quite important if you are going to be out on the water. You can learn to swim as an adult, there are lots of classes around.
Check the weather conditions and tide times. I always make sure I check the weather forecast and tide times before I set out - I use TideTimes.org.uk and the app Windy. I also recommend the app What3Words which lets you share your exact location – even if you’re in the middle of the sea or on a remote river. See my blog post about keeping safe around water with children for more water safety tips.
Carry out a dynamic risk assessment before you paddle. As they say in the River Deben Paddlers group, if in doubt - don't go out!
Try not to paddle alone, go with a friend or a group if you can to stay safe.
Carry a mobile phone in a waterproof case.
Paddleboarding with the family
Getting the family involved can be a great way to bond. It gets children outside and on the water. You can boost your mood just by being outside. It also gives the family exercise, which is good for you! It can help you boost your mood and can tackle depression and anxiety too. Plus if you exercise on or near water and greenery it has been shown to reduce depression and anger, as well as improve confidence. The peace and tranquility of paddling along is good for the mind and soul.
If taking out the family, make sure you have a lot of drinks and snacks in your dry bag. Speak to them about SUP safety and make sure everyone knows the things to do. Prepare your troop for wobbles and falls. Keep it fun by falling off on purpose if the weather is nice! Take lots of pictures and videos as well that you can keep as momentos.
Do you go paddleboarding? Is it something you would like to try? Let me know in the comments.