Have you been looking for a simple explanation, tutorial, or guide on how to SUP or stand-up-paddleboard? Then you have come to the right place! This is SUP 101 where we have simplified everything you need to know to go out on the water, be safe, and have a good time paddling! This article was written by USMC veteran watersports instructor, Clinton Cimring.
Always adjust the height of the paddle before you get into the water. It should be as tall as one of your relaxed outstretched arms or 6-inches above your head. This will allow you to dig the paddle about 1-foot-deep into the water. You don’t want it to be too long or too short.
Always wear your life vest or attach it to the front of the board. Never put it in the back – it will create drag in the water and you won’t be able to reach it in case of emergency. Our friend and pro paddler Andres Pombo from Miami drowned as a result of not wearing a life-jacket (PFD) or using his leash.
Always wear the leash for the board around your ankle. You may attach it before or after you put the board in the water.
10 Commandments of SUP Paddleboarding:
Rule #1: Never place the board fin side down. When beaching the board always flip it around, so that the fin faces the air. When you need to carry it into the water, carry it from the back – there will usually be a piece of string there where the leash attaches – you can hold that to drag it along the sand. Then flip it back around. You may attach the leash at this point if you would like.
Rule #2: Know how to use the paddle. This is a little counter-intuitive. It’s usually the opposite of what you think. You want to scoop the water rather than push against it. To do this you will face the angled part towards you, so the water glides off more easily. To turn, you will place the paddle in the water towards the back of the board in the direction you want to turn in and push (pushing right will turn the board right).
Left Turn: with paddle on the left-side of board and in-line with your feet, push the paddle to 9 o’clock. The nose will turn left.
Right Turn: with paddle on the right-side of board and in-line with your feet, push the paddle to 3 o’clock. The nose will turn right.
A stop is similar to a hockey stop. You will place the paddle backwards in the water behind you to create as much resistance as possible and then push straight forward.
Rule #3: Start out kneeling on the board. Place your knees next to either side of the handle in the middle of the board. Place the paddle in between your knees. Then take the paddle and begin paddling.
When you hold the paddle in the kneeling position your front / top hand will hold the paddle in the middle (not the top handle). Your bottom / back hand will hold the paddle towards the bottom above the water. Your thumb of the top hand will point down towards the water and thumb of your bottom hand will always face up towards the sky when kneeling.
Rule #4: When you get some momentum going you can try standing up. Stand with one leg first and then the other leg. You will also stand on either side of the handle.
You will hold the paddle differently when standing. Hold the paddle with the front / top hand at the very top of the handle (it is a handle). You might notice that it curves to fit your grip. Your bottom / back arm will-hold the paddle in the middle. Your bottom arm should always remain outstretched and straight – do not bend it. Move your body from your waist and shoulders and pull with your back like canoeing rather than rowing a boat.
Rule #5: Expect to fall off, but try to aim away from the board so you don’t land on it and break an arm falling. It happens to 2 out of every 3 beginners. It is very unlikely that you will not fall in your first or second attempt, so be prepared to get wet! Knowing this, be sure to also know that a dry bag is not water proof. Put key fobs, cell phones, and other electronic devices inside of water tight pouches or cases NOT zip-lock bags. Wear those pouches around your neck or put them inside a dry bag and attach it to the bungee cords on the board. We cannot tell you how many times we have seen these items sink to the bottom of the ocean. If you have sunglasses, make sure you have straps / cords / bands attached to them. Anticipate that whatever you take with you on a paddle will fall in and sink!
Rule #6: Expect the unexpected as there is a chance you can step on something at the bottom of the ocean if you decide to walk alongside your board. There are both poisonous and non-poisonous sea urchins that live in the intracoastal not to mention sting rays, which will both sting you if you step on them. There are also oysters, clams, and anchors that you may also step on. If you do have to walk on the sand at the bottom of the ocean we recommend wearing water shoes and stepping very lightly.
Rule #7: Boats have the right of way. If you see one coming don’t try to outrun it – they will always win. Stand up, and give them a Shaka hang-loose or thumbs up, but do not waive because they may think you are in trouble.
Rule #8: Know water safety signs.
- All safe: The sign for safe is to reach up and touch your head with the fingers of the free hand not holding the paddle.
- Help: The sign for help is to waive or hold your paddle up in the air.
- Danger: a fist extended right out in front of you.
- Shark: a karate chop hand on your chest or head like a shark fin.
Rule #9: Do not leave your group. If you get stuck in a RIP current do not paddle against it. Let it carry you out a bit and paddle parallel to it until you are in line with where you need to be.
If you encounter waves or wake from boats drop to the kneeling position and face either your nose or back of the board towards the waves. Try not to let the waves hit your board parallel, otherwise they might knock you off.
Avoid docks and piers at all costs since a RIP current will form around those objects.
Rule #10: Do not bother sea life. This is illegal and the crime is called “molestation.” Feeding manatees or giving them fresh water is illegal because it domesticates them and encourages them to come up to boats, which can kill them. If you encounter a shark do not panic. They are very intelligent and do not eat humans. Shark bites are always accidental. Even if they were starving they would probably not eat us since we do not taste very good to them. If a shark comes close to your board it is probably just exploring. Feel free to ignore it.
Please remember that Stand-up-paddleboarding (SUP) is an actual sport similar to surfing. It requires physical strength, stamina, and endurance as well as proper nutrition and hydration. Many participants compare it to skiing or snowboarding and can be just as challenging, so be prepared, but also have fun! You will most likely be paddling in clam waters in the intracoastal and will have the opportunity to encounter beautiful marinelife!
-Clinton Cimring, US Marine Corps Ret. Raider