Paddling a Stand-Up Paddleboard is quite easy. If you have good balance and understand basic bio-mechanics an awesome SUP experience can be had right from the get-go. Why would anyone need lessons? It’s just Stand UP and Paddle, right? It’s all in the name! Well anyone who has tried it knows that mastering the sport is challenging and can take a while to achieve perfection. One key to mastering SUP can be following a concept that I am going to call the LTD project.
LTD here has 2 meanings
1: Living the Dream. This is a concept of fulfilling a desire, or dream, by engaging in the dream as a lifestyle.
2: Long Term Development. This is having sufficient time and a proper progression so a skill is learned efficiently and effectively.
I have been “Living the Dream” for years. Paddling for me has been a lifelong activity. It has provided a hobby, an adventure, a fitness plan, a social network of friends and a job. Over the past 50 years I have paddled canoes, kayaks, rafts and SUPs. It’s all good! I now have a Long-Term student whose dream is to become an American Canoe Association SUP instructor.
The boards are designed to go straight, thanks to the fin at the tail, but making it go straight without switching sides every couple of strokes is challenging. Learning to make it go any other direction, besides straight, is not intuitive. Many boards are wide, making them stable, BUT moving your feet, even a tiny bit can be real scary. Many new paddlers develop “epoxy foot” a serious condition in which the feet WILL NOT MOVE. If they do move, the paddler feels they will instantly fall off. Learning the nuances of paddle dexterity seems simple enough, yet without some explanation of how to do it effectively and efficiently, the beginner may bumble along using whatever stroke technique moves the board. Learning and understanding the bio-mechanics of core and extremity movements all while balancing on a tippy board can challenge anyone!
Taking lessons from a good instructor will help jumpstart your SUP technique and allow you to skip over rude habits that may be hard to break. There’s an old saying that Practice Makes Perfect. We have found that Practice Makes PERMANENT. So, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect! Learn the right technique early on and then practice. Then get more coaching to be sure you are on the right track.
This video is an example of basic Level 1 SUP control. The student, Riely Cranford our niece, has paddled exactly 3 times. Days 1 and 2 were a mix of lessons with a tour around a local lake. Riely was given instructions then coached on her technique with lots of constructive feedback and time to reflect. Day 3 we shot this video. Not shown in this video were skills she learned while falling off and getting back on the board.
Pay attention to how her board moves, how her body engages and how she uses her paddle. She balances over the centerline of the board and deftly moves her feet to adjust for best efficiency to move the board in the desired direction. She plants the paddle firmly in the water then pulls, pushes or pries allowing her to then move the board with her feet. Once the stroke power is complete she releases and recovers the paddle, preparing for the next stroke. Each of these steps are simple enough yet require good instruction to get right, especially the first time.
Notice also that we set her up for success with the proper equipment. A comfortable, stable, wide board and a light, efficient paddle make all the difference in the world when learning to paddle an SUP.
Easy enough that you don’t “need” lessons? Think again, especially if you want to learn to do it right!