What Makes a Great SUP Paddle Boarding Experience?

Five Things New (and some experienced) SUP PaddleBoarders May Not Know

The SUP paddle boarding experience gains new fans on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter how you approach the sport, or even how you were introduced to it, there are several things you should know about paddle boarding that are not only important but with this knowledge, will keep you coming back again and again. So here’s a brief list of things you should know about SUP paddle boarding that not every knows – but should.

One: Get a Lesson
I know that there are quite a few of you that regard yourself as athletes. You can just jump on a board, you believe, and your fitness prowess will get you to where you need to go. Not so fast. Paddle boarding is an acquired skill that does take practice. As witnessed in this video below, taken from the four week special series call Draft Academy produced by ESPN that highlights pre-draft candidates as they prepare for the NFL, paddle boarding is not as effortless as it appears.

You should note that these men, in far better shape than most of us, can barely function on liquid. They are so confident in their innate abilities that they assume that each sport will be a natural fit. Get a lesson – it will make the experience much more enjoyable.

Two: Wear Your PFD and Leash
Back to that video and you’ll notice that none of these athletes wore a personal floatation device (PFD) or a leash. Experienced paddle boarders will argue that they were so close to shore, known as the surf zone, that a PFD is not required. They would be right. So, why they should bother? Think of your PFD as your water borne seatbelt. You may never need it but you should get in the habit of wearing it.

I did a piece a short while back about PFDs but when I was discussing this with an experienced SUPer recently, I found out that he had never hooked up the CO2 charge, the one that inflates the device. If you have one, hook it up now. If you are purchasing a PFD, like the Boardworks Inflatable Belt Pack PFD, make sure your canister is activated.

One last word about leashes: Unless you are SUPing on white water, the leash is an absolute must.

Three: Know How to Swim
Your own confidence in your skills can be tested with each new thing you might try. Swimming is not only something you need to know, but something you need to do well before getting on a paddle board. Water temperatures and depth and fatigue are often under-considered by even experienced SUPers. You need to be able to self-rescue (get back on your board) or help someone else in distress.

Four: Know the Rules of the Water
Although I will discuss these safety rules of the water in another post, as a paddle boarder you are considered a vessel or a boat. You will need to be prepared for other vessels, know how to react, how to dress, what to carry, and of course, what you can expect from the elements.

Five: Avoiding the Temptation to Bargain Hunt Your First SUP Paddle Board
As a nation of consumers we are divided into two camps. There is the first camp, the consumer who will pay less for a lesser quality item that will have a limited life and the second camp, the consumer who is willing to pay more, even if they have to save a little longer, to get an item that will last. It is the old disposability versus durability argument. This “buy cheap” has made its presence known in the world of paddle boarding as the big box retailers enter into the discount marketplace.

If you are new to the sport, introduced at some waterside resort, the board you were given, even if it seems to be off-the-rack, is better than most bargain boards purchased at big box stores. Sure, those resort boards are nothing special but they are built for durability and for use with a variety of body types. Big box store retailers are interested in the sale and not in your intended use, your skill level, or even your size. One of these retailers actually suggested that a bargain basement board was suitable for a person weighing 300 lbs. When we did the calculations, the board, based on the volume numbers [link to how volume is calculated] was actually better suited for someone weighing about 180 lbs.

If you are unsure of which type of board you need, rent. This is an excellent way to get introduced to not only a reputable SUP dealer but a salesperson who will can match you to the right board. Box stores differentiate their selections by price. A reputable dealer will focus on your skill, your size, and where you want to paddle. This is the difference between a board you want to use and one that will decorate your garage for years.

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