Stand-up paddleboarding isn’t that easy. It’s taken me a fair few goes, probably ten excursions, to get the knack of it. I haven’t been pushing myself so I’m sure if you were super keen you could get the skill quicker. Plus I learnt on a less than absolutely rigid inflatable board. On a stiff board it’ll be easier. What’s certainly true is that if you read the below you will learn a lot faster than I did.
Because a paddleboard looks very like a surf board I thought standing up on it would be like standing up on a surf board. Wrong.
Because you paddle it with a single bladed paddle I thought it would be like paddling a Canadian canoe. Wrong.
Paddleboarding has a skill entirely it’s own- but once you get it, it’s great. My breakthrough was this: think of a gondalier leaning on his great long pole- that’s the right mental image for interacting with the paddleboard paddle. Think of it as your third leg…then you’ll be really stable. Stand facing foward leaning right out on the long paddle. Angle the board with your feet, against your push, kind of like the way you angle a windsurfer against the force of the wind. That angle between the third leg and the two on the board is how you brace against the power of the push.
You can practice this by kneeling in a high up position on the board and imagining each toe-to-knee length as a giant foot and your thighs as your entire legs. You can then practice leaning out on the paddleboard way over the edge, angling the board and generally getting the feel of the thing before you wobble up to a standing position.
As you pick up speed it gets easier of course- like riding a bike.
As you make paddle strokes the paddling image should not be predominantly forwards- instead think of pulling towards the side of the board, sweeping in a sort of ‘C’, or even just towards yourself as if trying to make the board go sideways. With the board angled by standing a bit to one side, the result will be forward movement but no spinning, which is what happens if you paddle as if in a canoe.
You’re going to fall in- a lot- and being of a wimpy nature I donned a thin short wetsuit and put in my trusty ‘Dr’s pro-plugs’ ear protectors which I swear by for diving and other watery activities. Basically they are musicians’ ear plugs adapted by freedivers to slow rushes of water banging your eardrums. They’ll reduce discomfort and also the chance of an ear infection.
I found that it was easiest to practice with the wind behind me and riding in on gentle (very gentle) surf. Probably even easier with no surf and just the wind pushing you. The wind helps keep your speed up.
When it clicks it’s addictive!