Paddleboarding is the fastest growing watersport in the world; having worked as a SUP instructor in Uganda, the UK and now in Ireland, I wanted to share my six top tips on getting the most out of yourself and your paddleboard.
1/ fall in
The number one question that I am asked is ‘will I get wet?’
When I was teaching people to negotiate the rapids of the White Nile on a SUP the answer would always be a resounding ‘YES’, but the water was a cool twenty-six degrees … now most of my coaching is done on flat water and I will always answer, ‘You don’t have to fall in.’ And I really do believe that! You can reduce the chances of falling in to virtually zero – if you stick to your knees you will spend the entire time dry, at least from the knees up (unless you are very unlucky).
Falling in should not be seen as a fail – if you want to improve your paddleboarding you will have to get wet occasionally, the only way to find the limit of what you can accomplish and push those boundaries to the next level is to accidentally overstep them every now and again! In my experience, the people who I take out always improve a lot faster once they have fallen in for the first time.
2/ walk around
Once you are successfully stood up, realise that you can still move, you are not surgically attached to your board! If you reach the point where your feet are aching, take a moment to flex and stretch your toes. An even better approach is to start walking around your board, see how far up and down the board you can move and still paddle, you can even try paddling on one foot! This might seem like larking around but it will improve your balance and is always a great confidence boost when you surprise yourself with just what you can do. Chances are that you might fall off the first few times, but in that case, I would refer you back to point 1 …
3/ take some friends
Just like all watersports, paddleboarding is safer in numbers but that’s not the point I am making here. To get the most out of your time on the water – be social! Join a club, take your muggle (non-paddling) friends out on a taster session with a local SUP outfit and you can even do a riverside pub-crawl (alchohol free!) Tell your mates, ‘It’s good for the core’, not many people know what that actually means but it seems to be a great selling point nonetheless. Whether it’s just the two of you busting a gut racing each other to the next bridge or a big group of you playing around in a local beauty spot, paddleboarding is much better with company!
4/ swap boards
Don’t get bored of your board (had to be done, sorry). Trying out different boards will help to improve your fundamental skills; after all variety is the spice of life! Try a long thin racing machine and re-experience the nerves that you felt when first trying to stand up; alternatively have a go at paddling a slow, short and sinky wave SUP. Yes, you may feel uncomfortable at first but it will improve your balance and should help you to develop a more efficient stroke. You might even find another form of SUP to throw yourself into!
5/ go explore and then go explore SOME MORE
This one is so important that I had to say it twice. There is no excuse for not listening to this advice! I am not saying you have to get on a plane to the far corners of the earth, although that is fantastically worthwhile and remarkably easy (especially with an inflatable board). But I would remind you that the UK has hundreds of lakes, 2,200 miles of navigable canals and almost 20,000 miles of coastline. That is more watery exploration than can be done in a lifetime. Also, don’t forget the call of our watery neighbours in Ireland who have another 2,000 miles of jaw-dropping coastline. There is so much to explore, so, go explore and see the beauty of home from a completely new perspective.
6/ smile :)
Obvious but sometimes all too easily forgotten; smile often and enjoy it!
Paddleboarding has given me the chance to travel the world and work in some incredibly beautiful places. If you ever find yourself in Ireland then please come and visit us at Emerald Outdoors in Kenmare where you can paddleboard on the western tip of Europe, surrounded by mountains and seals. You can even try paddleboarding/kayaking by night and discover the wonders of bioluminescent sparkles that light up the water as you paddle …