How to Stand Up Paddle: The Ultimate Guide
Anyone who’s been to a lake in recent years will know it. The people who stand on their boards on the water and move around with a paddle. But is this a sport? And if so, is it a good workout? How does it work at all? Isn’t that totally shaky? If you’re wondering how you can be as cool as these paddlers, stay tuned and read through our answers to all of these questions.
What these paddlers have on their boards is not magic. It’s called Sport Stand Up Paddling or SUP for short. Here you will find detailed instructions with everything a beginner needs to know about SUP.
We explain how to choose the right SUP board, which clothes are appropriate, where to go stand up paddling and give practical tips for the first SUP tour.
This guide comes in four chapters:
- Part 1: Why Stand Up Paddling at all?
- Part 2: The perfect SUP Board
- Part 3: Equipment for Stand Up Paddling
- Part 4: Let’s go to the first tour
Let’s get in the car.
Part 1: Why Stand Up Paddle at all?
Stand Up Paddling is not only very popular with friends of water sports. Over the last years you could observe how more and more people liked SUP. There are a number of reasons for this:
It just feels great standing on the water. All around you only the waves are splashing. The view of the shore looks like from a boat you have all to yourself. Many types of boards are suitable for lakes, rivers, canals and even oceans (more about that later). Accordingly, there are hardly any limits to the adventurous spirit.
Stand Up Paddling is a demanding whole body workout. Arms and shoulders are strengthened the most. The constant fine, balancing movements and the constant turns ensure that the abdominal and deep muscles are also trained. Those who regularly do Stand Up Paddling will soon notice improvements in body tension.
What is particularly great about SUP is that joints and ligaments are spared with the right paddling technique (more on this later).
Makes fun – also in the group
Stand Up Paddling is a sport that can be extended at will. Competitions with and against other paddlers are just as possible as numerous fun games on the water. SUP Polo is available as well as SUP Frisbee, a variant of Ultimate Frisbee on a Stand Up Paddling Board.
Other water sports enthusiasts such as kayak and canoe riders or swimmers are not excluded, but are welcome to participate in the fun while respecting the safety of all participants.
There is something for everyone
Some people go on longer tours with their SUP boards. Others do yoga on their SUP boards. Still others go with dogs on SUP tour. Organized competitions for Stand Up Paddling already exist. There are many more things that people do with their Stand Up Paddling Board.
Who wouldn’t want to explore the Alster in Hamburg with the SUP or ride waves? Other people put a freezer on the board, take out the fishing rods and use the board for the next fishing trip.
Part 2: The perfect SUP Board
If you are leaving for your first tour, you should do so with the right SUP board. With the increasing popularity of Stand Up Paddling, the number of available products has multiplied.
It is difficult for beginners to navigate through the jungle of different models. The numerous characteristics and features of the individual boards initially seem intimidating. For this reason we want to help you to find a board for the first tours.
The perfect SUP board for beginners should be slightly wider to provide more stability. Most paddlers develop a good sense of keeping balance on the board in minutes to a maximum of one hour.
The board class of the all-rounders is therefore the best choice for beginners. The typical Allround board measures 320 cm x 80 cm with a thickness of 15 cm. The high buoyancy of the board ensures a safe stand, so that the first attempts are easier.
The Allround class literally stands for versatility. Boards of this class are suitable for tours, relaxed laps across the lake, family trips and, to a limited extent, also for SUP yoga and surfing.
In a separate article we have listed a number of excellent SUP boards for beginners. Most of them are beginner-friendly all-round boards.
Part 3: Equipment for Stand Up Paddling
The SUP Board is important, but the rest of the equipment also plays a central role. Stand Up Paddling is less fixed on the material compared to other water sports such as windsurfing.
For beginners and advanced SUP users, little importance is attached to material compositions or weight specifications accurate to the gram. The availability of the right accessories is much more important.
The absolute standard equipment for stand up paddling includes a paddle, a leash, an air pump and appropriate clothing.
Further accessories fall into the category safety (life jacket, residual tube, etc.) or transport of equipment (SUP backpack, drybag, waterproof mobile phone cases, paddle and board bags, etc.) or the accessories allow new uses of the SUP board (anchors, kayak seats, chest freezers, motors, etc.).
The range of available SUP accessories is wide. For the first tours the standard equipment consisting of paddle, leash, air pump and appropriate clothing is sufficient.
When choosing a SUP paddle, the paddle length, type and material should be considered. For beginners, the area of the paddle blade is not important.
The ideal paddle length can be determined with a simple trick. Therefore the paddle is placed upright in front of the feet. The paddle should be so long that when you put a ball of your hand on the handle, the arm is stretched upwards, but the posture is not uncomfortable.
No paddle nearby? Then this small estimate will do as well. Just add 20 cm to your body size and use this information to find the right paddle.
Those who could only estimate the required paddle length should pay special attention to the paddle type. On the one hand there are height-adjustable paddles and on the other hand fixed paddles. Fixed paddles are a simple, rigid rod.
Height-adjustable paddles consist of several elements. Often these are three-part models in which one part of the shaft can be pushed into another. There are different systems for fixing the paddles, which allow either a step-free or stepwise adjustment of the paddle length.
The transport of multi-part paddles is less time-consuming. Almost all height-adjustable paddles can be dismantled into their individual parts and stowed in a carrying bag together with the board.
A critical aspect of height-adjustable paddles is the loss of force at the joints. This is important in the professional sector, but not for beginners who are just about to start their first tour.
SUP beginners should definitely reach for the height-adjustable Vario paddles, as here the paddle length can be adjusted flexibly and corrected if necessary. The lower price of the SUP boards and the uncomplicated transport also speak for the height-adjustable models.
The material does not play such a big role. The light carbon paddles are also popular for stand-up paddling. However, beginners should choose models made of aluminium or plastic. The high price and sensitivity of carbon make paddles made of carbon (or carbon mixtures) unsuitable for beginners.
The weight of a good paddle for the start should be less than one kilogram. It is always best to read a customer review. Early models made of aluminium were not floatable, which can quickly become very annoying.
A non-swimming paddle can still be bought, but you should be aware of it beforehand.
A leash is a holding line that is attached to the SUP Board and the paddler’s body. Usually you wrap a loop around your ankle or calf. On many boards there is an extra eyelet at the stern or bow of the board for attaching the line.
The holding line serves to prevent the board from swimming away if you fall (involuntarily) into the water. With current, wind and waves an unmanned SUP Board can build up high speeds, which make it difficult to catch up again.
So the leash is an important safety measure on the water and not just a comfort feature. For experienced and inexperienced swimmers, a SUP Leash is mandatory for Stand Up Paddling.
The only exception is watercourses. Wearing a Leah is life-threatening. As an alternative, models with emergency triggers, which open automatically when the pressure is too high, or belts with triggers that are easy to reach, are worn in these waters.
When choosing a lease you should pay attention to the keyword “coiled”. Coiled leashes are curled holding lines that only extend to their maximum length when you fall into the water.
This has the advantage that they do not get caught on rocks or plants underwater and can therefore become a danger themselves.
An air pump is included in the scope of delivery of the SUP Board. Inflating a board takes about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the volume of the board. Double action pumps provide more speed when pumping.
In contrast to conventional air pumps, the double stroke pump presses air into the board both when pushing down and when pulling up. The load when pumping up the SUP is slightly higher, but the whole process is much faster.
The most efficient procedure is to pump the first part (up to approx. 8 – 10 PSI) in double stroke mode and then switch to single stroke mode for the rest.
Stand Up Paddling is an outdoor sport. The right clothing for water sports depends on the air and water temperature.
Depending on the time of year, we provide here a list of suitable clothes so that you can go on tour properly dressed. Correct means in this case that you are neither too cold nor too warm or that your freedom of movement is restricted.
The most paddling takes place in summer. Bikini or swim shorts are perfectly sufficient. On longer tours, however, not only children should apply a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor. The sunlight on the water is very strong. In addition to the sun cream, a baseball cap or T-shirt also offer good sun protection. In addition, we recommend wearing sunglasses with cord.
For tours in autumn or spring we recommend to wear light sportswear or, if it is not quite so sporty, a thin neoprene suit (maximum 3mm). Especially in spring the water temperatures can be very low, so that the feet become neuralgic points. SUP socks or thin neoprene shoes are recommended.
But the really tough ones dare also in winter on the Stand Up Paddling Board. The clothing should be constructed according to the onion principle. Several layers are mandatory. Wearing a neoprene suit is also essential. Neoprene shoes with a thick sole of up to 7 mm are just as important as wearing gloves and a cap.
Part 4: Let’s go on the first tour
You should take it slow on the first tour. Look for a river or water in which you can stand. Push the board into the water until you are about hip-deep in the water. Now first climb onto the board with your knees in the middle.
Change your position until you feel comfortable with the posture. As soon as you have established your balance, it is time to get up. Press your arms upwards and slowly straighten up.
Now the paddle comes into play. The correct paddling technique for Stand Up Paddling is essential to progress quickly and not to dislocate the back.
The starting position is a hip wide stand with the feet parallel to the front. The body is also aligned to the front.
The paddle is held in both hands. When paddling, one hand is always at the bottom of the shaft while the other hand holds the grip.
- When paddling right, the right hand is at the bottom of the shaft and the left hand holds the grip.
- If you paddle left, the left hand must be at the bottom of the shaft and the right hand at the grip.
When hitting the paddle, the upper arm exerts the most pressure. The arm with the hand on the shaft is called the pulling arm and only guides the paddle. The force comes from the upper arm (the so-called pressure arm).
The paddle stroke works as follows:
- Dip the paddle as far forward as possible one point.
- Pull the paddle towards you until it is at the height of your feet.
- Pull the paddle out of the water and repeat the process.
Depending on the paddling technique and the paddle side, the Stand Up Paddling Board steers to the left or right. The easiest way to influence the direction of travel is to paddle on one side.
If you want to go right, you should paddle on the right side and the board will slowly tilt to the right. If you want to make a left turn, you have to paddle on the left side.
With advanced paddling techniques a change of direction can be achieved without changing the paddle side.
The side of the paddle blade that is used for paddling is somewhat unintuitive. Many paddles have a slanted blade. When paddling, however, the sloping side must point away from you. The paddle is not a paddle with which you get as much water as possible to you, but built optimized according to the streamlines of the water.
That was a long way. From the equipment to the paddling technique. So your first tour will be a safe one!
We hope that you will have a lot of fun with the first tour and of course that the first moments of success will soon appear.