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Paddle Boarding for Beginners

Paddle boarding, or SUPing, is a great sport for so many reasons. The barrier to entry is low, the learning curve is quick, and paddling itself is so enjoyable it might not even register as exercise (when have you ever said that about an exercise that hits your core, arms and legs …. and improves your balance). And the best part, you’re out on the water!

There are so many ways to enjoy paddle boarding, and all are on display daily throughout the summer in mountain towns. Whether power paddling upriver or floating back down on a social ride; fishing in the alpine lakes or surfing the river wave in town. Paddle boards have become a must-have for camping lakeside, as a way to get away from shoreline and into peace and quiet. Meanwhile, at the beach, SUPs are great for getting out on the water between swells, or paddling along the coast out past the breakers. They’re also wave catching machines for surfing ocean waves.

Along with the variety of ways to enjoy paddle boarding, there are also a variety of shapes and sizes and material to consider when purchasing a board.

detail shot paddle board

Photo credit: Justin Eeles

close up the nose of paddle board in water

Photo credit: Justin Eeles

Paddle Board Shapes

There are two main shapes: touring and an all-around shape. The touring models, with pointier noses and a narrow design, are built for speed. These are focused on fitness and long-distance paddling. The all-around models tend to be a wider, more stable platform with a rounded nose. As the name says, these are great all-around boards, for recreating, fishing, casual paddling and, yes, yoga.

close up mid section of paddleboard

Photo credit: Justin Eeles

Paddle Board Construction 

 When it comes to construction, your options are inflatable or hard. A lot of your decision here comes down to storage and transportation. Hard boards, like surfboards, can be made of epoxy, foam-top, or polycarbonate. Inflatable boards are a lot sturdier than you might imagine when inflated. They’re also more stowable, as they roll up into a backpack and fit into your car as opposed to on the rooftop (which requires a rack and straps). It comes down to performance—those who are looking for a racing board or a board for surfing the waves should focus on hardboards, those who are more recreational users should do just fine with an inflatable. And one thing to note, you can keep your inflatable SUP inflated through the summer, and then stow it away in the off-season.

Recommended Gear 

woman paddle boarding in water

Photo credit: Justin Eeles

Paddles

Paddles come in a variety of materials, with lightweight and sturdy being the pinnacle. The paddle consists of the handle, shaft and blade. Paddles are offered as a single unit, or in 2-3 pieces that can be assembled, with an adjustable length. The range of paddles goes from basic aluminum and plastic, to high-end 100-percent carbon fiber construction. The difference is reflected in the weight and strength. Entry-level paddle boarders might find that a basic paddle works great at first, then, with time on the water, they may choose to upgrade their paddle to a higher-performance paddle or a lighter-weight paddle.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Wearing a PFD is not only a good idea, but it’s also often the law. SUPs are classified as boats in many areas, and as such, the passengers need to have life vests. There are many choices from low-profile options like self-inflating belt pack PFDs and slim vests, to rescue jackets similar to the ones rafters and whitewater kayakers wear. Look for a flotation device that allows for a full range of movement while paddling, also one that’s not too bulky if you need to pull yourself back up on your board from the water.

Leash

Most boards come with a leg leash, which keeps you connected to your board. Standup paddleboarders prefer coiled leashes to keep the length of the leash out of the way. The standard leash length is about 8-feet.

woman paddle boarding in mountain lake

Photo credit: Justin Eeles

Dry Bag

A dry bag is a great accessory to stash your snacks, phone, towel in to keep everything dry.

You can find most of what is listed above at Geartrade, and if you have any SUP gear or hike and camp gear now is the time to list it and sell it. May the circle of gear life continue.

Photo credit: Justin Eeles

Annie Fast writes about winter sports and outdoor adventures from her home in Bend, Oregon.You can read more about her and her work at anniefast.com

 

 

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