Learning to paddleboarding off Hunstanton in Norfolk

Learn Paddleboarding in 30 Minutes: Top 10 Tips and Techniques

At Hunstanton Watersports, we love being on the water, and paddleboarding is no exception.
We’ve been running stand-up paddleboard lessons and hiring for the past 11–12 years and have a wealth of experience getting beginners into the sport.

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a fantastic way to get out on the water, soak up some sun, and get a great workout at the same time.
Not to mention the social aspect of paddleboarding. The beauty of this sport lies in its accessibility. Regardless of whether you have a background in watersports, stand-up paddleboarding offers a gateway to the water. Whether it’s at your local watersports centre, on a serene lake, or along a nearby river, the possibilities are endless. Beyond its accessibility, paddleboarding serves as a perfect avenue for unwinding on weekends or after a hectic day at work

If you’re new to the sport, it can seem a bit daunting, you might want to learn the basics with an introductory session under the guidance of a qualified paddlesports instructor.
Well, if you’re looking to learn to paddleboard, you’re in the right place. We’ll share with you here the top 10 tips we’ve collected over the years to get you standing up and enjoying your time on the water in no time.

1. Safety First: Gear Check and Life Jacket

Embarking on a paddle boarding adventure is thrilling, but your safety should always remain a priority. Appropriate gear and a buoyancy aid are your best friends when setting foot on a paddleboard for the first time. That goes for most watersports to be honest, if you are new to watersports, a buoyancy aid or flotation device can save your life.

Paddleboard gear is all about providing you with everything that can ensure safety and aid in better performance. Start by inspecting your paddleboard; it needs to be inflated correctly if it’s an inflatable model. For solid boards, check the fins and leash for any signs of damage. Next up, ensure your paddle is the right size. Usually, it should be six to ten inches taller than you. Remember, a wrong-sized paddle can make manoeuvring your board an uphill task.

Leashes

Onto the paddleboard accessories. Ensure you have a leash tied around your ankle or calf as its a lifeline that keeps the board close, even if you fall off during the session.
Leashes are very important,, your paddleboard is also your life raft should anything go wrong, if you fall off without your leash attached, you are left swimming alone, especially if there is a breeze, an inflatable paddleboard will easily catch the wind and get blown away from you.
Similarly if you are paddleboarding in tidal or moving water where there is a current, the board can also easily float away.

If you are paddling in moving, flowing waters, you are advised to wear a quick release belt system. Should the leash get snagged up, entangled, and trapped, a quick release belt system will prevent any danger as you can release yourself from the leash..

Your safety vest, more commonly known as a buoyancy aid, is a crucial piece of equipment—and sometimes, in certain locations, a legal requirement. Regardless of your swimming prowess, wearing a life jacket is always a wise choice on the water. It adds an extra layer of safety that can be a lifesaver, quite literally.

Here is a quick list of essential items recommended for your safety on the water.

GearPurpose
Correctly-sized PaddleTo help navigate and manoeuvre the paddleboard
LeashTo keep the paddleboard close when you fall off
Personal Floatation DeviceTo maintain buoyancy and safety in case you fall in the water

Remember to double-check these items before stepping onto your board. The old adage ‘better safe than sorry’ rings true in paddleboarding too. Safety precautions may not completely erase the risk of mishaps, but they significantly reduce the likelihood. So don’t underestimate their importance. It’s about balancing the thrill of the sport with safety for the ultimate paddleboarding experience.

2. The Basics: Understanding the Board and Paddle

Arming yourself with a core understanding of your paddle board (SUP) and paddle isn’t just the first step—it’s also one of the most crucial. You wouldn’t drive a car without knowing what every pedal and switch does, would you? The same applies to paddle boarding: understanding your gear is the key to mastering the sport.

Buying your first paddleboard (SUP)

If you are looking to purchase your first stand up paddleboard, it can be difficult to know what to buy. different lengths, volumes, widths, etc., inflatable or solid?? There are many options on the market.
I will write another article purely on buying paddleboards.

Paddle boards come in all shapes and sizes, suitably tailored for different experiences. But they all have three main elements in common:

  • The nose: front of the board
  • The tail: back of the board
  • The deck: where you stand

Getting to grips with these terms will not just boost your confidence; it’ll also allow you to better understand what type of board suits your desired paddleboarding experience.

Paddles, on the other hand, are your best friends on the water. Unlike your average rowing oar, a paddle board paddle has a bend near the blade, which is no design coincidence—this angled blade propels you through the water more efficiently. Remember, the side of the paddle that scoops back towards you is the power side. It’s the side that should be facing the water while you paddle. So many people I see paddling with their SUP paddle the wrong way around.

Mastering the paddle involves practicing your stroke. The basic forward stroke, in fact, involves more than arm movement. It’s a full-body motion, powering from the core.

Paddle Board PartBrief Description
NoseFront of the board
TailBack of the board
DeckWhere you stand

Getting accustomed to your board and paddle is instrumental in forming strong paddle boarding foundations. After all, we’ve woven safety into our preparation, now it’s time to fold in the understanding of our gear. I’ll dive deeper into the different types of boards and paddles, and their specific uses further down.

3. Finding the Right Location: Calm Waters and Easy Access

Where you choose to paddleboard has a significant impact on your experience. Calm waters and easy access are two key considerations when scouting for the perfect spot.

Weather and Wind Conditions are Key!

When starting out, flat-water locations such as lakes and calm seas are ideal. These give you a chance to get accustomed to the balance and movements involved in paddleboarding without worrying about waves, tides and currents. Once you are more confident, look for locations with a little ripple to the water exciting; the light bobbing can actually be quite helpful in improving your balance with a bit of fun instability.

That’s not to say you can’t SUP on the sea – at Hunstanton Watersports we’re based on the beach and when the sea is calm, it makes for some of the best paddleboarding you can do.

Ease of access doesn’t just translate to finding locations that are easily reachable. Think about the terrain leading to the water. A paddle board is not the easiest thing to carry, especially for a newbie. Ensure your chosen location doesn’t have a woefully long trek from the car park to the waterfront. Moreover, look for places that have some facilities around. A public lake with restrooms, picnic areas, and basic first aid services can make your day out much more comfortable.

Be advised that some rivers are managed by the Environmental Agency or local authorities,, which will require you to have a permit and third-party insurance to use certain waterways.
Similarly, some inland lakes might be privately owned so its worth spending some time on your own location due diligence before heading onto the waterways. There maybe certain launching areas, areas to keep away from regarding wildlife etc.

Interestingly, the time of day also plays a role in finding a good location. Early mornings and late evenings often have calmer waters, as wind speeds typically decrease during these times. So, there you have it – a multi-faceted approach to picking the perfect paddleboarding spot.

But remember, there’s always room to explore more challenging arenas as your skills improve. With experience, you may find that coastal areas with their beautiful combinations of different wave sizes and strengths offer a totally different kind of fun. Just check the local tide times and regulations about SUP use before heading out.

It’s ultimately about finding the right balance between gaining skills and enjoying your time on the water. Once you are at that spot, the experience becomes skillful yet relaxing at the same time.

4. Start on Your Knees: Building Balance and Confidence

Paddleboarding doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a skill that needs nurturing, developing and honing. And the most important aspect of this skill? Balance. Building balance and confidence is key. But don’t worry, it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. It all starts on your knees. If you are coming from windsurfing, wakeboarding, or surfing for example, you may find paddleboarding relatively quick to pick up, however, if you are completely new to the world of watersports, then the learning process might take a little longer.

Let me paint a picture for you. You’ve chosen your perfect location. It’s got calm water, it’s easily accessible and it’s a comfortable time of day. But where do you start? Well, you start on your knees.

Initiate yourself by starting on your knees. You’ll be on your board, paddle in hand, but instead of standing, you’ll be kneeling. Why? It’s simple. Kneeling means a lower centre of gravity, which in turn, means better balance.

“Kneeling means lower centre of gravity, which in turn, means better balance.”

From this position, you’ll get familiar with your board. Feel its movements. Understand how it reacts to the water and to your own actions. Fall? No biggie. Get back on your knees and keep going. Over time, you’ll find your confidence growing. You’ll get comfortable. This security that you feel on your knees will slowly become what you’ll feel standing.

Once you’ve mastered the art of the kneel, that’s when we step it up a notch – literally! You’ll begin to stand. But not all at once. Stand on one leg, then the other. Find that balance first. And reflect on the confidence you felt on your knees.

Here’s a quick reminder before going all out:

  • Don’t rush: Take your time to find your balance on your knees before going on to stand.
  • Practice makes perfect: Remember, it’s okay not to get it right the first time. Keep trying.

5. Stand Up Slowly: Techniques for Smooth Transition

Standing up on a paddleboard seems quite daunting. But trust me, it’s not as difficult as it seems. The key lies in following a step-by-step procedure, and as with any technique, repetition and practice are key.

The first step towards standing involves planting your hands on the board directly below your shoulders. There’s no rush here; time is certainly on your side. This isn’t about how quickly you can get up, but rather how smoothly and confidently.

Once your hands are positioned, you’ll want to shift your weight onto your hands and the balls of your feet. Recruit your core strength while you do so; you’ll need it. This movement is similar to a duck walk, your body weight slightly pitched forward as your back leg comes up.

Now for the real challenge, the full stand up. Again, this is a process, done in increments. You’ll first transition to a hunched stance, almost as if you’re ready to leap off the board. With your feet standing where your knees used to be and hands down for support, you’ll feel the paddleboard’s sway under your feet.

This is where your practice on your knees will shine through. You’ve felt that sway before, you know how to control it. Maintain that same control but now, on your feet. Remember, confidence is key.

Lastly, straighten up, slowly. Body control is what you’re striving for here. Keep your head up, shoulders relaxed, and your gaze on the horizon.

Remember also, maintain your position in the board’s centre; this reduces the risk of toppling over. As you rise, take note of your stance. It should mirror that of standing on solid ground—feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent. This stable stance will form the base of your paddleboarding skill-set.

The main thing is to relax and enjoy, don’t be too rigid. you have to become at one with the board under your feet.

Here is a quick summary of the above steps in a tabular form

StepExplanation
Position handsAlign them directly below your shoulders.
Shift weightOnto your hands and the balls of your feet.
TransitionMove to a hunched stance.
RiseUse your core strength to stand up slowly.
StandIn the board’s centre with feet hip-distance apart.

6. Paddle Stance: Positioning Your Feet and Hands

Now that you’ve mastered the transition from kneeling to standing on your paddleboard, you’re ready for the next big step – perfecting your paddle stance. It’s a game-changer for your paddleboarding experience and here’s how to do it.

First things first, let’s talk about foot placement. The ideal positioning for your feet is around hip-distance apart. Don’t worry if it’s not exact, it’s not a science! You’ll want to be towards the centre of the board – that’s where you’ll find the most stability. Your toes should point forwards and your heels down. Feel the board under your feet and adjust your balance as required.

It’s worth repeating that practicing is key. The more you do it, the more natural it’ll become. It’s initially tricky for most folks, but after a while, it feels like second nature.

Up next, we have hand placement on the paddle. Here, I’ll break it down into a few key points:

  • Grip: A good grip is essential for effective paddling. Wrap your fingers around the paddle’s shaft. What’s important here is that you’re comfortable and relaxed, without being too loose.
  • Position: Your hands should be placed shoulder-width apart. Too close, and you won’t generate enough power; too far, and you’ll tire quickly. It’s all about finding a happy medium!
  • Paddle Direction: Make sure the blade of your paddle faces the right way – it’s a common mistake to hold it backwards. Seriously, you’d be surprised how often newbies get this wrong. Again, it’s all about practice!

7. Stroke Techniques: Forward, Backward, and Turning

Mastering effective paddle stroking techniques is vital for efficient paddleboarding. It’s not just about power, it’s also about control and precision. Let’s explore some key paddle stroke techniques: forward stroke, backward stroke, and turning.

A forward stroke propels the board ahead. The basic principle involves reaching as far forward as you can with your paddle and drawing it back towards your feet. Remember to keep your gaze forward; don’t look down.

When most people start paddleboarding, their instinct is to bury the entire paddle blade into the water. It seemed proper, but I learned it only creates unnecessary drag. What you aim for is to plant as much of the blade as you need to get a good grip on the water.

Backward stroke, or reverse stroke, is your brake. This stroke reverses the forward stroke motion. You place your paddle at the tail end and push forward along the board’s side. Initially, it might seem a bit tricky but trust me, practice makes perfect.

Turning is a game changer on the paddleboard. If you want to change direction, you have two main techniques: sweep stroke and the back paddle.

The sweep stroke helps you turn the board’s nose in the opposite direction of the paddle. A little sweep at the end helps the nose come around faster.

Back paddle is an alternative to the sweep stroke. All you need to do is perform a backward stroke on one side of your board. This action will cause your board to pivot, turning the board in the direction of the paddle.

It’s worth noting each stroke and turn isn’t an isolated action but rather a part of a paddleboarding dance. When you properly weave these strokes together, you become more efficient and graceful on the water. Now, let’s take a brief look at some common mistakes paddleboarding beginners make and how to avoid them.

8. Dealing with Distractions: Handling Wind and Waves

Mastering the art of paddleboarding isn’t just about mastering strokes. Nature plays a pivotal role, and it’s crucial to be able to adapt to varying conditions. Today, we’ll be focusing on how to overcome wind, and how to handle waves.

Wind can make or break your session, the less wind the better for starting out. Anything less than 10kts of wind is OK, but on exposed waters such as the sea 10kts can chop up the water, making the sea state very choppy and unenjoyable, so you do have to check the weather and wind conditions!

Wind is an inevitable player when it comes to any water sports. It can either be your ally or your adversary. If the wind’s at your back, you’ll find paddleboarding a breeze, quite literally! But what do we do when it’s blowing in our face?

  1. Head down: Dropping your centre of gravity helps maintain balance and stability. You can achieve this by bending your knees slightly and lowering your body.
  2. Lean into the wind: Just as cyclists lean into the wind to minimise resistance, the same principle applies to paddleboarding. Leaning into the wind slightly allows you to cut through it and move forward more efficiently.
  3. Use half-stokes: Long, sweeping strokes are ideal with favourable winds. But if the wind’s against you, you’re better off using quick, half-strokes.

Let’s take things a bit further and add some waves into the mix. Whether you’re paddleboarding on a tranquil lake or the bustling ocean, waves can create challenges. Should you fear waves, though? Absolutely not. Waves are thrilling and add a new dimension to the fun of paddleboarding.

  1. Get low: Similar to windy conditions, lowering your centre of gravity could be one of the best methods to maintain balance.
  2. Paddle into waves at an angle: Heading directly into waves isn’t a smart move. It’s best to approach them at an angle to prevent falling off the board.
  3. Practice paddleboarding in different wave conditions: This allows you to gain experience and confidence, paving the way for tackling higher waves.

Remember, every wave and gust of wind is different. Hence, adaptability is the key, and it’ll get better with every outing. So, embrace the wind, relish the waves, and become one with your paddleboard.

9. Paddle Boarding Etiquette: Sharing the Water Respectfully

A vital aspect of paddleboarding that I believe often gets overlooked is the etiquette. Paddleboarding etiquette isn’t just about proper behaviour. It’s a crucial aspect of safety when you’re sharing the water with other users.

There’s an unspoken code on the water that every paddleboarder should be familiar with. This protocol ensures that everyone can enjoy their time on the water while maintaining a sense of respect and proper conduct.

in a surf situation, one of the significant rules is to avoid hogging the wave. It’s tempting to ride every wave you see, but it’s essential to share. After catching a wave, let the next one or two go before trying again. It’s not just considerate, it’s respectful.

Another important rule is to observe right-of-way rules, which means paddleboarders should always avoid crossing the path of approaching vessels or other paddlers. Always keep a safe distance. You should also endeavour to be aware of your surroundings, overtaking others to your right hand side.

Good etiquette also compels us to help a fellow paddler in distress. If they’ve fallen off their board, paddle over and offer help. You might even make a new paddleboarding buddy!

We should treat being on the water the same way we treat being responsible while on land. Thus, leaving no trace is a fundamental principle of paddleboarding etiquette. Whatever you bring with you onto the water should be taken off when you leave. Nobody wants to paddle in polluted water.

Here are some of the primary paddleboarding etiquette rules in a brief markdown table:

Paddleboarding Etiquette RulesImportance
Avoid hogging the waveShow respect and maintain peace on the water
Observe right-of-way rulesSafety and respect for others
Help a fellow paddler in distressPromote a supportive and helpful community
Leave no traceProtect the environment, keep the water clean

Appreciating and adhering to these rules is an essential part of the paddleboarding experience. It guarantees that we can all share and enjoy the water harmoniously.

10. Practice Makes Perfect: Drills and Exercises

Practice is essential to mastering any skill and paddleboarding is no different. Paddleboarding doesn’t simply involve standing up and paddling, it’s a full-body workout involving balance, stability, and strength. Good technique and persistence are the keys to becoming adept at this engaging water sport.

The first step is to ensure your posture is correct. Stand up straight, your feet shoulder-width apart, and maintain a slight bend in your knees to help with the balance. Keep your eyes on the horizon rather than focusing on your feet.

The paddle stroke is another area where practice plays a pivotal role. You need to get to grips with the correct way to hold your paddle – the blade should be at an angle facing away from you for maximum propulsion. For power, make sure you’re using your core as well as arm strength when you push through the water.

Drills and exercises can be very valuable. Specifically, core stability exercises like planking, Pilates, or yoga can make a tremendous difference.

Here’s an overview of some drills that can help you improve your paddleboarding proficiency:

  • Side Plank Dips: This exercise is all about balance and core strength. Lie down on your side, prop yourself up on one elbow, stack your feet, and lift your hips to form a straight line from your head to toes.
  • Mountain Climbers: These target your core and mimic the motion of paddleboarding. Get into a high plank position, then alternate, bringing each knee towards your chest, maintaining a fast pace.
  • Lunges: These are great for improving leg strength. From a standing position, step forward with one leg and lower your body until both your front and back knee are bent at a 90-degree angle.

Keep practicing these drills and I’m confident that you’ll see improvements in your paddleboarding skills in no time. Remember that continual learning and practice are central to mastery in any discipline, and paddleboarding is no different.

For more information on safety from the National Governing Body on stand up paddleboarding, click here

Conclusion

So, there you have it. I’ve shared my top tips to get you paddleboarding in just a 30 minute read.. It’s all about balance, stability, and strength. Don’t underestimate the power of a good posture and a correct paddle stroke. Incorporate core stability exercises like planks and yoga into your routine, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make. Remember, drills such as side plank dips, mountain climbers, and lunges can significantly boost your proficiency. But above all, keep learning and practicing. Paddleboarding isn’t something you’ll master overnight, but with persistence, you’ll soon be gliding through the water like a pro.

Similar Posts