SUP 101: What to Know Before You Go

Posted: Nov 23 2013

Standup paddling is for everyone. And it can be done on almost any body of water in the world. Once you have your board and paddle—and a buddy— check out these five hints to get you started from Laird Hamilton team rider Chuck Glynn.

Flatwater is absolutely the best place to start. There’s no consequence, no outside influence to knock you in the water like waves or boat wake. Head to a flat river, bay or lake. Basically, first times are just looking for calm, glassy water. Just don’t go out in wind. Wind creates choppy conditions and can push first-timers far downwind, making the paddle back really tough if you’re paddling against the breeze. 

Your board needs to be wide and thick so it’s nice and stable when you first start. For beginners, lots of width, thickness and length is never going to hurt. There’s a board in the Laird lineup called the Bully that’s perfect–it’s 12’6  by 34”-wide and super stable.

Your paddle length should be about six inches over your head. When I teach, I like keep student’s paddles extra long as it keeps them upright and their back straight. Start out with an adjustable paddle and find the right length for you before you cut a custom paddle. You should always be comfortable and not straining your shoulders when you paddle by reaching too high.

Make sure you’re working your body evenly when you first start paddling.  Keep your hips parallel to the board so you’re not getting tweaked.  Keeping your body alignment straight and working the body evenly helps you avoid injury. Switch hands you paddle with and try to keep an even stroke count on both sides. Be about symmetry when you’re on the water.

Ask your local retailer or shop to recommend a good instructor. Lessons are never a bad thing. And know your limits when you’re out there. Know how to swim, have a PDF at least strapped to the board, know the body of water you’re paddling, like the boat traffic. Basically, just be aware of your surroundings. Be safe and have fun. 

Written By Joe Carberry
for LairdHamilton.com