5 Things to Expect When Paddle Boarding for the First Time

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Evolved from Surfing and Emerged from Hawaii.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support this blog, my traveling habit, and my special-needs dog.

Stand-up paddle boarding is fun and popular activity. Before your inaugural adventure, here’s what to expect when paddle boarding for the first time.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is Fun! Really! It Is!
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is Fun! Really! It Is! Selfie Taken with My iPhone in a Duk Gear Phone Case.

See that photo above? I snapped that stand-up paddle board (SUP) selfie the beginning of July and I look pretty dang happy. But here’s a secret. The first time I tried stand-up paddle boarding, I was not smiling. In fact I hated it.

Over the years, I’ve stand-up paddle boarded several times in Florida’s Intracoastal, Gulf of Mexico, and on rivers. Each time it’s a new experience. I’m a believer we are always learning so although I do not know everything there is to know about SUP boarding, I do know a few things and am passing them along to you.

Selfie While Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, Sept. 2015.
Selfie While Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, Sept. 2015. Photo Taken with a GoPro.

You May Hate Stand-Up Paddle Boarding the First Time

It was well over a decade ago when I gave SUP boarding a try. The sport, which originated in Hawaii and evolved from surf boards, was relatively new in Southwest Florida. There really wasn’t any instruction on how to function on an SUP board other than avoid falling off. And during that first time, I worried about falling off.

My body was full of so much fear of falling that my feet and ankles ached from the tension. I was determined not to fall off and into the water. Hindsight, I should have intentionally fell off to feel what it’s like. If I had fallen off my SUP board, all I had to do was stand up in the barely waist-deep water and everything would have been okay.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Evolved from Surfing and Emerged from Hawaii.
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Evolved from Surfing and Emerged from Hawaii. Photo Taken with My iPhone in a Duk Gear Phone Case.

You’ll Get Wet Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

After that experience in Placida, Fla., it was several years before I gave stand-up paddle boarding another try. That second time, I fell off the board and guess what? Nothing bad happened. My phone and camera were protected, I didn’t lose any gear, and I did not get hurt. All I had to do was stand up in the waist-deep water and shimmy onto the board, like a graceful mermaid perching herself atop a rocky coastline.

Plan on falling off and getting wet when stand-up paddle boarding. This can happen because you are distracted, a boat’s wake creates rough waters, or you simply lose your balance. Or, your gear may get wet from wakes from boats, surf, or simply by paddling.

Wear a swimsuit or clothing you don’t mind getting wet. And wear a personal flotation device! Importantly, ensure gear is properly protected. I have a waterproof dry bag that I strap to the board and attach with a carabiner. I also use a Duk Gear phone case to protect my iPhone. An even better way to protect your valuables is to leave them at home, in the car, or with the outfitter, especially your car keys.

A Welcoming Paddleboard on a Freshwater Pond.
A Welcoming Paddleboard on a Freshwater Pond.

You May Lose Things When Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

We all know what happens when we ASSume. Well, my friend Kim and I recently celebrated our birthdays with a stand-up paddle boarding trip. She’s always wanted to try it and after our (mis)adventure, I’m guessing that first experience will be her last.

She asked what she should do with her key. I pointed to the outfitter’s key board, where she hung it. I asked if she had anything she wanted me to put in my dry bag and her reply was, “no.”

Less than 15 minutes into the trip, Kim lost her balance in a boat’s wake and fell in. She’s a competitor swimmer so I knew she’d be okay but what I didn’t realize was she had unattached items on her board. She lost her new sunglasses (which were on a neck cord) along with her house key and medical insurance card! These were in her lunch bag.

“I didn’t think my stuff and I would fall off,” she said.

Ugh! I felt so bad knowing somewhere in the Intracoastal are her belongings.

As I mentioned above, ensure gear is secured before heading out on the water. While paddling a river last year, I fell off my board and lost a brand new water bottle that wasn’t attached to my board. Thankfully, the Duk Gear Phone Case I had around my neck kept my iPhone safe and dry.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is a Full-Body Workout.
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is a Full-Body Workout.

Your Muscles May Ache After Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

If you have physical issues with your knees or back, stand-up paddle boarding may not be for you. When it’s windy (while standing, you’re like a sail), the surf is rough, or when around solid structures like boat docks and concrete seawalls, it’s best to get down on your knees on your SUP board. People with knee issues will have a difficult time doing this especially for an extended amount of time.

People new to the sport underestimate the physical workout of SUP boarding. Those who paddle daily are building and toning muscle and improving balance. Paddle boarding is a great workout for your core because you rely on it to maintain balance. When paddling, you twist at the waist and use a push-pull method with your shoulders and arms to propel forward. Your thighs and calves are working out while keeping balance.

After your paddle, you’ll feel the benefits of a full-body workout and if you’re not accustom to it, your muscles may ache a little. But definitely in a sense-of-accomplishment-good way.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is a Full-Body Workout. Photo Taken with My iPhone in a Duk Gear Phone Case.

You’ll Feel On Top of the World While Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

When asked if I prefer kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, it depends. I enjoy kayaking because I’m close to the water and find a kayak easier to navigate. But a SUP board provides a different perspective. In a kayak, you’re looking out onto the horizon, on a SUP board, although you look onto the horizon, it’s an opportunity to look into a new environment.

Depending on where you’re paddling, you may observe grasses, fish, springs, manatees, and other marine life. It’s liberating and empowering standing atop a board and feeling on top of the world. And at the end of the paddle, you may be hooked into giving it another try.

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Solo Travel Girl

Jennifer A. Huber is the voice behind Solo Travel Girl. She's an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. In 2023, she was a finalist in AARP's Benefits Badass competition. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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