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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 medial 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.
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.
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.